Briquettes are a modern marvel.
They’re cheap, efficient, and extremely eco-friendly. They burn low on smoke, do not emit unsafe gases, and do not give off creosote. On top of that, they’re much easier to store and handle than both firewood and coal.
So what is a briquette? How are the various types different from one another? And are they the right choice for you?
Read on to find out everything you need to know about briquettes.
What Are Briquettes?
Briquettes are a type of wood fuel that is made of compressed combustible material.
Shredded organic material is dried, refined, and placed in a special briquetting machine. There, it is compressed or extruded to a desired shape and density by a pressing rod.
The most often used materials for the production of briquettes are the byproducts of wood and coal production.
This being said, briquettes can be made from virtually any form of combustible biomass, including most types of agricultural (and even municipal) waste.
Briquettes typically come in either log or brick shape, with the latter being more common around the globe. The word “briquette” actually came into English from French and means “little brick”.
Thanks to modern advancements in wood fuel technology, manufacturers can create briquettes with properties far exceeding those of the woods they are made of. This is typically done by altering either the composition or the density of the briquette.
What Are Briquettes Made From?
- Wood byproducts. Briquettes are most often made from sawmill byproducts, such as wood chips, bark, sawdust, wood shavings, and parawood scraps.
- Peat. Another popular material used in the production of briquettes is dried peat. This material burns at a very high temperature and virtually without any smoke.
- Charcoal fines. Charcoal briquettes (aka BBQ briquettes) are made from charcoal fines and are commonly used for heating and grilling purposes.
- Straw and hay. Owners of large farms often make briquettes out of straw and hay to convert the materials into a cheap source of fuel.
- Agricultural byproducts. All around the globe, many traditionally-discarded agricultural byproducts (such as rice husks and bagasse) are beginning to be turned into briquettes for environmental and economical reasons.
What Are the Main Pros of Using Briquettes?
- High energy density.
- Long burn times.
- Health and safety.
- Easy storage and handling.
Briquettes Are Very Energy Dense
As a result of their low moisture content and high density, wood briquettes contain a lot more energy than an equivalent volume of regular firewood.
For example, a single Lekto Hardwood Heat Log has a calorific value of 10.3 kWh. For reference, this is more than the full battery capacity of the 2021 Renault Captur E-Tech PHEV (9.8 kWh).
Briquettes Are Better for Your Health and the Environment
There is one type of wood fuel that is more energy-dense than briquettes. That fuel is coal.
However, today many users are switching away from coal to briquettes for both health and environmental reasons.
Burning coal releases many harmful toxins into your home. And it also releases a large amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Not to mention the fact that coal mining is also incredibly damaging to the environment.
On the other hand, briquette production actually reduces waste.
Unlike firewood, no trees need to be cut to produce briquettes. Instead, they are made from traditionally discarded materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
Briquettes Burn Longer and Require Far Less Tending Than Firewood
Briquettes can be designed to have properties that far exceed those of the woods they are made of. Nothing exemplifies this better than briquettes made for ultra-long burn times.
Firewood can only burn for a couple of hours at most. So, if you want to heat your home with firewood, you need to wake up in the middle of the night to add extra logs to the stove.
Because of this inconvenience, people had to traditionally resort to using unhealthy and environmentally damaging coal.
But nowadays there are modern briquette wood fuels that give you the benefit of long burn time without negatively impacting your health and the environment. Night Briquettes, for example, can burn for up to 8 hours without any tending.
Wood Briquettes Are Easy to Store and Handle
Being extremely energy-dense, wood briquettes require far less storage space than firewood to produce an equivalent amount of heat.
Briquettes also often come in easy-to-store boxes that can be stacked on top of each other.
And, unlike coal, briquettes will not stain your hands or clothes. So you can handle them with your bare hands and don't have to worry about breathing in unhealthy coal dust.
Cost-Savings of Using Briquettes
Being made from sawmill byproducts, wood briquettes are also very cost-effective.
When purchased in bulk for the entire heating season, using them can be far more economical than using regular firewood. Not to mention the added ecological and storage space benefits.
How Briquettes Are Made?
Briquettes are made by compressing or extruding shredded combustible biomass (such as sawdust or peat) to a desired shape and density.
The raw biomass material is first collected, dried, refined, and shredded.
The material is then transported to a briquetting facility.
A screw conveyor then transports the prepared material into the briquetting machine's pressing chamber.
There, a pressing ram compresses it to the desired shape and density.
If necessary, the briquettes are then further dried to achieve the appropriate moisture levels.
What are RUF briquettes?
The term RUF briquettes is used synonymously with heat logs and briquettes.
