What is Charcoal?
Charcoal is (in the case of lump charcoal) wood that has been placed inside a low oxygen environment like a steel or clay box and heated to over 1000°F. The lack of oxygen is important because that means the wood can’t actually combust, or catch fire. Instead, the other things that make up wood – the water, tar, and gases like methane, - will melt or evaporate, be leaving only pure carbon and ash. When lit, charcoal produces intense heat with very little smoke, perfect for high heat searing or low and slow grilling. Due to its irregular shape, no two pieces of charcoal are the same. Smaller chunks will be nearly all carbon, while larger ones can have inclusions of unburned wood, water, tar, and lignens (which we talked about in The Science of Barbecue – Smoking Meat) that will produce that smoked-char-broiled flavor that you love.