Best BBQ fuel to use: Guide for hybrid, electric, gas and charcoal barbecues

Ever wondered what type of coal you need for your BBQ, or what wood will make your food taste better? Read our in-depth guide for more advice on the best barbecue fuel. 

Man talking to woman with son preparing food at barbecue grill BBQ fuel

by Natalie Corner |

BBQ season is here. The lovely long Bank Holiday weekends, not to mention an extra one thanks to the Queen’s Jubilee, means we’ve got plenty of time to light the barbecue and get grilling tasty BBQ food to feast on. But before you whip out your chef apron and tools to get cooking, sourcing the best BBQ fuel is a necessity because it can be the difference between a perfectly cooked sausage with a crispy outer layer and moist centre, or a burnt piece of dry tasteless steak.

Of course, choosing the right type of BBQ fuel depends on what type of barbecue you have in your garden, so, whether that’s a charcoal BBQ, a gas BBQ or a hybrid BBQ we’ve covered the best BBQ fuel in detail.

What is the best BBQ fuel?

There are several different types of BBQ fuel you can choose from to grill food. Picking the best fuel is determined by what type of BBQ you have, what food you are cooking and the taste you want to achieve, as well as how much time you are going to spend grilling.

Charcoals and lump charcoals – Perhaps the most well-known type of BBQ fuel, charcoal takes the longest to cook food with. However, once heated charcoal is the easiest to cook with and the most versatile when it comes to the type of food you wish to cook with. Lump charcoal comes in larger forms and looks most like its original form, it is the best for achieving a smoked flavour.

Hand Lighting Charcoal Grill with Autumn Leaves in Background

Briquettes – These are compressed blocks of wood by-products like coal dust or wood, along with cleaner-burning ingredients. They are cheaper than coal and as they are uniform in shape, when lit they provide a consistent and controllable level of heat, longer than lump charcoal.

Wood - For the advanced fire cooker, using wood on a BBQ can add another level of smoky flavour to your meat due to the choices available. Match your wood to your meat and you’ll have your guests talking for weeks to come. Sweet chestnut, silver birch, applewood and English oak are all solid options. You’ll need to support the BBQ with coal still but make sure your wood is dry and cooked down to embers before you start cooking your food, otherwise, it will taste quite literally like a fire.

Butane/Propane gas – This is a natural highly flammable hydrocarbon gas available in canisters that fit in your gas BBQ. Propane stores all year round, so if you don’t use your whole canister during BBQ season it will be usable when the next season arrives. Gas is a great option for beginners because you don’t have to wait around for coals to heat, once lit the heat is instant. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when connecting any tank.

Where to buy gas for BBQ fuel?

It's worth noting that the initial cost of buying a gas bottle may be higher, but once you have a bottle you can buy gas refills. For small camping BBQs a small gas bottle will suffice, for a gas BBQ with three burners you will need a gas bottle at around 5kg and for anything with four burners and above, a 13kg bottle is most suitable. It does depend on how often you use your BBQ, and how much food you are grilling so take that into consideration.

Calor Gas comes highly recommended but is currently out of stock at most online stockists. So check in-store at your local B&Q or vendor to find out more.

Coleman Value C500 Gas Cartridge Six Pack

Coleman Value C500 Gas Cartridge

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Provides a steady consistent burn across a wide range of temperatures at lower altitudes, making them ideal for more general use on a small BBQ. 
Fuel type: 440g of butane/propane gas blend
Includes: 6 x C500 Gas Cartridges.

Flogas Butane Gas Cylinder 13kg

Flogas Butane Gas Cylinder 13kg

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Ideal for patio heaters and large BBQs with four burners or more.
Fuel type: Butane
Avg 43 hours of heating with one burner, avg 32 hours of cooking with two burners

Calor Gas Butane 7kg Refill - Available In-Store Only

Calor Gas Butane 7kg Refill

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This Calor Gas cylinder is compatible with many different outdoor appliances and can use either a low-pressure or high-pressure Butane regulator. The price is for refill/exchange only - you MUST hire, or have already hired, a Calor cylinder to get this gas. 
Fuel type: Butane

Electricity - Electric grills are pretty energy efficient due to the power source. You will still need to preheat your grill for around 10-15 minutes so your meat cooks evenly, but you won’t have a lot of tidying up afterwards. It goes without saying, that rainy day BBQs are an absolute no-no with an electric grill.

What fuel is used in hybrid BBQs?

You can use any cooking charcoal or gas on a hybrid BBQ, although it's worth checking the manufacturer's instruction manual in case they have any requirements or recommendations. The BBQ brand Outback, for example, recommends that you use its Hybrid Coconut Briquettes for its charcoal BBQ, and John Lewis recommends propane or patio gas cylinder bottles ranging in sizes from 3kg to 13kg for its gas BBQ.

How do I start a BBQ?

There are a couple of options when starting a BBQ and which option you choose depends on which BBQ you have, if you have a hybrid BBQ then the choice is all yours.

How to start a gas BBQ: For beginners selecting the right gas like butane gas or methane gas is the best starting point, advises Robert Dyas. After following the manufacturer's instructions to connect it correctly, keep the lid open and light it. Gas canisters can last for up to four hours on low heat but it’s wise to have a backup just in case. Never leave your gas BBQ unattended and set it up away from flammable products.