Where did the name 'RUF briquettes' come from?
RUF is the brand name of a very popular producer of briquetting machinery. Over time, the name RUF became synonymous with briquettes. Much like Google is synonymous with search engines, Biro with ballpoint pens, and ChapStick with lip balm.
Are Briquettes Eco-Friendly?
Being made from waste material, such as sawdust or rice husks, virtually all types of briquettes are incredibly eco-friendly.
What Briquette Types of Briquettes Exist?
Wood briquettes are briquettes made from wood chips, wood shavings, sawdust, parawood chunks, or bark.
Depending on the blend of wood materials used in their composition, they can possess a wide variety of beneficial properties, many of which far exceed those of traditional firewood.
Common Wood Briquette Types
- Sawdust briquettes. The most popular type of wood briquettes are sawdust briquettes. With a moderate heat output, low price, and long burn time, they are a great general-use option that will suit most occasions.
- Heat logs. Heat logs are made from highly compressed, ultra-low-moisture sawdust. They can burn much hotter than any other type of wood fuel, which makes them perfect for cold winter nights.
- Bark briquettes. Briquettes made from bark burn cooler and give off the heat stored in them slower than their sawdust counterparts. This allows manufacturers to create long-burning options that can keep you warm for many hours.
- Pini Kay logs. Pini Kay wood briquettes are a special type of heat log designed with user convenience in mind. Unlike regular heat logs, they don’t expand as they burn. They also have a roll-preventing shape that makes them easier to control.
High-quality, low-moisture wood briquettes will burn longer and hotter than the equivalent volume of traditional firewood. If used properly, heating a house with briquettes can also be a lot cheaper than heating it with regular firewood.Can heat logs be used in a wood-burning stove?
Yes, heat logs are a great choice for use in wood-burning stoves.How long do briquettes burn for?
The burn time of a briquette depends on various factors, including its composition, size, and moisture levels. The longest burning briquettes on the market today are Night Briquettes. They can burn for 8 hours without any tending.Are heat logs safe to use in a log burner?
Yes, heat logs are perfectly suitable for use in most log burners.Are sawdust briquettes smokeless?
No, sawdust briquettes are not smokeless. That being said, they can be used in smoke-free areas if burned in a Defra-approved appliance.
Charcoal briquettes (aka BBQ Briquettes) are made from sawdust that is slowly burned in an oxygen-free atmosphere until it is virtually free of moisture.
Unlike other types of briquettes, BBQ charcoal briquettes cannot be created without chemical additives.
These additives are necessary to bind the charcoal fines together and give the finished product a marketable shape.
The presence of these additives makes charcoal briquettes harder to light.
In order to combat this, some manufacturers add lighter fluid to their charcoal briquettes during the production process.Are charcoal briquettes any good?
Charcoal briquettes are the only type of briquette Lekto experts advise buyers to avoid. This is because regular lumpwood charcoal is superior to them in almost any way.
Let’s take a closer look at why.Charcoal briquettes vs lump charcoal
Have Added Chemicals
Easy to Light
No (unless lighter fluids are added during production)
Unnaturally Tasting Smoke
Chemical Smell on Food
When compared to regular lump charcoal, charcoal briquettes burn much cooler. This slightly limits their use in an outdoor barbeque setting.
Being made of compressed material, charcoal briquettes also leave behind more ash than regular lumpwood charcoal.
Due to the presence of binding agents, charcoal briquettes are also naturally more difficult to light than lump charcoal.
To combat this, many manufacturers add chemical lighting fluids during the production process.
While this helps make them easier to light, it can also leave a noticeable chemical taste in the air.
Some people also report being able to taste a hint of lighter fluid in the food, especially fish and chicken.
If this is a concern to you but you still want to use BBQ briquettes, choose quality charcoal briquettes that do not have any lighting fluid additives. While these options will be harder to light, the food you cook will be 100% free of any chemical smells.
Peat briquettes are a very popular option in some areas of the world, such as Ireland.
In order to produce them, raw peat is dried, shredded, and compressed in a briquetting machine.
High-quality peat briquettes are virtually smokeless, easy-to-store, and highly convenient due to their long burn time.
One important thing to note about peat briquettes is that they have a very characteristic smell.
People who grew up around this smell often like this smell and characterize it as nostalgic and charming, but others might find it offputting.What is peat?
Peat is the product of the decomposition of marsh plants in low-oxygen, high humidity environments. When burned, peat produces an unmistakable odour.Are peat briquettes eco friendly?
Yes, peat briquettes are an environmentally friendly, sustainable fuel. They are a 100% natural, renewable resource. When burned, they produce less smoke and CO2 than the vast majority of other wood fuels.Are peat briquettes smokeless?
