Best Types of Charcoal for the most Flavor
Charcoal has been around a couple of thousand years and is used for cooking, foundry work, medical applications for poisoning, artist uses it for drawing, and it is used for filtering and numerous other applications. Charcoal for cooking comes in three forms; briquettes lump and extruded. Charcoal is made by heating the wood or briquettes in an environment that has little oxygen.
Charcoal briquettes are made by taking sawdust, mixing it with a vegetable based binder and under extreme pressure to form the briquette shape. Wood chips may be mixed in for smoke flavorings, such as mesquite or hickory. In addition petroleum products may be added to produce the quick light briquettes.
Lump charcoal is made of either organic hardwood such as limbs from lumbering or reclaimed hardwoods such as hardwood floors. Lump charcoal made out of hardwood flooring may have traces of varnishes or finishes that will affect the smoke flavor. Although most of these chemical are burnt off during the process of making charcoal it is best to find the type of lump made from natural sources. The downside of this is it is a hard to find item if you are not in a large metropolitan area. The magic of the internet makes ordering possible if you cannot find locally. Lump charcoal bags may have other items in them as well. I have found rocks, bricks and other unknown materials (usually insulation from the kilns) in bags of cheap lump. There is a lump charcoal database (Naked Whiz Lump charcoal database) on the internet that is maintained by users. This is a great resource for types of charcoal commercially available.
The final type of charcoal is a new kind being made out of ecologically friendly materials such as coconut hulls and sawdust. These materials are pressed under high pressure through a mold to create long logs. These logs are then put through the process that makes the charcoal. The makers of the extruded charcoal claim that it is all natural, very little ash and smoke while providing longer burning times.
In general charcoal briquettes burn longer, make less ash and maintain higher heat than lump while lump provides better flavoring through natural hardwoods. I have no experience with the extruded charcoals but after reading some reviews there are some on the market place that are being very highly rated by the users. The extruded charcoals will very likely need to be ordered if you want to try them.