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Author Topic: The quest for the best charcoal briquettes  (Read 6816 times)

bigssa

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The quest for the best charcoal briquettes
« on: December 22, 2017, 07:37:15 PM »
I was finally down to my last bag of KBB and started wondering, once again, which brand of briquettes should I buy this time. Fortunately, I had two weeks of vacation and a shit load of nothing to do around the house. Needless to say, I decided to waste my time doing a “scientific” experiment to determine the best charcoal briquettes for smoking in my WSM. I know that others have conducted similar experiments, but I was bored and clearly needed something to do. I like experiments like this because they help cut through the marketing BS and address the things that I usually care about when grilling and getting out of my charcoal.
Without further ado, here is the experiment that I conducted:
Use 1 pound worth of briquettes of each type. Light the briquettes for 10 minutes using a chimney over the performer’s igniter. Place lit briquettes in a standard Weber charcoal basket on one side of the kettle. Place two thermometers on the grill grate, one on the direct side and the other on the indirect side and record temps until the direct temp falls below 150°F. Finally record the weight and volume of the remaining ashes.
The following types of briquettes were tested:
Kingsford Original (KBB)
Kingsford Long Burning (KLB)
Royal Oak Ridge (ROR)
Royal Oak Chef’s best (ROC)
Weber
(I realize that there are many more brands, but these were readily available in my area and the ones I was most interested in for low and slow cooking. If you want me to test any other types of charcoal, please contact me directly or just use a similar method at home and post your results here).

Starting out, here is a picture of 1 lb of all the charcoal types:


Number of briquettes/lb:
Kingsford Original: 18
Kingsford Long Burning: 19
Royal Oak Ridge: 17
Royal Oak Chef’s best: 14
Weber: 13

Next are the temperature graphs from my iGrill for the direct (probe 2) and indirect (probe 1) sides of the grill:
Kingsford Original:

Kingsford Long Burning:

Royal Oak Ridge:

Royal Oak Chef’s best:

Weber:


Max temp of direct / max temp of indirect / total burn time:
Kingsford Original: 361° / 320° / 121 minutes
Kingsford Long Burning: 460° / 364° / 128 minutes
Royal Oak Ridge: 356° / 290° / 132 minutes
Royal Oak Chef’s best: 378° / 328° / 116 minutes
Weber: 336° / 278°/ 136 minutes

Here are the ashes of each charcoal type:
Kingsford Original:

Kingsford Long Burning:

Royal Oak Ridge:

Royal Oak Chef’s best:

Weber:


Weight (in ounces) / volume (in milliliters):
Kingsford Original: 3.95 oz / 300mL
Kingsford Long Burning: 2.35 oz / 245mL
Royal Oak Ridge: 4.75 oz / 200mL
Royal Oak Chef’s best: 3.15 oz / 175mL
Weber: 2.3 oz / 190 mL

Lastly, is price (not including any discounts or special sales that you may have found in the past). These prices are based on the approximate retail price per pound that the average consumer will likely pay:
Kingsford Original: ~$0.54/lb ($19.99 for 2 15.4lb bags. Easily found at 50% off during the spring)
Kingsford Long Burning: ~$0.89/lb ($9.88 for 11.1lb bags)
Royal Oak Ridge: ~$0.39/lb ($5.99 for 15.4lb bag)
Royal Oak Chef’s best: ~$0.58/lb ($22.99 for 40lb bag)
Weber: ~$0.60/lb ($11.99 for 20lb bag)

Subjective observations:
I honestly went into this experiment without any assumptions or preconceptions. I have primarily used KBB for smoking purposes due to price and availability, not because it was “better”. During this experiment, I tried to observe which briquettes took the longest to ash over in the chimney and if any had a particularly strong smell. Purely based on eye balling it, the KBB, Weber, and ROR took the full 10 minutes. KLB was ready in about 5 minutes. ROC was there in about 8 minutes.
Smell was of particular interest to me because I use the minion method  and snake method, which means that the coals are being lit during  the cooking process and I fully subscribe to the idea that taste is best controlled through smoking wood rather than charcoal. Charcoal is for heat, wood is for taste. By far, ROC had the least amount of smoke and smell while burning. KBB and KLB had the strongest smell and amount of smoke. Weber and ROR had a lesser scent than KBB, but definitely stronger than ROC.
One last thing to say in the subjective section, KLB burnt for about the same amount of time that KBB did (not the extra 20% longer that is claimed on the bag), but was significantly hotter than all other charcoal. I have used it for smoking in the past and had a hard time keeping my temps in the 225-250 range, which this helped me confirm. Considering that this is the most expensive of all charcoal, I have to say that it is simply not worth it. I would also add that it was the most beat up of all the charcoal with many broken pieces, but that could simply be a product of the handling, so I won’t pass judgment without seeing many more bags.

Personal conclusion:
Based on these results, I concluded that ROC and Weber are best for my application. I choose them because I am more interested in getting better at smoking in my WSM, which is the reason I started this experiment. The price per pound is not significant enough to be a huge contributor to my choice. I was extremely impressed by the lack of smoke and smell coming from ROC charcoal. I honestly think that the max temps and burn times were pretty equal with all the different types of charcoal. The amount of ash was certainly better with some, but I can’t say that it has ever been a “problem” for me because I always clean out the ashes between cooks and I have used the “worst” offender most commonly without complaints. My biggest concern regarding ROC is the availability of it. I had to go to a local “Do it best” store to find it, which was pretty well out of the way for me, but I think we can all relate to going way out of our way to get something grilling related. Weber is pretty widely available and has recently dropped in price at Lowe’s, which makes it a much more reasonably priced choice.

