Although humans have been cooking with fire for hundreds of thousands of years, the term “barbecue” is a fairly recent one. Dating back to the Arawak Tribe in the 17th century, they used the term “barbacoa” to describe their process for grilling food over an open fire in South America. When Spanish explorers discovered the practice, they became enamored with it, and they brought it back with them to Europe.
Today, millions of people enjoy grilling their food both outdoors and inside. However, if you are using a charcoal grill, then you know that it can get quite smoky, so you need an exhaust pipe to funnel the smoke out of the room if you want to use it indoors.
Nonetheless, many people worry about the environmental effects of using a charcoal grill because of the amount of smoke it creates. Thankfully, there are numerous different types of charcoal available today that are more friendly towards the environment.
In this guide, you will learn about coconut charcoal vs. other eco-friendly charcoals and how they compare to one another. With this in mind, let’s first take a look at one of the most popular types of sustainable charcoal: coconut.
As the name suggests, this type of charcoal comes from the shells of a coconut. Initially considered a form of agricultural waste, charcoal manufacturers now use these shells to create a valuable resource.
Depending on the company, some producers will sell the shells in their original form, while others will compress them into the shape of a briquette. Hexagonal charcoal briquettes can burn up to three times longer than ones made from wood, which is why they are a more sustainable grilling material.
In addition, the way that these briquettes burn is free of virtually any smoke, leading to an overall reduction in emissions. Chefs prefer to use it for its alluring aroma. In contrast, slow-cookers use it because it burns very slowly and steadily, making it easier to control the heat and an ideal choice for slow-cooking competitions.
After you finish grilling, you won’t have to worry about any black residue built up from the burning charcoal because coconut shells burn very efficiently. Outside of the cooking world, manufacturers of health and beauty products also like to use coconut shell charcoal for its aromatic properties.
This type of charcoal is generally the least friendly towards the environment. However, when it comes from recycled wood and doesn’t require companies to cut down trees, it’s an effective way to turn this waste into something useful.
Some people refer to this kind as “charwood” because it has no additives and is an entirely pure form of wood. Without the chemicals that charcoal usually brings, this can be a relatively sustainable grilling material, but it does have its downsides.
Since lump charcoal burns so quickly, you may have to use more of it if you plan on grilling something for a while. However, if you are looking to grill something hot and fast, lump charcoal will reach its peak temperature of about 450 to 600 degrees Fahrenheit in a 10 to 15-minute timeframe. To keep your grilling practices friendly towards the environment, you won’t want to grill your lump charcoal for longer than 30 to 40 minutes tops.
You can make charcoal from a variety of materials, but bamboo is one of the most sustainable because it proliferates in certain areas. Since bamboo grows more quickly and takes up less surface area than wood, charcoal manufacturers can use it to produce high volumes of products.
Some other reasons why bamboo is a sustainable charcoal material is because it burns relatively smoke-free, it doesn’t have any additives, fossil fuels, or other forms of fillers, and it lights so easily that you won’t have to use harmful lighter fluid. Bamboo charcoal burns quite hot and produces very little ash, so it’s an ideal solution if you want to keep your grill clean.
Furthermore, burning charcoal produces carbon, but since bamboo sequesters carbon, the end result is that bamboo charcoal produces net neutral emissions. Wood also captures carbon from the atmosphere, but bamboo performs this job more efficiently, making it greener overall.
Known as “white charcoal” in its native Japan, Binchōtan is a traditional form of this material that comes from raw oak wood, making it a form of lump charcoal. However, it differs from regular lump charcoal because the unique oak wood that Binchōtan comes from makes it behave similarly to bamboo and coconut charcoal.
It burns slowly, for a longer period, and at lower temperatures than lump charcoal, and it also doesn’t release a scent. Like coconut charcoal, manufacturers use Binchōtan for other types of products as well, including in clothing, cosmetics, wind chimes, and also as an odor remover for shoe cabinets. The small pores in Binchōtan make it exceptionally absorbent of foul odors, which is why it’s such a versatile form of charcoal.
The name Quebracho comes from the Spanish phrase “quebrar hacha,” which means “ax-breaker.” This type of charcoal comes from a tree that is 40% denser than normal wood, making it an exceptionally long-lasting burning material.
As with some of the other types of long-burning charcoal in this guide, it doesn’t produce a lot of smoke or ash, but it does burn at high temperatures and has a pleasing fragrance. The density of the wood allows for this charcoal to burn longer and hotter, but it also means that reaching peak temperatures will take longer than lump charcoal. There is more than one type of quebracho tree, all of which hail from South America, but the most popular type for smoking or grilling is the quebracho blanco.
Overall, most people go with what’s most convenient, so they will choose to buy processed lump charcoal from their local hardware or cooking store. However, if you are looking at coconut charcoal vs. other eco-friendly charcoals, then you probably want to find the most sustainable option.
You can’t go wrong with any of these choices, but coconut charcoal might be cheaper depending on where you live. Now that you know about the differences between all these charcoal varieties, you can make the best decision for your needs.