A couple folks have asked me to post this "public service announcement" about Fire King Charcoal [formerly] manufactured by Struemph Charcoal Works in Belle, Steelville, and Licking, MO.
For those of you who have had the pleasure of smoking and grilling with Fire King Charcoal for the past 10 yrs, please be aware that "the King is Dead"......sort of. Struemph Charcoal Works was purchased by Royal Oak Enterprises late last year. It sounds like Royal Oak is in the process of closing the Steelville plant, but will continue to operate the Belle plant.
With this comes a degree of uncertainty. Those of you who use Royal Oak know that each bag can be different--size of chunks, wood blend, etc. Royal Oak has blends with South American woods and often gets mishandled in the shipping process. It isn't necessarily a bad product, so long as you know at which one the dozens of their plants across the US your bag of charcoal was manufactured at. They have quite a few steel mill contracts that could be driving this.
Royal Oak Enterprises says Fire King will still be produced, however, it sounds like it will be no different than Royal Oak in a different bag (e.g. Best Choice, BGE brand, Nature Glo, etc.) If they would guarantee that it came from 100% Missouri hardwoods and it would still be produced, bagged, etc in the same methods, I would still give our group's business. But they raised the price almost 40%....and that was for 1000+ bags. With the uncertainty and the higher price, Fire King will never be the same.
So, "the king is dead" in my opinion.
For those of you in St. Louis, MO, I'm still organizing the yearly group buy(s), but we have a new manufacturer. It's still 100% Missouri hardwoods, and a lot like the old Fire King--they have an extra step to remove the chip and dust before they bag it (the extra usable charcoal almost pays for the higher price.) This year, we're also doing a group buy for smoking wood chunks--apple, cherry, hickory, maple, & pecan. Email stlcharcoal (AT) gmail [DOT] com to join the group.
If anyone has had experience with BOTH the old & new Fire King, please post it. I've seen some negative reviews on Naked Whiz for the "new" Fire King, but I'd like to know more details just in case we have to go back to it.