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?

Best BBQ fuel to use

by Natalie Corner |
Updated on

BBQ season is on its way, so there is no better time to get familiar with the ultimate guide to the best BBQ fuel to use for your BBQs and outdoor grill cookouts. As always, we will pray for a summer heatwave and lovely, glorious Bank Holiday weekends, feasting on tasty BBQ food whenever possible.

But before you whip out your chef's apron and BBQ 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 charcoal, gas or a hybrid BBQ, we’ve covered all fuel for your outdoor kitchen in detail.

Perhaps, you're wondering: what is the best BBQ fuel? Well, there are several different types of BBQ fuel you can choose from to grill food. Picking the best fuel is determined by what kind 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. To find out more information on each type, scroll down to the FAQs. Here, you'll find the best fuel for your Kamado grill and beyond.

Best BBQ Fuel At A Glance

Best gas for small BBQs: Coleman Value C500 Gas Cartridge - View offer on Argos
Best gas for large BBQs: Flogas Butane Gas Cylinder, 13kg - View offer on B&Q
Best lighters for convenience: Weber Lighter Cube - View offer on Amazon

But the question is: 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 gas 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 is highly recommended and is currently available at most online stockists.

With that, we have the best BBQ fuel for your outdoor kitchen.

Best BBQ Fuel

Best gas for small BBQs

The Coleman Value C500 Gas Cartridge, Six Pack, 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. The fuel type consists of a 440g of butane/propane gas blend. You get six C500 gas cartridges.

Customer review: "Gas for BBQ. Much more reasonably priced than Weber's own and works the same. Well packaged in the six pack. Great service from Argos, delivered to my Sainsburys local."

Pros

  • Great value for money
  • Will fit the majority of portable gas appliances
  • Easy to store as an emergency backup
  • One canister can last up to a week on a camping trip

Cons

  • Can only recycled at the council recycling centre
  • Small capacity

Best gas for large BBQs

Ideal for patio heaters and large BBQs with four burners or more. The Flogas Butane Gas Cylinder, 13kg, has an average of 43 hours of heating with one burner and 32 hours of cooking with two burners.

Customer review: "This was quite simply the best gas I had ever bought. I connected it to my BBQ and it cooked my meat. Happy Days."

Pros

  • Long burn time
  • Value for money
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Burn time may vary depending on your heater or BBQ
  • Existing contract required to get refill

Best domestic use butane gas

This Calor Gas Butane 7kg Gas Bottle is compatible with many different outdoor appliances and can use either a low-pressure or high-pressure butane regulator. This is available to buy in-store only, but there's a handy guide on the Calor website to identify which gas bottle best suits your needs. Also, stockists are listed on the Calor website.

Customer review: "Smooth ordering process, communication was second to none and when I contacted the gas supplier directly I got an update and reassurance straightaway."

Pros

  • Versatile usage
  • Experts in butane gas

Cons

  • Refill only

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.

Best lighters for convenience

Use a Weber 17670 Lighter Cube with charcoal barbecues and smokers. They're a non-toxic and odourless alternative to igniting charcoal. Convenient to use, these lighter cubes ignite easily, even when wet. Food will have an authentic charcoal flavour and no chemical aftertaste. A quality product from Weber that's environmentally friendly and safe. Check out our review of the Weber Genesis EPX 335 Smart BBQ.

Customer review: "They're individually packaged in combustible wrapping they're easy to handle and they catch very easily. I also like the resealable bag which keeps them neat and tidy."

Pros

  • Less smell than other firelighters
  • Effective
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Handle with gloves as the product can irritate skin

Best natural firelighters

FIRE UP Natural Sustainable Firelighters
Price: $27.71

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. You can use them with BBQs, fireplaces and open fires. They do not contain any palm oils or fossil fuels. Their burn time is between 6-8 minutes, which is ample time for a fire to catch the light.

Customer review: "Great value and eco firelighters, instead of smelling of petrochemicals these almost smell of dark chocolate. A little trickier to light but still very easy. I use two to start woodburner, BBQ or pizza oven (as unlike many you can use for lighting these too)."

Pros

  • All-natural, carbon-neutral emission
  • Some reviews have commented that the smell chocolatey when they burn
  • Great value and versatile use

Cons

  • A little tricky to ignite - need to engage the rough edge

Best firelighters for versatility

Eco-friendly odourless firelighters made from wood, wool and wax. Say goodbye to chemical-laden, smelly fire starters and switch to a quality and sustainable solution. These firelighters are made from untreated Beech wood coated in natural wax. Use with wood burners, fireplaces, BBQs or camping fires. These Natural Eco Wood Firelighters are easy to light and burn for 10 minutes, which is enough to establish a fire.

Customer review: "So nice to use something so effective that doesn’t smell and leave your fingers stinky like other firefighters. Would thoroughly recommend it, will buy it again. Every time used, the fire lights up straight away. Use three or four depending on how impatient I am! But could probably use less."

