Frequently Asked


What is lump charcoal?

Lump charcoal is a natural, clean-burning fuel produced by burning compounds out of wood, leaving only the carbon. Wood contains water, sugars from sap, and other chemicals that do not burn consistently. When wood is burned normally or burned in a fireplace (or campfire), it produces smoke and a large amount of ash. But when hardwood scraps are left to smolder for 10 or more days in a kiln, the wood is reduced to 1/6 of its original weight and transforms almost entirely into carbon, which produces less smoke and ash. Lump charcoal created by this process burns hotter and more consistently than briquettes.

Lump charcoal is primarily used in barbecue grills, smokers, blast furnaces, art glass kilns, and for other applications where consistent, intense heat and minimal ash and smoke are required.

What is the history of lump charcoal?

Charcoal is the oldest manufactured product known to mankind.  Charcoal is believed to be used as a fuel far back as the Stone Age, due to evidence of cave drawings and carbon dating.  Evidence also shows the Egyptians were the first to use charcoal for industrial purposes in 3500 B.C.–to smelt iron, and later to produce glass. Charcoal was also instrumental in the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. In the Middle Ages, charcoal production reached its peak for use in gunpowder, blast furnaces for casting cannons, and in the blacksmithing industry. Today, charcoal is an instrumental part of America’s favorite food-related pastime—barbecue!

Why is lump charcoal better than briquettes?

The briquette process was popularized by Henry Ford, who made briquettes in order to sell wood and sawdust byproducts from the Model T assembly line. Briquettes contain additives, fillers, and binders, like borax, starch, limestone, sodium nitrate, fly ash (anthracite), mineral char, mineral carbon, and sawdust. Many “match lightable” briquettes also use petroleum. To create briquettes, these items are mixed together and pressed into a “pillow” of sorts. Because of these fillers, Briquettes produce more ash than lump charcoal. That ash can clog smokers during “low and slow” cooks.

Lump charcoal burns hotter and longer than briquettes because of the absence of the fillers and binders. Lump is the most pure form of charcoal. It’s as close to pure carbon as you can get. Lump produces a consistent fire and taste, and allows you to add your own smoking woods to control the flavor and intensity.

How can I tell the difference between good charcoal and bad charcoal?

Good lump charcoal is only made from hardwood. Softwood is not nearly as dense and contains more sap, which won’t burn off completely in the kiln. When you burn lump charcoal made from softwood, you’ll notice more smoke and ash. Softwood lump charcoal will not last as long.

Good lump charcoal is kilned and cooled for the right amount of time at the right temperature. This removes all of the sap, tar, and moisture from the wood, which makes the charcoal brittle. If you throw a chunk of lump charcoal at a hard surface, it should break into several pieces. If it doesn’t, it’s still wood on the inside. If you have trouble maintaining a temperature below 250° F or above 500° F—you guessed it! It’s still wood. And if lump charcoal continues to smoke 10-15 minutes after it’s lit, it still has tar and sap in it.

Good lump charcoal will make a metallic “tink” sound during lighting and when contacting other piece of lump charcoal. Improperly kilned lump charcoal will just sound like wood chunks.


Why is Rockwood Lump Charcoal better than other lump brands?

Rockwood comes exclusively from Missouri hardwood–mainly oak & hickory, but can contain some pecan, cherry, and/or maple. Other brands use foreign woods and flooring/molding scrap, which contain can softwoods and resins.

Rockwood is carefully handled and stacked to ensure the large chunks of charcoal remain intact. It’s also properly dried, kilned, and cooled to remove all tars that could produce undesirable smoke.

And Rockwood is environmentally friendly. From the charcoal production, to the bag, to the waste, we keep our product and our process green.

Where does Rockwood Lump Charcoal come from?

Rockwood is 100% from Missouri. Our charcoal comes from hardwood left over from timber milling operations in the Ozarks and Mark Twain National Forest. Our charcoal is dried, kilned, and packaged in southern Missouri and carefully transported to our two warehouses in St. Louis County, Missouri.

Is Rockwood Lump Charcoal "organic"?

Our charcoal is all-natural. It is made from 100% Missouri hardwood trees growing in the wild. It contains zero chemicals, fertilizers, or pesticides. We could legally say it is “organic”; however, it would misrepresent the product and corrupt the word itself.