Peat briquettes are almost 100% smokeless, producing much less smoke and ash than the vast majority of wood fuels.Can you burn peat briquettes on a barbecue?
It depends. Some “food grade” peat briquettes can be used for certain types of barbequing. Best used for indirect heat cooking, peat can bring a unique aroma to your grilled foods.
If you like the smell of peat, you will like that aroma. If you don’t like it, it is best to choose a different wood fuel for your barbecuing needs.Do peat briquettes give off creosote?
No, peat briquettes do not give off creosote. Creosote is only released when wet wood fuels (such as unseasoned logs) are burned.
Other Biomass Briquettes
While wood and peat are by far the most common materials used for briquetting, briquettes can be made out of virtually all combustible biomass.
It is common for members of agricultural communities in the US and Europe to make briquettes out of hay and straw.
People in countries where large rice plantations are common (such as Bangladesh and China) often burn rice husk briquettes for heat and energy.
In other parts of the world, briquettes made from bagasse (a byproduct of the sugarcane juicing process) are very common.
Some urban areas have even started creating briquettes out of municipal solid waste. These briquettes are often used as an eco-friendly way of heating boilers.
What Briquettes Are Best For What?
Best general use briquettes
Sawdust briquettes are a perfect general-use replacement for traditional firewood. They give off a lot of heat, are easy to light, and require minimal tending. So if you’re searching for an all-in-one solution for all your heating needs, you can’t go wrong with sawdust briquettes.Best briquettes for home heating
If you want to keep things simple, then you can heat your house with sawdust briquettes all year round. Simply vary the number of briquettes you use in accordance with the weather. Just like you would with regular firewood.
But if you aren’t afraid of using several wood fuels for your heating needs, then we recommend also adding heat logs and Night Briquettes into the mix.
Heat logs burn much hotter than sawdust briquettes, so they are perfect for colder nights.
Night Briquettes, on the other hand, burn cooler but have an incredibly long burn time. This makes them an incredibly convenient second fuel to heat your home at night. In milder weather, they can also be used as an economical main fuel.Best briquettes for multi-fuel stoves
Pini Kay Eco Logs are perfect for use in multi-fuel stoves and log burners. This is because, unlike regular heat logs, they do not expand in size and have a special, roll-preventing shape.Best briquettes for overnight heating
Night Briquettes are the perfect option for overnight heating. They give off heat in a slow, gradual manner. With a burn time of 8 hours, you can light them before going to bed and they’ll still be burning when you wake up.What briquettes burn the hottest?
Heat Logs are the hottest-burning type of briquette. They burn at such a high temperature that new users are advised to exercise caution when using them for the first time.What briquettes burn the longest?
Night Briquettes have the longest burn time of any wood fuel on the market today. They can burn for 8 hours without any tending.Best briquettes for open fires
Pini K logs are a great option for open fires. Unlike regular heat logs, Pini Kay briquettes do not expand in size and have a special, roll-preventing shape. At the same time, they have virtually all of the benefits of heat logs, such as a strong fire and high heat output.
History of Briquettes
Humans have been compacting flammable biomass for thousands of years.
In order to give firewood-like properties to shredded material, our ancestors used such primitive techniques as balling, drying, and bundling.
These pre-industrial proto briquettes were inferior to regular firewood in virtually all ways.
First Industrial Briquetting Machines
Briquetting, as we know it today, appeared in the second part of the 19th century.
The use of a machine for making peat briquettes was first documented in a report dating to 1865.
However, it is possible that similar machines were in use even earlier. They simply weren’t documented.
Most early briquetting machines consisted of nothing more than a simple roller.
The peat was first shredded and dried.
Then, a binding agent (such as lignin) was added to it.
The peat was then placed into the machine and compacted by its roller.
This early method of briquette creation could only supply a limited amount of pressure, so the briquettes produced by this method did not have the energy density and heat output of their modern counterparts.
History of Charcoal Briquettes
The first viable technique for charcoal briquette production was invented in the late 19th century. Their invention is often misattributed to Henry Ford, but the real inventor is Ellsworth B. A. Zwoyer.
Having patented the “charcoal briquet” in 1897, Zwoyer began producing and selling them through his Zwoyer Fuel Company.
The invention did not achieve widespread acclaim, however.
While Henry Ford did not invent the charcoal briquette, he did indeed help popularize it.
In his never-ending quest to cost-optimize the automobile assembly process, Ford turned to charcoal briquettes as a form of cheap fuel for his factories.
Noticing the amount of wood shaving and sawdust waste produced at his plants, Henry founded Ford Charcoal to take on the job of turning all of that waste material into charcoal briquettes.