Pros

  • Natural material
  • Value for money
  • No strong smell

Cons

  • Tricky to light
  • Inconsistent sizes

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.

Best BBQ briquettes

Weber 1759180 Briquettes 8kg
Price: $18.26

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 1759180 Briquettes, 8kg, are made from waste wood and promise a three-hour burn. Briquettes burn for longer than lump wood, so it's the ideal fuel for slow cooking on a BBQ. Use with charcoal BBQs for an easy and quick fuel that burns for a long time and is ready to use in just 20 minutes.

Customer review: "These are the best briquettes I have ever used. They last so much longer than all the others I've tried. If they weren't so expensive these would be the only ones I'd use."

Pros

  • Perfect for grilling, roasting or baking on a BBQ
  • Eco-conscious, made from waste wood
  • Easy to light

Cons

  • Inconsistent burn time

Best BBQ fuel for hybrid BBQ

These Outback Hybrid Coconut Briquettes are for use with all Outback® Hybrid gas BBQs. 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. You can use these briquettes with gas and charcoal BBQs, with instant ignition and they last for four hours.

Pros

  • Slow burning
  • 100 per cent natural

Cons

  • Bag may split in transit

Best long-lasting charcoal

Made from real trees, the Kamado Joe XL Natural Reusable Lump Charcoal for BBQ burns clean and gives you a robust wood-fired flavour. Unlike briquettes which contain chemicals and fillers, natural charcoal allows the true flavour of the food to emerge. Use Kamado Joe lump charcoal with charcoal barbecues and smokers. It's reusable up to three times and lasts more than 18 hours.

Customer review: "The best charcoal I have found. Good size pieces, not too many bits. Burns for a long time and usually plenty left in the basket for the next cook. Good value compared to other brands. I use it on a kamado oven."

Pros

  • Creates a distinctive charcoal flavour
  • Achieve high temperatures for searing
  • Burns cleaner, hotter and longer than standard charcoal

Cons

  • Carbon Monoxide hazard - use outdoors only

Best charcoal for flavour

This Weber 1782580 Lumpwood Charcoal, 5kg, is made from beech, hornbeam, birch, and oak woods, Weber Lumpwood lights fast, burns hot and imparts a distinct, delicious flavour. It's compatible with any charcoal grill and chimney firestarter.

Customer review: "Some of the reviews were bad but I think it depends on the batch. I received a decent bag and I had really big pieces. Yes, there are a few crushed ones but you will get them due to transportation etc. It does the job well and is very fast to set up. It took me 10 mins to set up BBQ with a chimney starter."

Pros

  • Easy to light
  • Ideal for grilling and searing
  • Imparts a unique flavour

Cons

  • Coals are messy
  • Inconsistent coal size

Best organic charcoal

Another popular charcoal with Amazon shoppers, this Marienburg Organic Restaurant Grade Lumpwood BBQ Charcoal is smokeless and odourless restaurant grade. Made out of sustainable alder trees, this fuel can be used with charcoal BBQs and pizza ovens.

Customer review: "So buying good quality charcoal is important and this product is good. They light well (using a chimney) burn evenly and last long enough for a family meal. They top up and burn well if an extended grill is required. I like the fact that they all turn to ashes so can be left to cool and put on the compost heap. So price-wise, they are more expensive than service station coals but are so much better quality and can be used straight away."

Pros

  • Organic lumpwood charcoal
  • Odourless
  • Clean and convenient

Cons

  • Short burn time

Best charcoal for ignition

A best-seller on Amazon, this four-pack of instant light lump wood 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. It comes in 1kg bags, perfect for small home charcoal BBQs. The Big K Instant Light Lumpwood Charcoal means you're ready to cook within 20 minutes.

Customer review: "On the warmth part, since this lights so easily, it is lower quality stuff. Smaller, thinner bricks. That are ok for sausages and a small piece of meat. But don't expect to grill 2 T-bones with that, it won't do."

Pros

  • Convenience
  • Easy to light

Cons

  • Quick burn time

FAQs

What is the best BBQ fuel to use?

Charcoals and lump charcoals – Perhaps the most well-known type of BBQ fuel, charcoal takes the longest to cook food with on a stylish charcoal BBQ. 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.

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.

Hand Lighting Charcoal Grill with Autumn Leaves in Background
©Getty Images

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. 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 long and even burning.

The ultimate guide to the best BBQ food

Our pick of the best smoker grills for your cookouts

Best BBQ cleaners for an effective clean-up

Discover everything you need to know to make your outside space look fantastic, quickly and easily, with hundreds of simple ideas, designer tricks, affordable products and expert advice with a Modern Gardens Membership. Find out more about the benefits of being a Member now.

Natalie Corner is the Commercial Content Editor across the Specialist Portfolio for Bauer Media and is slowly learning how to care for her plant babies. When she's not soaking up the three days of sunshine in the great British outdoors, she's testing out the latest BBQ products.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us