Wood vs BBQ Briquettes

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Wander

Nomad
Jan 6, 2017
469
503
Here There & Everywhere
I was planning a day out this weekend.
I was going to take a collapsible wood stove with me (think Honey Stove, except it's not a honey stove).

I've always burned bits of wood in it. Any offcuts or bits from tinkering in the shed are put in a bag and then I take them with me as fuel for the stove.

But I see many use BBQ briquettes in their stoves.

So I was hoping you may be able to give me some advice on the pros and cons of each.

I like using wood. But it can leave a residue on pots and pans. I would sometimes not have noticeable flames. The smoke is a two-edged sword - it can make you noticeable but it also smokes the insects away. The good thing is that heat is easier to modulate.

But what about about BBQ briquettes? Here's what I really want to know. Do they produce enough direct heat to boil a pot of water in a reasonable? I can see how they would work using the stove as a barbecue, but what about as a...well, stove? Is there a flame? What about smoke? What about residue on pots?
Oh yeah, one last thing: how does burn time compare to wood? If I have a handful of wood bits and a handful of charcoal briquettes which will burn longer?

Details of your experiences and preference (and why!) would be gratefully appreciated.
 

TinkyPete

Full Member
Sep 4, 2009
1,870
87
uk mainly in the Midlands though
wood is easy to find in nature and that is why a lot of people use it in stoves.

But if you are carrying in your own fuel then anything goes, I have used BBQ charcoal and briquettes and they work great as you get a lot of heat and not much flame, so is good for cooking with, if grilling then fat can cause it to flame up, the residue from briquettes is a fine ash so easily to transport away or make safe, I have added a little water to it to make a lye and clean my pots with it after use, so win win.

In my Folding firebox I have even used coal and no warping of the steel, but is because of the metal is able to cope with it, i would not put coal into my honey stove, it was a test to see about heat and it coped not for cooking.

The smoke is generally less for briquettes/charcoal and I find a better temperature as well, because of the compactness of the briquettes they tend to burn longer and hold their shape better than charcoal.

with dutch oven cooking you can even work out temperatures with general briquettes and there are even apps for your phone to work it out.

Not all briquettes are made the same though so it does depend on which ones you get, but with wood it is the same different woods burn differently whether fresh or how dry or dense it is.
 

Janne

Guest
Feb 10, 2016
12,368
2,262
Grand Cayman, Norway, Sweden
Charcoal = processed wood
C. c briquetes = condensed processed wood.

Once properly lit, you get no flame and no smoke and lots and lotd of heat.
Smiths use charcoal for this reason.

But you have to buy and carry them, and wood found in the wild is free.
If you have the land owners permission, and then a bit of smoke is fine too!
Yes, wood leaves soot and a tarry residue. Wabi-sabi!
 

demographic

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Apr 15, 2005
4,271
267
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C. c briquetes = condensed processed wood and random tat that was scraped up off the ground, then mixed into the briquette.
As long as its black its a good un but you can tell by how much ash they leave how much care wasn't put into making sure they are good.
 

FlashPan

Forager
Sep 7, 2015
119
9
Norf London
Maybe a dumb question but how or will charcoal or briquettes work in a gasification stove? the solo stove titan and the likes.

EDIT: Should have looked before I lept :)



Am quite surprised at the results
 
Last edited:

Wander

Nomad
Jan 6, 2017
469
503
Here There & Everywhere
Right.
Having now used them in a stove I am able to answer my own question and in case anyone else was wondering I can let you know how it worked for me.

Simple answer - bloody useless.

Longer answer - It depends on what you're doing. Yes, they are smokeless. And no, they don't leave a sticky resin on your pans. And they do burn longer than wood.
However, whilst they are lovely for barbecuing over, they are as good as useless for boiling a pan of water in a stainless steel pot to make a brew. They do produce a good amount of heat but it's nowhere near as hot as a naked flame. Which, I suppose, you'd want and expect from a barbecue. Thing is, though, they don't produce enough heat to boil water in a stainless steel pot, not in any reasonable time anyway.
If all you want to do is grill a steak or a sausage, then it's just what you want.
But if you want enough heat to transfer through a metal pan and cook/boil, and do it in a reasonable time, then you want something else.

At least I know now and don't have to waste time wondering if.
 
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Janne

Guest
Feb 10, 2016
12,368
2,262
Grand Cayman, Norway, Sweden
Interesting result!
And wood is quicker to produce a boil, as you need to wait for the majority of the briquettes to ignite and start ’burning’ (glowing).
But it does mess up the pans!

The way I cook my food or boil water if I have a fire is to take the coals into a heap, maybe 10 cm high maximum, tamp them down so I get a fitm, flat top, then place my vessel straight on top.

I have never carried charcoal or briquettes into the nature, but do sometimes take maybe one kilo of nicely dry firewood, if it has been rainy and wet.
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,570
1,563
McBride, BC
I don't think you need to be so far removed from nature that you have to carry compressed wood pellets.
They're fine for home heating, the fire really does need some additional air pressure for efficiency's sake.

I've burned 100,000 lbs/50 tons, over the past decade and I'm completely satisfied.
Pellets from April shut down do not burn well in the next start up in October.
They pull just enough humidity from the house air that I'll run an 80% feed rate instead of 60%, just to get things really hot.
I have a gut feeling that charcoal briquettes do the very same thing = they suck up moisture.