The initiative was a great success and helped reduce the production costs of the Ford Model T even further.
Ford Charcoal was bought by an investment group in 1951 and rebranded as Kingsford, in honor of Edward G. Kingsford.
The company remains the largest producer of charcoal briquettes in the world to this day.
The Invention of Modern Briquetting
The modern, piston-based briquetting machine was invented in Switzerland and gained widespread use in the 1930s.
During World War II, briquettes made from sawdust and wood shavings exploded in popularity as populations were faced with widespread fuel shortages.
But this popularity was not long-lived.
After the war, cheap hydrocarbon fuels became available once again and briquettes fell out of favour.
This would set an industry pattern for the rest of the 20th century.
Whenever energy prices would rise (such as in the late 1970s and early 1980s), organic fuel briquettes would experience a surge in popularity.
When energy would become cheap again, briquettes would be squeezed out of the market by cheap hydrocarbons.
21st Century Briquettes
The latest page in the history of briquettes is characterized by more stable demand and competition-driven innovation.
As people and governments all over the world are recognizing the adverse effects of waste and pollution on the environment, they are turning to organic briquettes as a source of clean, eco-friendly energy.
The increased demand created a highly competitive environment with dozens of large briquette producers fighting for customers.
As in other industries, this competition led to widespread advancement and innovation.
Modern briquettes possess qualities that far exceed those of traditional firewood and even earlier briquette products.
A great example of this are Night Briquettes. Made from a proprietary mix of sustainably sourced softwood bark, Night Briquettes can burn for an incredible 8 hours and require absolutely no tending.
Frequently Asked Questions About Briquettes
What is a briquette?
Wood briquettes (also called heat logs) are a type of wood fuel made from dry compressed biomass. They can be made from a variety of materials, including sawdust, wood bark, rice husks, and peat.
Where does the name briquette come from?
The name briquette came into English from French. The literal meaning of “briquette” is “little brick”.
What are heat logs?
Heat logs are a type of wood fuel made from low-moisture compressed sawdust.
How are heat logs made?
Heat logs are made by compressing sawdust with a specialized pressing machine. The sawdust is first dried and then placed in the pressing chamber of the machine. A special pressing ram is then used to compress them into the desired shape.
How to light a heat log
- Step 1: Open the air controls of your wood-burning stove or chimney.
- Step 2: Start a fire using wood kindling and a firelighter.
- Step 3: Break your heat logs into 2-3 pieces each (this can be easily done by hand).
- Step 4: Put the heat logs on top of the burning kindling, making sure to leave enough room for air to pass through.
- Step 5: Add additional heat logs when necessary.
Are heat logs any good?
Heat logs are superior to traditional firewood in a multitude of ways. They burn longer and hotter. Being made of sawmill byproducts, they are also much more eco-friendly than firewood. In many cases, they are also more cost-effective and economical to use.
How to light chiminea heat logs
- Open the air intake of your chiminea as much as possible.
- Start your fire with wood kindling and a firelighter.
- Once the kindling is burning well, put your chiminea heat logs on top of it, making sure to leave enough room for air to pass through.
- Add more heat logs as necessary.
What are heat logs made from?
Heat logs are usually made from highly compressed sawdust.
How to make briquettes from wood shavings
Making briquettes from wood shavings or sawdust requires a special briquetting machine. The machine uses a high-pressure pressing ram to compress the material into the desired shape. A typical briquetting machine from a reputable manufacturer like RUF can cost over £100,000, so making your own briquettes is not financially viable for most people.
What burns hotter charcoal or briquettes?
Lump charcoal burns hotter than charcoal briquettes (aka BBQ briquettes). This makes it a perfect choice for barbecuing.
How are wood briquettes made?
Wood briquettes are made from sawmill byproducts (such as shavings or sawdust) that are pressed to a desired density and shape by a specialized briquetting machine.
How to light wood briquettes
Lighting wood briquettes is not dissimilar to lighting other wood fuels. Use this 4 step process for optimal results:
- Step 1: Open the air intake of your wood-burning stove or chimney to its maximum position.
- Step 2: Use wood kindling and a fire starting material (such as a firelighter) to start your fire.
- Step 3: When the kindling is burning well, place one or two wood briquettes on top of it carefully.
- Step 4: Add additional wood briquettes when necessary.
How are heat logs different from briquettes?
The terms heats logs and briquettes are often used interchangeably and often refer to the same type of product. Products labelled briquettes tend to be brick-shaped, whereas products labelled heat logs tend to be cylindrical or octagonal in shape.
