Is BBQ Charcoal Activated?

Activated charcoal is something you may have heard of; you might even own some. However, does standard charcoal possess the same properties?

No, BBQ charcoal is not activated. Activated charcoal undergoes another process, which sets it apart from standard BBQ coals. This process oxygenates the charcoal, making it highly porous. Activated charcoal has less energy than briquettes, which is why regular coals are better for BBQs.

In this article, we explain the main differences between activated charcoal and standard coals. We also take a look at the process used to make activated charcoal, alongside some potential uses. Let’s get into it!

Is BBQ Charcoal Activated?

Activated Charcoal VS BBQ Charcoal

There are two main differences between activated charcoal and BBQ charcoal, porosity and purity. Activated charcoal is much more porous than standard briquettes, while also having a larger surface area. Typically, activated charcoal comes in powder form, which contributes to this increased surface area.

Standard charcoal isn’t as pure as its activated counterpart, as wood is still present. Some briquettes also have chemicals or additives, in order to aid with the lighting process. Any coals that are advertised as ‘self-lighting’ will likely contain higher levels of additives. In contrast, activated charcoal becomes much purer during the oxygenation process. 

How Is Charcoal Activated?

Charcoal can be activated by heating it, before treating it with oxygen. Heating the substance will eliminate any wood remnants, while also reducing the amount of hydrogen, methane and other gases. The addition of oxygen helps to remove any other impurities within the charcoal. You should be left with a brittle substance, that can easily be turned into a powder. Activated charcoal is available at a variety of different stores, but can also be made at home.

It’s worth mentioning that when activated, most of the energy is removed from the charcoal. Consequently, it makes for a bad fuel. It should not be used for a BBQ as it will not burn for very long, or generate as much heat as standard coals.

Is BBQ Charcoal Activated?

What Are The Uses Of Activated Charcoal?

Being so porous, activated charcoal can adsorb different molecules. This property makes it viable for many scenarios. Here are a few common use cases: 
  • Beauty Treatments – Used in skincare routines, activated charcoal can adsorb oils and clean your face.
  • Water Filtration – Toxins such as chlorine and chloramine can be adsorbed by the substance. This makes the water purer and removes any bad odours it may contain.
  • Poisoning Treatment – Again, the charcoal binds to the toxins, which prevents them from spreading throughout the body. Interestingly, activated charcoal is safe to consume in small quantities.

People also use activated charcoal for helping a hangover, improving kidney health and lowering their cholesterol. However, there is no evidence that the powder is successful in these three instances.


That covers the main differences between activated charcoal and BBQ charcoal. While activated charcoal does have a range of uses, it’s not the best fuel. Sticking to briquettes or lump charcoal is the ideal solution for barbequing. This article may also be of interest you: Why Does My Charcoal BBQ Smoke So Much?

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