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Joined: 08 May 2006
Posts: 6
Location: Blackwater, KY USA

PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2006 2:31 pm    Post subject: Charcoal Reply with quote

Hello All! I am new here and really, really enjoying this site. I love the recipes, the recommendations, the passion for food and cooking, and of course, the lively discussion. Somehow it all fits together very nicely and makes me feel at home.

Before I get to my question about charcoal, here's a little background info that might help. For years and years, I used Sam's Club / Wal Mart / Local Grocery Chain brand charcoal. Then, recently, I was in a hurry and my local carry-out only had Kingsford brand charcoal. So, I bought the Kingsford.

Now here's my question:

Is there really a difference between Kingsford and the Megalomart brands? I have been away from grilling for a few years - I've asked for forgiveness - and I do notice that things have changed. The Kingsford charcoal I've been using does seem to light easier than I remember while using the store brands. Additionally, I find that the coals are ready faster than they used to be. However, the downside to this is that the coals and the heat both also seem to dissipate much more quickly than I recall.

So, from recent observation, the Kingsford is indeed different. These differences, however, could be explained away by just overall changes in the industry and in the way that charcoal of any kind is produced. Maybe even the "generic" brands are easier to light now and are ready more quickly.

In my area the cost difference is just about double when comparing Kingsford to the store brands. Is it really worth the extra expense to get the Kingsford? Also, if Kingsford truly is a superior product, would it be reasonable to perhaps mix the Kingsford with the store brands at, say....a 50/50 ratio? My thinking is that this might save a little money, allow me to retain the quick pre-heat time, and maybe even get me a bit longer burn from the charcoal by having the cheaper briquettes in there with the Kingsford.

Am I shaking my fist in the face of the Grilling Gods by even considering moving away from the purity of Kingsford, or perhaps even worse, defiling it by mixing the two?

I'd appreciate any comments, thoughts, preferences or insights.

Thanks a lot!


Last edited by Sherrick on Tue May 09, 2006 10:29 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Virgin Islander

PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2006 6:33 pm    Post subject: Coal Reply with quote

IMHO, there is probably not a dimes worth of difference in off brand vs. Kingsford coal. It's like generic branding of canned vegetables, etc. Brands want to protect their market at a higher price but their manufacturing capacity also makes off brand volume attractive.

Here in the VI we use the real thing. They still have charcoal burners that process Tan Tan (A fast growing weed tree) by setting it alight and then covering it while it mellows. That is the traditional way of making charcoal which by the way can be very destructive. In Haiti the entire country is almost barren of trees due to extensive use of charcoal to cook. This is true in many areas of africa as well. There is no other fuel available and a high population that needs to cook. Here the tan tan grows faster than the demand (A lot of folks here cook on 5,000 USD Stainless Ranges).

Since using real charcoal, I don't like even the Brand names and swear they use some petroleum in the manufacture. Of course using a chimmney and paper to lite your coals vs. kerosene or whatever oil the put in the lighter container, is far superior. Hey though, you get used to a well done cheeseburger tasting like #2 oil and that's just fine. Whatever floats your boat....

Tom in VI
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Joined: 08 May 2006
Posts: 6
Location: Blackwater, KY USA

PostPosted: Wed May 10, 2006 7:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the info, Tom. I appreciate it. I just bought a "charcoal chimney" yesterday and was amazed at the difference in the taste of the food and the smell of the coals while cooking.

I also decided to buy a bag of the Kingsford charcoal and an equal size bag of the store brand and mix the two together. I don't know if there will be a significant difference in burn quality or heat-up time, but I figured it was worth a shot.

Thanks again for the response. I'll let you know if I'm able to determine any differences.

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Joined: 21 Jul 2006
Posts: 2
Location: Cleveland, OH

PostPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2006 1:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have to say there is however a noticeable difference between any-particular-brand of briquettes and lump charcoal (mesquite, etc.)
I had enough of a hunch, having used both types, so I conducted a not-so scientific experiment involving two charcoal grills (one brand X, one mesquite). My test subjects, my GF and her family, were kept away from the grills to prevent bias. The items grilled were 2 giant (2.5 pound) sirloin steaks, cooked to the same internal temperature for almost the same interval of time. After grilling, the steaks were fileted into quarter-inch strips using a clean knife for each steak. 5 of 6 participants (I ate, of course, but did not get to vote) thought that the steak grilled over the mesquite had a better flavor overall, and particularly in the exterior surface of the meat.
Of course, the steak over the Brand X briquettes was quite delicious too.

One word of warning: if using lump hardwood, make sure to water the grass around your grill to a 4' radius, if you live in a dry climate like SoCal - mesquite will cause a lot of sparks.
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Joined: 17 Jun 2006
Posts: 20

PostPosted: Mon Jul 24, 2006 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've found that Trader Joes and Whole Foods carry hardwood charcoal, and we love cooking with that stuff. Creates a nice hot fire without all that chemical stuffs.
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Joined: 24 Jul 2006
Posts: 112
Location: Camp Hill, PA

PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 2:25 pm    Post subject: Charcoal Reply with quote

Not quite the comparison you are looking for, but see some excellent out of control testing of different types of charcoal at:

I use Kingsford quite a bit, mostly because I can find it everywhere and I can build a relatively constistent fire with it. It does seem to light more readily than the generic briquettes from my grocery store, but I have no scientific proof to back that up. Might be fun to start two separate fires using say 75 briquettes of different brands to see how long it takes them to get going and to burn out.

Cowboy Hardwood Charcoal is made from scrap lumber. It doesn't spark like some other hardwoods. I frequently use it in the bottom of my chimney when starting briquettes, as it burns more readily, especially in wet weather.
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