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What characterstics to you value in Charcoal? Not BRAND specific.

boatbumboatbum Posts: 1,261

We have all seen the charcoal ratings - respect and value them.  But at the end of the day what is most important to you when deciding what brand to buy?

Thinking about this topic, I came up with the following ranking for me (myself, and I).   Your list may vary and I would be interested in learning from what you have learned was important.

BoatBum buying criteria:

1.   Ability to maintain a burn in long low temp cooks.  Non coring, fire spreads well with limited airflow.

2.   Low Ash production  ( helps with # 1).

3.   Good mixture of chunk size

4.   Clean wood - no trash pieces, partial boards, etc.

Points that are not as important to BoatBum

1.  Ease of lighting, if it takes a bit more work, but works well on 1-4 above I am ok.

2.  Cost

Note, most of my cooks are low temp.   Have found that when I am cooking at higher temp not as fussy about which charcoal I am using, after you get past 300 degrees it all burns pretty well.   Just don't like the 3AM surprises.   Low ash is good at any temp.

In another "unnamed" thread someone had posed the question - "Does the charcoal really make that much difference?".    For me it does.  What about you?

Not looking for BRAND recommendations - just trying to learn how to form my own preferences better.

 

Cookin in Texas

Comments

  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 15,936
    can pretty much cook with any lump ive tried, would probably skip mesquite after trying it but have never even seen it. lump made with maple wood makes the back yard smell the best so smell is important to me
  • Little StevenLittle Steven Posts: 26,177

    I dislike any lump that spits and sparks. I find if it does it on lighting it will do it during the cook and leave residue on the food.

    Maple or maple birch is a very neutral flavour and doesn't cause the cook to taste smoky. I like to add wood that I want to taste instead of the fuel doing that for me.

    Steve 

    Caledon, ON

     

  • GA_DawgsGA_Dawgs Posts: 273

    I lke low ash production, minimal sparking, able to sustain long and low burn times, minimal amount of dust and chips and a relatively nuetral flavor. 

    Price is a secondary consideration as well as availability to me. 

    I have about 5 brands of lump now that all meet that criteria for the most part.

  • ChubbsChubbs Posts: 3,590
    For me, I want a charcoal that lights and burns clean quickly since I cook a lot during the week. But, I have to balance that with one that lasts a long time and does not produce a ton of ash. Nature Glo lights easily and burns very clean so I usually use that during the week. The B&B I get locally usually has large pieces and last a long time so I have been using it for long cooks.
    Columbia, SC --- LBGE 2011 -- MINI BGE 2013
  • calikingcaliking Posts: 5,304
    boatbum said:

    We have all seen the charcoal ratings - respect and value them.  But at the end of the day what is most important to you when deciding what brand to buy?

    Thinking about this topic, I came up with the following ranking for me (myself, and I).   Your list may vary and I would be interested in learning from what you have learned was important.

    BoatBum buying criteria:

    1.   Ability to maintain a burn in long low temp cooks.  Non coring, fire spreads well with limited airflow.

    2.   Low Ash production  ( helps with # 1).

    3.   Good mixture of chunk size

    4.   Clean wood - no trash pieces, partial boards, etc.

    Points that are not as important to BoatBum

    1.  Ease of lighting, if it takes a bit more work, but works well on 1-4 above I am ok.

    2.  Cost


    My criteria are similar, although my order is different:

    1. Clean, "real" wood - I'm not happy about burning flooring/trim scraps, plywood, etc

    2. Larger chunks with some mix of pieces - larger chunks work better in my tandoor and large egg. Medium to smaller pieces work better in the small and mini. Hate to open a bag and find a lot of chips or dust at the bottom. 

    3. Carbonization - pieces should be charcoal, not pieces of wood. I bought some Stubbs from Costco some months back and returned it because a large proportion of the pieces seemed to be wood, and the aroma when it burned wasn't that great.

    4. Availability - Enough said? (I may be setting myself up here with this one)

    5.  Ease of lighting -  A quick lighting charcoal makes weeknight cooks more expedient. I don't care so much about lighting time on weekends. My favorite thing to do on weekend mornings is grab a cup of coffee, light the egg(s), and kick back and enjoy the morning.

    Ash production is not as important as the above points.

    Cost is kind of a floating factor. I won't use cr@p charcoal just because its $0.30/lb, and I won't pay more than 1.30/lb no matter how good I think it is. The more of the criteria it satisfies though, the more willing I am to spend ( to a certain point). 

