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The Ultimate Guide to Buying Charcoal for Your BBQ: How Much Do You Really Need?

The Ultimate Guide to Buying Charcoal for Your BBQ: How Much Do You Really Need?

Jonathan Hill

As the summer sun peeks through the clouds, the unmistakable aroma of sizzling sausages and burgers wafts through British gardens. It's BBQ season, folks! But before you fire up the grill, let's tackle a question that's puzzled many a backyard chef: just how much charcoal should you buy for your BBQ?

The Charcoal Conundrum

Picture this: You're hosting a garden party, the guests are arriving, and you're suddenly struck by the fear that you might not have enough charcoal to keep the grill going. We've all been there, haven't we? It's a bit like running out of tea bags when you've got visitors - a proper British nightmare!

But fear not, dear reader. We're about to embark on a journey through the smoky world of BBQ charcoal. By the end of this article, you'll be a veritable expert on charcoal quantities, armed with the knowledge to ensure your grill never goes cold mid-sausage.

The Basics: Understanding Charcoal Types

Before we dive into quantities, let's chat about the types of charcoal you might encounter on your BBQ adventures.

Lumpwood Charcoal: The Purist's Choice

Lumpwood charcoal is the caviar of the BBQ world. It's made from pure wood, with no additives. It lights quickly, burns hot, and imparts a lovely smoky flavour to your food. It's a bit like the difference between instant coffee and a freshly ground espresso - there's just no comparison!

Bwyty Gradd Bag canolig siarcol Lumpwood 3Kg

Bwyty Gradd Bag canolig siarcol Lumpwood 3Kg


Hillside Woodfuels offers a range of high-quality lumpwood charcoal that's perfect for your BBQ needs. From small 2kg bags for intimate gatherings to larger 6kg bags for proper garden parties, they've got you covered.

Briquettes: The Steady Eddie

Briquettes are the dependable workhorses of the charcoal world. They're made from compressed charcoal dust and other ingredients, which means they burn for longer at a steady temperature. Think of them as the slow cooker of the BBQ world - reliable, consistent, and great for long cooking sessions.

How Much Charcoal Do You Really Need?

Now, onto the million-pound question: how much charcoal should you buy? Well, it's not quite as straightforward as you might think. It's a bit like asking how long a piece of string is - it depends on a few factors.

Factors Affecting Charcoal Usage

  1. Size of your BBQ: A small portable grill will naturally use less charcoal than a large family-sized behemoth.
  2. Cooking time: A quick burger flip will require less fuel than a long, slow cook for a brisket or pulled pork.
  3. Number of people: Cooking for two is very different from catering for a whole cricket team!
  4. Type of food: Different foods require different cooking times and temperatures.
  5. Weather conditions: A breezy day might mean your charcoal burns faster.

A Rough Guide to Charcoal Quantities

As a general rule of thumb, you'll want about 1kg of charcoal per hour of cooking time. But let's break it down a bit more:

Event Type Number of People Cooking Time Charcoal Needed
Quick family dinner 4-6 1-2 hours 2-3kg
Weekend gathering 8-10 3-4 hours 4-5kg
Big garden party 15+ 5-6 hours 6-8kg


Remember, it's always better to have a bit extra than to run out mid-cook. You can always save unused charcoal for your next BBQ adventure!


The Art of Lighting Your Charcoal

Now that you've got your charcoal sorted, let's talk about lighting it. After all, a pile of unlit charcoal is about as useful as a chocolate teapot!

The Importance of Good Firelighters

Here's where we need to have a little chat about firelighters. Good quality firelighters can make the difference between a smoothly lit BBQ and a frustrating experience that leaves you hangry (that's hungry and angry, for those not in the know).

Eco-Gynnau Tân

Eco-Gynnau Tân


Now, I know what you're thinking - "Aren't cheap firelighters just as good?" Well, not necessarily. While it might be tempting to grab the cheapest option, investing in quality firelighters can save you time, frustration, and potentially even money in the long run.

Hillside Woodfuels offers eco-friendly wood wool firelighters that are a game-changer for BBQ enthusiasts. These little wonders are made from wood shavings and wax, lighting quickly and burning for longer than many cheaper alternatives. Plus, they're environmentally friendly - a win-win situation!

The Chimney Starter Method

If you really want to up your BBQ game, consider investing in a chimney starter. It's a simple device that looks a bit like a large metal mug with holes in the bottom. You fill it with charcoal, place some firelighters underneath, and in about 15-20 minutes, you've got perfectly lit charcoal ready to go.

