The Differences Between Coal & Charcoal

The Differences Between Coal & Charcoal

People often get coal and charcoal confused, mistaking one for the other. Which isn’t a mistake you want to make. As misuse of either can lead to you or the people nearby to become ill or worse. We’ll be discussing the key differences between these two lumps of black carbon and why you don’t want to get them confused. Here is a quick breakdown as to the benefits and disadvantages of each.

Key Benefits & Disadvantages Breakdown



  • Long burn time

  • High heat output

  • Large amount of energy for its size

  • Great for heating buildings


  • Dirty burn

  • Not renewable

  • Can’t be used for cooking



  • Clean burn

  • Can be used for cooking

  • Renewable


  • Produces a lot of carbon monoxide

  • Bad for heating building because of Carbon Monoxide

  • Lower burn time and heat than Coal

  • Less energy per gram than Coal

Now that we’ve covered the key differences, we’ll go into more detail below!

Reasons To Not Mix Them Up

Coal is primarily used to heat buildings and power coal burning appliances. When it is used as charcoal which is primarily to cook with, it will release harmful chemicals into your food. These chemicals contaminate it and can lead to serious illness if they are consumed.

Similarly charcoal is primarily used to cook food with, when it is used as a fuel source for coal burning appliances. It produces high amounts of carbon monoxide when burnt that in an enclosed place can build up and cause respiratory problems for those breathing it in. Making it less than ideal for heating homes and other buildings.

Composition Differences


Coal is made from vegetation that died long ago and was buried under layers and layers of earth, where over time it was subjected to huge amounts of pressure and heat. This combination gradually changed it to become the coal we use today. Coal is known to store huge amounts of energy for its size and produce a lot of contaminants when it is burnt. This makes it burn for long amounts of time and for very high temperatures. Making it ideal to be used for heating and other power generating.

Most coal you burn today is smokeless coal, which is a manufactured product made from anthracite. We have a range of high quality smokeless coals that you won't find disappointing!


Charcoal is made from wood that is burned in kilns, where it is kept in a controlled environment with no oxygen being let inside. The charcoal is cooked gradually over a long period of time, this process removes any contaminants and water from the wood and you are left with pure carbon. This makes charcoal ideal to be used for cooking food, as it has a clean burn and produces the right amount of heat over a long time.

There are a number of different charcoal including Restaurant grade, lumpwood and briquettes just to name a few, all of which you can find on our site!

Hopefully that helps to clear up any of the misunderstandings you have about coal and charcoal. But what about Coal and Smokeless Coal... Luckily we’ve made a guide for that already here! And if you want to know what woods and charcoals best suit you for cooking with, then click here.