How to start a charcoal BBQ: To make things easier when lighting a charcoal BBQ, you’ll also need firelighters. This can be liquid lighter fluid, natural eco-friendly firelighters, or firelighter blocks. Pack them in between your charcoal and light them to get your fire going using lump charcoal or briquettes. Robert Dyas recommends using the 1:1 ratio for your coal – for every kilogram of meat, add a kilogram of charcoal.

Weber 17670 Lighter Cube

Weber 17670 Lighter Cube
Amazon

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Use with: Charcoal barbecues and smokers
Non-toxic and odourless alternative to igniting charcoal
Lights easily even when wet
No chemical aftertaste, only true charcoal flavour
Environmentally friendly and safe

FIRE UP Natural Sustainable Firelighters

FIRE UP Natural Sustainable Firelighters
Amazon

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FIRE UP natural sustainable firelighters are made from sustainably sourced (FSC Certified) compressed wood and vegetable oils. They are 100 per cent natural and Co2 neutral, non-pollutive, odourless, non-toxic and can be stored indefinitely.
Use with: BBQs, fireplaces and open fires
No palm oils or fossil fuels
Burns for between 6-8 minutes

Natural Eco Wood Firelighters

Natural Eco Wood Firelighters
Amazon

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Eco-friendly odourless firelighters made from wood, wool and wax.
Use with: Wood burners, fireplaces, BBQs or camping fires

How do I know when BBQ coals are ready?

After waiting at least 15-20 minutes, you’ll also know when your charcoals are ready because they will no longer be solid black but white-hot and covered with grey ash. Make sure all the coals are of the same appearance and evenly heated before you start cooking.

What is the best coal to use for a charcoal BBQ?

Firstly, you’ll need to decide whether you are using lump charcoal or briquettes for your charcoal BBQ.

Brands to look for when choosing your coal that will deliver the best results: Weber, Outback, Rockwood, Komodo Joe, Jealous Devil, or Royal Oak.

Weber 1759180 Briquettes 8kg

Weber 1759180 Briquettes 8kg
Amazon

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If you want consistent results briquettes are hard to beat. They light evenly and burn at the same temperature, so there's less chance of developing a hot spot, and these Weber briquettes are made from waste wood and promise a three-hour burn.
Use with: Charcoal BBQs
Easy and quick to light and burn for a long time, ready to use in 20 minutes
3 hours burning time
Weight: 5kg or 8kg

Outback Hybrid Coconut Briquettes

Outback Hybrid Coconut Briquettes

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These Coconut Shell Briquettes are for use with all Outback® Hybrid gas BBQ. Simply add briquettes into the charcoal basket, ignite using gas on medium heat for 15 mins, and turn off the gas when the briquettes start to turn grey.
Use with: Gas and charcoal BBQs
Instant ignition and lasts for up to 4 hours
Weight: 5kg

Kamado Joe XL Natural Reusable Lump Charcoal for BBQ

Kamado Joe XL Natural Reusable Lump Charcoal for BBQ
Amazon

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Made from real trees, so it burns clean and gives you a robust wood fire flavour. Unlike briquettes which contain chemicals and fillers, natural charcoal allows the true flavour of the food to emerge.
Use with: Charcoal barbecues and smokers
Weight: 9.1kg of natural charcoal.
Reusable up to three times and lasts more than 18 hours

Weber 1782580 Lumpwood Charcoal 5 kg

Weber 1782580 Lumpwood Charcoal 5 kg
Amazon

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Made from beech, hornbeam, birch, and oak woods, Weber Lumpwood lights fast burns hot and imparts a distinct, delicious flavour.
Use with: Charcoal grill and chimney firestarter
Weight: 5kg

Marienburg Organic Restaurant Grade Lumpwood BBQ Charcoal

Marienburg Organic Restaurant Grade Lumpwood BBQ Charcoal for Barbecues and Pizza Ovens
Amazon

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Another popular charcoal with Amazon shoppers, this Marienburg lumpwood charcoal is smokeless and odourless restaurant grade. Made out of sustainable alder tree.
Use with: Charcoal BBQs, pizza ovens
Ready in 15 minutes
Weight: Approx 4-5kg

Big K Instant Light Lumpwood Charcoal

Big K Instant Light Lumpwood Charcoal
Amazon

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A best-seller on Amazon this four-pack of instant light lumpwood charcoal bags has been rated highly for how easy and convenient they are to use. There’s no need to worry about using a firelighter or lighting gel, as the charcoal has already been impregnated with lighting fluid and ignites instantly.
Use with: Charcoal BBQs
Ready to cook within 20 minutes
Weight: 4 x 1kg bags

How long does it take for charcoal to get hot enough?

It takes roughly 15-20 minutes for the charcoal to get hot enough to cook with, and you should keep the lid of your charcoal BBQ closed for maximum heat efficiency.

Does lump charcoal burn longer than briquettes?

Lump charcoal lights faster and burns hotter, however, it tends to burn down faster so can be better for cooking meats like steak or burgers. Briquettes don’t get as hot as lump charcoal, but they hold a steady temperature so are good for lengthy and even burning.

What to read next

Best BBQ food

Best hybrid BBQs

Best charcoal BBQs

Best gas BBQs

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