It's a bit like having a kettle for your charcoal - quick, efficient, and it takes the guesswork out of lighting your BBQ.

Tips and Tricks for Efficient Charcoal Use

Now that we've covered the basics, let's dive into some pro tips to help you get the most out of your charcoal:

  1. Use a charcoal basket: This handy device helps concentrate the heat and can reduce charcoal consumption by up to 25%.

  2. Master the two-zone fire: Set up your grill with hot and cool zones. This allows you to sear on high heat and then move food to the cooler side to finish cooking, saving charcoal in the process.

  3. Don't overload your grill: More charcoal doesn't always mean better cooking. Start with a moderate amount and add more if needed.

  4. Keep the lid closed: Every time you open the lid, you're letting heat escape, which means your charcoal has to work harder.

  5. Use a charcoal calculator: There are apps and online tools that can help you estimate how much charcoal you need based on your specific grill and cooking plans.

The Environmental Angle: Sustainable Charcoal Choices

In today's world, we can't ignore the environmental impact of our choices, even when it comes to BBQs. The good news is that there are eco-friendly options available that don't compromise on quality.

Hillside Woodfuels' lumpwood charcoal is sourced from sustainably managed forests. This means you can enjoy your BBQ with a clear conscience, knowing you're supporting responsible forestry practices.

Beyond Charcoal: Alternative Fuels for Your BBQ

While charcoal is the classic choice for BBQs, it's not the only option. Let's explore a few alternatives:

Wood Logs: The Flavour Enhancer

For those who love a smoky flavour, wood logs can be a great addition to your BBQ. Different types of wood impart different flavours - apple wood for a sweet, fruity note, or oak for a strong, traditional smoky taste.

Hillside Woodfuels offers kiln-dried logs that are perfect for adding a touch of smoky magic to your BBQ. They're dry and ready to use, unlike some logs that might still be a bit damp and struggle to light.

Briquettes: The Long-Burning Option

As we mentioned earlier, briquettes can be a great choice for longer cooking sessions. They burn steadily and for a long time, making them ideal for slow-cooked meats like brisket or pulled pork.

Charcoal Storage: Keeping Your Fuel Dry and Ready

Once you've bought your charcoal, it's important to store it properly. Damp charcoal is about as useful as a water pistol in a snowball fight!

Here are some tips for storing your charcoal:

  1. Keep it dry: Store your charcoal in a cool, dry place. A garage or shed is ideal.

  2. Use airtight containers: This prevents moisture from getting to your charcoal.

  3. Avoid direct sunlight: Prolonged exposure to sun can degrade the quality of your charcoal.

  4. Don't store near heat sources: This might seem counterintuitive, but storing charcoal near heat can be a fire hazard.

The BBQ Safety Chat

Before we wrap up, let's have a quick natter about safety. After all, we want you to enjoy your BBQ, not end up on the local news!

  1. Keep a fire extinguisher handy: Better safe than sorry, as my gran used to say.

  2. Don't use petrol or other flammable liquids: Stick to proper firelighters. Your eyebrows will thank you.

  3. Let the charcoal cool completely before disposing: Hot coals can start fires in bins.

  4. Keep children and pets away from the grill: Hot charcoal and curious fingers don't mix well.

  5. Never BBQ indoors or in enclosed spaces: Carbon monoxide is not a welcome guest at any party.

Wrapping Up: The Joy of a Well-Fueled BBQ

So there you have it, folks - everything you need to know about buying and using charcoal for your BBQ. Remember, the perfect amount of charcoal is the amount that keeps your grill going until the last sausage is cooked and the final burger is flipped.

BBQs are about more than just cooking food - they're about bringing people together, creating memories, and enjoying the great British summertime (rain or shine!). With the right amount of charcoal, some quality firelighters, and a bit of BBQ know-how, you're all set for a summer of delicious outdoor cooking.

So go on, get out there and fire up that grill. And if you find yourself with leftover charcoal at the end of the day? Well, that's just an excuse for another BBQ tomorrow, isn't it?

Happy grilling, everyone!

For more tips on mastering your BBQ skills, check out our guide on advanced smoker techniques. And remember, whether you're a BBQ novice or a seasoned grill master, there's always something new to learn in the wonderful world of outdoor cooking.