“Organic” gets thrown around a lot now, but there are strict USDA regulations when and where you can use it in terms of food and beverage labeling. Typically, it’s used to show the product was “organically farmed” under the regulations of 7 CFR Part 205–free of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, etc. It is also used, but not as regulated, to label textiles and personal hygiene products.

First off, our charcoal not “farmed”–it comes from trees growing naturally in the forest.  Furthermore, our charcoal is not consumed, nor worn on or applied to a person’s body.  For these reasons, we have chosen not to debase the word “organic” by using it to describe a fuel.

We fully support the organic movement 100% by keeping it natural.  We definitely can say that certified organic products taste the best when prepared over all-natural lump charcoal!

What is the environmental impact of Rockwood Lump Charcoal?

Is Rockwood involved in any fundraising or charity efforts?

Rockwood donates charcoal to charity barbecues and directly to disaster recovery and rescue efforts where gas and electricity may not be available. Many charities sell our charcoal at fundraising barbecues and keep the profits. If you would like to request a donation, please contact us for more information.

In areas outside of St. Louis, we will most likely refer you to the nearest dealer as they already have the charcoal.  Please visit our Where to Buy page, to find Rockwood near you.


How do you light Rockwood Lump Charcoal?

How long does Rockwood Lump Charcoal burn?

As with any fuel, it’s all about temperature and thermal efficiency. The hotter your fire is, the quicker the charcoal will burn.

If charcoal is allowed to burn in free air, it will burn faster, since it has an unregulated amount of oxygen to consume. If you have a open grill without a lid, it’s best to make a small fire, then add charcoal as needed.

On a smoker, or on a grill with a closed lid, it’s easier to regulate how much oxygen can get to the charcoal. On heavily insulated kamado type smokers, low temperature fires can maintained for more than 24 hours on just one load of charcoal.

What is the shelf life of Rockwood Lump Charcoal?

Rockwood should be good indefinitely if it’s stored in an area free from water and extreme temperatures changes.

For best results, fold over the top of the bag and store it in your garage. If your charcoal does get wet, just spread it out on a solid surface and leave it in the sun for a few days.

Fun fact:  Charcoal is the oldest manufactured product known to man.  Not because it necessarily is the oldest, just the oldest known–because the only way to get rid of it is to burn it!  By using carbon dating and cave drawings, archeologists have been able to date charcoal fires back 100,000’s of years.

What do I do with (or how to minimize) the charcoal dust and fines in the bottom of the bag?

We strive to minimize the “fines” in the bottom of our bags by taking multiple manufacturing steps to sift them out. Unfortunately, just like a bag of potato chips or a box of breakfast cereal, a small amount of “char dust” is unavoidable.

The challenge? High quality lump charcoal is brittle, and it will break down during bagging, palletizing, shipping, and handling.

We work with our shippers and retailers to ensure that they carefully handle our bags and instruct customers to do the same. Avoid throwing your charcoal bags or stacking heavy objects on top of them

If you do end up with some charcoal dust, keep in mind that it will still burn–pour it off to the sides of your firebox or in the ash pan.  It’s also an excellent ignition source and accelerator for fire pits or wood-burning fireplaces. And many gardening experts, and our own commissioned research, suggest the use of charcoal fines to aerate soil or compost piles.

Unburned charcoal fines can also be discarded safely in the trash; however, you would be missing out on usable BTU’s.

Why did I find something in my bag that isn’t charcoal?

Sorry about that! We strive to remove all foreign matter during the bagging process, but sometimes pieces sneak by.

Why? Well, a lot can happen to a tree in its lifetime. People sometimes nail items to them, shoot at them, or run fencing around them. And because trees are constantly growing, objects lodged in trees can easily become encased, creating “knots.” Knots are undesirable in the lumber industry, so they’re often made into charcoal. Objects often remain grafted inside the charcoal chunks, which is why they’re only found once the charcoal becomes ash.

As for the occasional rock, a char dust covered rock looks the same as chunk of charcoal.  It would be impossible to inspect every single piece of charcoal that gets poured into the bags.  Our bags always have an overage above the stated weight to cover for any foreign object.

