Question: What's the best charcoal to use in my smoker?
Good Charcoal for smoking lasts a long time and produces a steady high heat.
While there are those who will tell you that the best charcoal is actually hardwood logs, there are those people who live in the real world and use charcoal to produce heat for their smokers. Of course not all charcoals are created equal. The first rule is to avoid self-starting charcoals that have lighter fluid additives to get them burning. These leave a bad taste and are just not good for any kind of cooking. If you want an inexpensive charcoal go with something that has not additives. Charcoal should be as basic and clean as possible. You can add really wood for smoke flavor but avoid charcoals that promise things like ";authentic mesquite flavor". Charcoal should also be kept completely dry.
If you want to step up a level you can use what is know as lump charcoal. This isn't pressed sawdust like most charcoals, but is actual pieces of wood that have been fired into charcoal. Lump charcoal made from hardwood is as close to smoking with hardwood as you can get without splitting logs. Lump charcoal burns longer so you use less and have a much more flavorful smoke. Lump charcoal also costs more, but since it burns hotter and longer you use less so the in long run it isn't as expensive as you might think. Lump charcoal is also more available these days and can typically be found in places that sell smokers and outdoor cooking equipment.