Can you use briquettes in a wood-burning stove?
Yes, you can use briquettes in a wood-burning stove. Simply start a fire using kindling and a firelighter. Once the fire is burning nicely, simply place a briquette or two on top of it.
Are heat logs smokeless?
No, heat logs are not a smokeless wood fuel.
This being said, high-quality heat logs can indeed be used in smoke-free areas, provided you burn them in an appliance approved by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Can you burn sawdust briquettes in a wood burner?
Yes, sawdust briquettes are perfect for use in wood-burning stoves.
Do sawdust briquettes burn hotter than wood?
Yes, sawdust briquettes burn hotter than regular firewood. This is because sawdust briquettes are much denser and have a much lower moisture content than even kiln dried firewood.
Are sawdust briquettes Defra approved?
Lekto Sawdust Briquettes are certified Ready to Burn and can be used in Defra-approved appliances.
What should the moisture content be for sawdust briquettes?
After decades of experimentation, wood fuel experts have come to the consensus that a moisture content below 9% is optimal for sawdust briquettes.
Why do my sawdust briquette smoulder and not burn?
Low-quality sawdust briquettes may smoulder due to having a high moisture content. For optimal burning performance, choose sawdust briquettes containing less than 9% moisture.
We strongly advise against burning low-quality sawdust briquettes or improperly stored briquettes with a high moisture content. Burning them will produce a lot of smoke and release creosote.
How to use Lekto Night Briquettes
- Start the fire with wood kindling.
- Add your main wood fuel. This can be firewood, heat logs, or sawdust briquettes.
- Once the stove is burning hot, add 2-3 Night Briquettes to the fire.
- Once the Night Briquettes are burning, reduce air intake to the minimal level.
Can you use night briquettes in an open fire?
Yes, you can use Night Briquettes in an open fire.
However, this isn’t the best way of using them, since open fires lack air intake controls.
For optimal results, Night Briquettes need to be used in wood stoves, multi-fuel stoves, chimneys, or log burners.
What are night briquettes?
Night Briquettes are an innovative heating product created by Lekto Wood Fuels. Due to their unique composition, they have an ultra-long burn time of 8 hours.
Where did the name night briquette come from?
The name “Night Briquette” comes from the fact that you can light the briquettes before going to bed at night and they’ll still be burning when you wake up 7-8 hours later.
Are bark briquettes any good?
Bark briquettes are good for situations when you need a wood fuel that burns longer and cooler, rather than faster and hotter. This makes them perfect for situations when you can’t or (don’t want to) tend to the fire every couple of hours.
For example, Lekto Night Briquettes, which are made from a proprietary blend of natural softwood bark, have an ultra-long burn time of 8 hours.
How to light BBQ briquettes properly
- Place your BBQ briquettes into your grill.
- Add 2-3 firelighters (depending on the size of your grill).
- Light the firelighters using a butane lighter or odourless matches.
- Wait for the coals to catch fire from the firelighters.
- Once the coals turn white from ash, you can start cooking.
How to light BBQ briquettes without firelighters
- Make a pyramid or criss-cross shape from wood kindling and place some paper or cardboard at its centre.
- Light the paper or cardboard.
- Once you have the fire started, add more and kindling sticks until you have a flame of a desired intensity.
- Carefully place the BBQ briquettes next to the flames.
- Once the first briquettes catch fire, you can gradually add more of them to the grill.
- Once all of the bbq briquettes turn ash white, you can start grilling
What are BBQ briquettes?
BBQ briquettes are pressed pieces of charcoal fines that are commonly used for grilling purposes.
Can you burn peat briquettes in a wood-burning stove?
It depends on your stove. Most wood-burning stoves are not made with peat briquettes in mind. Some may even come with warnings telling you only to burn wood in them. In general, you want to burn peat briquettes in multi-fuel stoves.
How to burn peat briquettes
- Step 1: Open the air intake of your multi-fuel stove.
- Step 2: Make a teepee using 3 peat briquettes. Place a firelighter in the middle of the teepee.
- Step 3: Light the firelighter.
- Step 4: Once your peat briquettes are burning nicely, slightly reduce the airflow of your wood-burning stove or chimney.
What are BBQ briquettes made from?
BBQ briquettes are usually made from pressed charcoal fines.
What are peat briquettes?
Peat briquettes are a wood fuel made from peat (aka turf) that is dried and compressed into brick form using special machinery.
How to make heat logs from sawdust
Sawdust heat logs are usually made in a two-stage process. The sawdust is first dried to achieve a low moisture content. It is then placed in the pressing chamber of a briquetting machine, where a pressing ram is used to compress them to a desired density and shape.