The Reason Andrew Zimmern Likes To Grill With Natural Lump Charcoal

Chef Andrew Zimmern's passion for different foods never fails to surprise us — or, perhaps occasionally, to gross us out. The "Bizarre Foods" host appears capable of eating almost anything on earth, from jellied moose nose to cane toads to grilled bamboo rat.

Luckily for Zimmern, there are many more parts to his career than the Travel Channel series — parts where he can eat what might be considered more standard, mainstream fare. On his popular YouTube cooking show "Andrew Zimmern Cooks," Zimmern prepares solidly non-bizarre dishes such as lentil curry, pasta carbonara, barbecue chicken, and risotto Milanese. No need to bust out a clothespin for your nose before diving into these delicious plates.

In his cooking life, there are certain themes Zimmern returns to again and again. One of those, oddly enough, is breadcrumbs — the man has several recipes and videos devoted to them. Another topic is hardwood charcoal. Zimmern loves the stuff, bringing it up again in an Instagram post promoting his recipe for charred tomato sauce. Read on to find out why he's such a fan.

It's all about the (clean) burn

When it's time to grill, the majority of us probably reach for a bag of charcoal briquettes without thinking much about what they are. Charcoal briquettes are actually made of sawdust, which is then compressed into a charcoal shape (via Fine Cooking). Other additives are tossed into briquettes, such as chemical binders and fillers, as well as lighter fluid. While briquettes make for an easy and fast way to grill, the chemicals they're made up of can lend harsh, bitter flavors to the food cooked over them (via Fine Cooking).

Hardwood charcoal is a different beast altogether. They're just natural lumps of wood which are burned down to charcoal, containing no chemical additives and lending a purer wood-fired flavor to foods (via Fine Cooking). And that's why chef Andrew Zimmern prefers cooking over hardwood charcoal. You see, Zimmern often chars his ingredients right on the coals themselves — in the case of his blistered shishito peppers, for instance, and also when creating his charred tomato sauce (found on his website).

For this sauce, Zimmern cooks his tomatoes and garlic right on hot hardwood charcoal, a technique which "intensifies the flavor and lends a great smokiness," according to the chef's Instagram post. And since he's cooking the ingredients directly on the coals, it's important that the wood is natural and free of chemicals. "It doesn't have any additives, it burns hotter, and tastes better." So there you have it: When grilling the Zimmern way, opt for natural lump charcoal for the safest — and most delicious — flavor.