    #1 LBGE December 2012 • #2 SBGE February  2013 • #3 Mini May 2013
    A happy BGE family in Houston, TX.
  • brycosbrycos Posts: 135
    I used to follow Stike's advice and just go with the cheapest because "carbon is carbon".  As a result I used cowboy and was satisfied.  However, I tried the KJ this weekend and could really taste the difference.  So for me the taste is # 1- find a clean burning lump.
  • I'm like Brycos, taste is what it is about. Every brand has ash if you burn it. I've never had trouble lighting any brand. I buy different kinds and mix them with good results. The only thing I do that I've never anyone else does is separate it by size. I put large and medium pieces in one container. Chips and small in another. I also sift all of it to keep dust out. That seems to be where sparks come from. I use the large and medium size in my large. I use medium and chips in my mini. Not sure about the science to it, just a little elbow grease.
  • I forgot to mention. Regardless of what brand you, if you get it from the bottom of a pallet, it's going to have more fines. I always try to buy when it is a fresh pallet and not been moved around. When the store employees put it on a display, they throw it like sand bags. It's not always the brands fault but the store.
  • dlk7dlk7 Posts: 975
    For me it is taste first - clean burning, no acrid taste.  I can always add wood chunks for smoke flavor.  Second - very little sparking.  I use a TS8000 with Mapp gas to light my charcoal and I don't like the sparks burning me or my shirt.  Third - easily holds low temps.  I rarely cook above 600 degrees but do a lot of low and slow.  Fourth - medium size pieces.  The XL grate has huge holes so I don't ever worry about ash, but I cook every night so medium size pieces can be lit easier and the fire spread faster with medium sized pieces.  So far, Rockwood and Dragon Breath are the best at meeting all of my criteria.

    Two XL BGEs - So Happy!!!!

    Rudderville, TN

  • Little StevenLittle Steven Posts: 26,177
    I forgot to mention. Regardless of what brand you, if you get it from the bottom of a pallet, it's going to have more fines. I always try to buy when it is a fresh pallet and not been moved around. When the store employees put it on a display, they throw it like sand bags. It's not always the brands fault but the store.
    Yeah, I hate it when all the ripped bags are patched up with packing tape.  You kinda know what to expect when you see that

    Steve 

    Caledon, ON

     

  • stlcharcoalstlcharcoal Posts: 911
    edited June 2013

    The recipe for the best charcoal:

    U.S. hardwoods that are properly kilned, bagged, and handled........that pretty much covers it.

    All the other characteristics will be the results of those three above--good size chunks, low ash productions, fast lighting, ease temp control, low amount of dust/fines in the bag, etc.

    Availability and cost are covered if you know a charcoal guy.  :)

    Connect:  Website  -  Facebook  -  Twitter

  • Little StevenLittle Steven Posts: 26,177
    edited June 2013
    I picked up a few bags of Maple Leaf for Freddie, anxious to hear his comments. There is a charcoal review site that gave it a Best Ever rating. Then downgraded it cause they received another bag of the cheaper version and it was smaller pieces and the fact that it wasn't available in the US. I have no idea how the latter could be a factor in an unbiased evaluation. 

    Steve 

    Caledon, ON

     

  • Z_EggineerZ_Eggineer Posts: 537
    I value when the producer cares about what the customer thinks!
  • cazzycazzy Posts: 5,825
    edited June 2013
    If it has wicked in the name, then I know it's good.
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  • tnbarbqtnbarbq Posts: 248
    Easy to light, long burn, minimal ashes.  Cost and availability are considerations as well.  99% of the time I use RO.  99% of the time I pleased with the product.
    Scooter 
    Mid TN. Hangin' in the 'Boro. MIM Judge
  • hondabbqhondabbq Posts: 854

    I wish I had Lump to compare.

    I am envious of all the brands some of you have access to. All we have is RO in the blue bag. There are 1 or 2 small 8 lb bags I can find but at the price of them im not willing to become that picky. This is my first summer with the egg and we usually take a trip down to Grand Forks. Going to see if I can find some other options there.

    Winnipeg, Manitoba.

    Sledder, Quadder, Rock and Roller, Big Green Egg Smoker.