If you’ve found an object in your charcoal, please tell us! Some customers have found arrowheads, coins, and other fun “prizes.” If it’s anything of value, we’ll gladly take it off of your hands!


Does Rockwood offer bulk pricing?

Please contact us to learn more about becoming a Rockwood dealer or distributor.

Do you charge sales tax?

All sales in the state of Missouri are subject to 9.263% sales tax.  Additionally, if you’re purchasing online through Amazon or another e-commerce giant, you may be subject to a “marketplace facilitator tax” depending on your state.

If you will be reselling our charcoal in Missouri, please forward a copy of your signed MO DOR Form 149 with your first order.

If you are a restaurant, caterer, or are using our product in any type of production process that will eventually end in a taxable sale, you do not have to pay sales tax. Please email or fax us a MO DOR Form 149 with your first order.

For all other non-taxable entities, please send whatever official paperwork you have stating why you are non-taxable.

Can you ship charcoal to me?

Individual bags are available from our online store and other online dealers.

For bulk quanities, yes, if you are a business.  We are centrally located (in St. Louis, Missouri) with the capability to ship via any common carrier. We compare rates from several local carriers and 3PL’s to find the lowest available cost for shipping to your location.

Rockwood ships in 20-lbs bags with 30 bags to a pallet, or 10# bags with 64 to a pallet.  When requesting a quote, please include the destination ZIP code, # of pallets, and any special handling (e.g. lift gate service.)  We do NOT ship to residential addresses, nor allow “hold at depot” shipments.  Liftgate is expensive and really limits our options, so find a forklift or dock (even if it costs you a few bags of charcoal.)

If you are interested in getting your own shipping quote, our RW20 charcoal pallets are 660# total, and RW10’s are 700# total.  Both are 40″x48″x48″, stackable, NMFC 042470-02, Class 77.5, Non-hazmat (4.2 exempt), FOB St. Louis, MO 63115.

If you are interested in individual bags, please visit our Where to Buy Online page.

As of 11/1/17, Rockwood is available for shipment to and sales in the State of California.

Due to labeling requirements, we do NOT ship to Canada (yet).


Are there any safety concerns with using lump charcoal?

Always keep the “golden rule” in fire safety in mind: NEVER leave any fire unattended!

Please visit our Safety Page for more information on safely using lump charcoal.  Our Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is also available for download.  For 24/7 emergencies contact INFOTRAC at 1-800-535-5053.

Please refer to our Charcoal Tips page for further information on how to safely light and extinguish Rockwood Charcoal.

Do you sell biochar or charcoal fines?

Yes!  We sell charcoal fines for biochar by the 1000# “SuperSack” or by the truckload (up to 22 tons).  The size is 3/4 minus, moisture content is ~5%, and the carbon content is~80% at minimum.  Please Contact Us for all the specifications, application rates, pricing, etc.

Do you sell anything else besides charcoal?

Yes!  Our main business is charcoal, but we are also carry many high quality BBQ innovations that make the Rockwood experience even better.

Rockwood Smoking Woods can be found in many stores in St. Louis, in our online store, and in a limited amount of stores across the country.  The wood chunks are 2-3″ in size and packaged in 300 cubic inch bags; the wood chips come in 200 cubic inch bags.  Both are available in Apple, Cherry, Hickory, Sugar Maple, Pecan, and Peach.

We are an authorized dealer for Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, Flame Boss temperature controllers, Smokeware kamado improvements, Kick Ash Basket, Ceramic Grill Store rigs, BBQ Dragon, Dizzy Pig Spices, Code 3 Spices, Grill Grates, Bear Paws, BUG-A-SALT, Thermoworks, SlotDog, Stump Chunks, Mojobricks, Pelican Coolers, Ice Mule Coolers, Shun, KAI, Kershaw, & ZT Cutlery, and other high quality and fun products.  In the past, we have manufactured our own stainless steel replacement parts and solutions for kamado grills.

Due to online sales & minimum advertised pricing agreements, it’s always better to Contact us for the current pricing and availability.  If you would like to visit our showroom / warehouse in Eureka, Missouri, please Contact us to make an appointment–you will receive the address & password to enter what locals affectionately call “the BBQ Speakeasy”!

I couldn’t find an answer to my question here. What should I do?

Contact us. We love hearing from you, so please keep in touch!