Friday, March 23, 2012

Weapon of Choice: Charcoal

When cooking a steak or other meat that is going to cook quickly over my fire, I love lump hardwood charcoal. Great flavor and incredibly high heat. Lump hardwood charcoal would always be my choice for high-heat fires and charcoal briquets would always be my choice for low and slow BBQ.

However, my Weber sits on a wood deck which is not far from my cedar shake roof, so I just can't use lump hardwood charcoal because of all the sparks and shooting cinders it sends into the air. So when I got my Weber Performer a few years back, I had to find a reasonable alternative to lump hardwood charcoal.

Kingsford had their regular blue and white bag of charcoal briquets called "The Original". It's a good product but it has some fillers and it just did not get hot enough compared to lump hardwood charcoal. Then a few years ago Kingsford introduced "Competition Briquets".

Competition Briquets are all natural and give off quite a bit more heat than The Original. In a head-to-head test, the Competition Briquets yielded a grid level temperature of 1341º compared to 1141º for The Original. In the same test, Competition Briquets burned for 11.8 hours while The Original burned for 10.3 hours.

There's also something of interest about the Competition Briquets compared to lump hardwood can re-use it. Hardwood charcoal burns so hot and so fast it turns to ash right away. The dense Competition Briquets burn hot but slow. I find I can cook my meat and then snuff the fire by closing the vents. After the fire has cooled, I can roll the briquets around to get rid of the ash on their exterior and I still have about 50-70% of the original briquet capacity I started with, depending on how long the fire burned. This means that the cooking yield per bag is over twice as much for Competition Briquets than lump hardwood charcoal. Stated another way, your Competition Briquet cost-per-fire will be at least half the cost of a lump charcoal fire.

Most importantly for me, Competition Briquets do not spark and shoot hot cinders into the air. So Competition Briquets are my weapon of choice for grilling. Yesterday was my regular Costco day and I was able to score two, 18-pound bags of Kingsford Competition Briquets for just $15.99 ($8.00 per bag). By comparison, Home Depot has The Original priced at $7.88 for one, 18-pound bag. Enjoy the great weather we are having and get grilling!

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