by Jim Shahin
Charcoal Lately, you may have noticed commercials for high-end charcoal. "Lump," it's called. Not a very high-end name, but hardwood lump charcoal has become big business. It used to be most everybody used briquettes - those hard, black, uniformly pillow-shaped blocks that you empty from a Kingsford Sure Fire blue bag.But as barbecue competitions and grilling shows have grown in popularity, so, too, has the fetishization of charcoal. And it turns out the differences might mean more than you think.
What exactly is charcoal?
All charcoal is basically carbon. It's made by heating wood in an oxygen-starved process that burns off compounds like water, tar, hydrogen, and methane. What's left is coal.
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A brief history of charcoal
A Pennsylvanian named Ellsworth Zwoyer patented the design for charcoal briquettes in 1897. Henry Ford popularized them in the 1920s, when he created the nuggets from wood scraps at his factory.