  • mountaindewbassmountaindewbass Posts: 1,656
    Really i just like large pieces.  I dont seperate my lump so when i pour the lump in the egg straight from the bag..i like to see large pieces falling in.  I HATE seeing a pile of small garbage pieces and/or the little dust cloud rise up from all the ash sized pieces.  I like a full firebox to last about 30 hours at 250 indirect.
  • SkiddymarkerSkiddymarker Posts: 5,739
    Spitting and sparking are the least preferred characteristics, but I will lower my standards based on price. Even though i have a fair stock of Basque Maple, Wally World had #10 bags of RO (Star Grill in the blue bag) on sale for $6.86 last week, so I filled the trunk. 
    Delta B.C. - Vee-Gan: old Indian word for poor hunter. 
  • boatbumboatbum Posts: 1,261

    I don't like having to break apart arm size pieces - though I can break them apart, cant put the small pieces back together.

     

    Cookin in Texas
  • B&BKnoxB&BKnox Posts: 223
    I don't like lump that smokes excessively after start up, I have had some that after 1 hour you still would not want to put food on the grate, I think this has to do with under-charcoaled wood.  GFS was my go to until recently when I started finding lots of "wood" not charcoal in the bags along with insulation.  You'd pour some in and spend 5 minutes going thru it looking for under-charred pieces and other matter.  Most of my cooks are in the 400 range followed by low and slo's.  Really one hour before you dare put food on the grate.  

    I also have a pet peeve about paying more per LB for charcoal than the food I cook, that just seems wrong.
    Be Well

    Knoxville TN
  • stlcharcoalstlcharcoal Posts: 911
    B&BKnox said:
    I don't like lump that smokes excessively after start up, ... I think this has to do with under-charcoaled wood.  

    If it continues to smoke after 5-10 minutes, it's still wood.  It's wood that is RIGHT before it becomes charcoal.  Your Egg acts as the kiln and finishes the job.

    Easiest way to check, just take a few of the chunks out of the bag.  Drop or throw them onto the ground.  If they break apart into several pieces, it's properly kilned.  If not, still wood.

    Also, it should make a metallic "tink" noise. 

     


     

    Connect:  Website  -  Facebook  -  Twitter

  • boatbumboatbum Posts: 1,261
    B&BKnox said:
    I don't like lump that smokes excessively after start up, ... I think this has to do with under-charcoaled wood.  

    If it continues to smoke after 5-10 minutes, it's still wood.  It's wood that is RIGHT before it becomes charcoal.  Your Egg acts as the kiln and finishes the job.

    Easiest way to check, just take a few of the chunks out of the bag.  Drop or throw them onto the ground.  If they break apart into several pieces, it's properly kilned.  If not, still wood.

    Also, it should make a metallic "tink" noise. 

     


     

    Very good knowledge stlcharcoal


     

    Cookin in Texas
  • stlcharcoalstlcharcoal Posts: 911
    boatbum said:

    Very good knowledge stlcharcoal

    (I should have just posted this from our FAQs:)

     

    How can I tell the difference between good charcoal and bad charcoal?

    Good lump charcoal is only made from hardwood. Softwood is not nearly as dense and contains more sap, which won’t burn off completely in the kiln. When you burn lump charcoal made from softwood, you’ll notice more smoke and ash. Softwood lump charcoal will not last as long, nor burn as hot as hardwood lump charcoal will.

    Good lump charcoal is kilned and cooled for the right amount of time at the right temperature. This removes all of the sap, tar, and moisture from the wood, which makes the charcoal brittle. If you throw a chunk of lump charcoal at a hard surface, it should break into several pieces. If it doesn’t, it’s still wood on the inside. If you have trouble maintaining a temperature below 250° F or above 500° F—you guessed it! It’s still wood. And if lump charcoal continues to smoke 10-15 minutes after it’s lit, it still has tar and sap in it.

    Good lump charcoal will make a metallic “tink” sound during lighting and when contacting other piece of lump charcoal. Improperly kilned lump charcoal will just sound like wood chunks.

    Connect:  Website  -  Facebook  -  Twitter

  • Little StevenLittle Steven Posts: 26,177
    So can you direct us to your website? You are obviously not trying to sell here.

    Steve 

    Caledon, ON

     

  • flemsterflemster Posts: 247
    So can you direct us to your website? You are obviously not trying to sell here.
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  • B&BKnoxB&BKnox Posts: 223
    I never knew that, Thank you.  Think GFS is getting the lowest of the low level Royal Oak makes then.
    Be Well

    Knoxville TN
  • henapplehenapple Posts: 11,132
    Idk if anyone has mentioned length of burn. I recently filled the egg halfway up the fire ring, 16 hr brisket, steaks, wings and pork shots in cconsecutive days. Around $1 per cook.
    Green egg, dead animal and alcohol. The "Boro".. TN 
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