My decision is purely based on my use and needs. I hope that you each use this data to make your own choice based on how you grill. If you ask me what I will use for high heat applications, my choice would certainly be different and probably based on price.

LiquidOcelot

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Re: The quest for the best charcoal briquettes
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2017, 07:51:28 PM »
Awesome read and science. I want to do something like this with coconut charcoals

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WMT

  • WKC Brave
  • Posts: 199
Re: The quest for the best charcoal briquettes
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2017, 10:08:21 PM »
Thats a great test Thanks for posting. Very interesting. I've often thought about this as well and I have tried other brands with similar things in mind like you have mentioned. The thing is, I have always come back to kingsford original. Not because I get the best mileage for my money but because i find the food I cook tastes better with the kingsford. It's a personal thing but for myself I will use what ever charcoal gives the best taste that I like, and with the choices I have locally, thats the kingsford. I won't sacrifice taste for burn time or cost.

mhiszem

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Re: The quest for the best charcoal briquettes
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2017, 03:49:04 AM »
Great experiment. I love reading stuff like this. I am definitely curious about how coshell does since it seems to burn the hottest.


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HoosierKettle

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The quest for the best charcoal briquettes
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2017, 04:18:19 AM »
Nice work. For the wsm, it’s tough to beat the weber coal. It’s fantastic stuff. I’m still a huge kbb fan for most things that I cook but I’ll use any coal that’s on sale for most grilling applications.

I was always suspicious of the kingsford long burning.

If you have a Costco nearby, try out kingsford pro/comp when you get a chance. I think it’s one of the best right now although it definitely doesn’t have the burn time of weber. Unfortunately Costco only stocks it in the summer.


Sent from my iPhone using Weber Kettle Club mobile app

bigssa

  • WKC Brave
  • Posts: 227
Re: The quest for the best charcoal briquettes
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2017, 04:20:41 AM »
I will order some coconut charcoal and repeat the same process with it and update this thread. I have never used it before, so I am intrigued to find out if it is just a gimmick or if it produces some real results.

weldboy

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Re: The quest for the best charcoal briquettes
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2017, 07:29:17 AM »
Nice write-up. I've had great luck with the Weber briquettes.


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Meathook

  • Smokey Joe
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Re: The quest for the best charcoal briquettes
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2017, 08:12:58 AM »
Very helpful information. Thank you!

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jd

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Re: The quest for the best charcoal briquettes
« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2017, 10:11:53 AM »
appreciate the write up, I have had good results with the weber briquettes and Stubbs
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Foster Dahlet

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Re: The quest for the best charcoal briquettes
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2017, 04:20:49 PM »
Thank you, @bigssa !  That is great work.  Very helpful.

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noles2g

  • Smokey Joe
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Re: The quest for the best charcoal briquettes
« Reply #10 on: December 24, 2017, 04:58:14 AM »

appreciate the write up, I have had good results with the weber briquettes and Stubbs

+1


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Firemunkee

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Re: The quest for the best charcoal briquettes
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2017, 12:05:49 PM »
Great read. Thanks for taking the time to share this!

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addicted-to-smoke

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Re: The quest for the best charcoal briquettes
« Reply #12 on: December 25, 2017, 07:18:15 PM »
Maybe this will get moved to Product Reviews ... this is one of the best write ups we’ve had of some charcoal briquettes.

My unscientific seat-of-the pants observations regarding ash production and cost are like this, which seem similar: use KBB, especially when on sale; otherwise it’ll be Weber so long as it remains at $12/bag. I can’t buy KBB at non-sale prices. Actually, I hope to never pay $20/bag for briquettes. I’d dabble some more with lump or other briquettes first.

I’m not a fan of Royal Oak Ridge and its various clones. In my experience, smaller briquettes always die out faster. Used it twice last week and saw the coals DIE in charcoal baskets in cold weather. I’ll use it in summertime OK.

If you ever run across the “BBQ Flavors” brand of hardwood briquettes, buy it.
It's the iconic symbol for the backyard. It's family/friends, food and fun. What more do you need to feel everything [is] going to be all right. As long as we can still have a BBQ in our backyard, the world seems a bit of a better place. At least for that moment. -reillyranch

Darko

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Re: The quest for the best charcoal briquettes
« Reply #13 on: December 25, 2017, 07:40:54 PM »
I have always come back to kingsford original. Not because I get the best mileage for my money but because i find the food I cook tastes better with the kingsford.
That's the first time I've ever heard that reason.

WMT

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  • Posts: 199
Re: The quest for the best charcoal briquettes
« Reply #14 on: December 25, 2017, 07:52:10 PM »
I have always come back to kingsford original. Not because I get the best mileage for my money but because i find the food I cook tastes better with the kingsford.
That's the first time I've ever heard that reason.

Why is that?
About the kingsford thing or the tastes better thing
« Last Edit: December 25, 2017, 07:56:25 PM by WMT »