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Slate Blackcurrant Watermelon Strawberry Orange Banana Apple Emerald Chocolate Marble
Slate Blackcurrant Watermelon Strawberry Orange Banana Apple Emerald Chocolate Marble
Jlipp79

Charcoal

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Anybody tried Lumber Jack Lump or Carolina Cookwood lump? Running low on my initially purchased KK char and without an option to get more, I’ve read entirely too much on nakedwhiz forum. The result…me with a long list of things I want to try but need to narrow down within reason.


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I've used all 5 of these, plus the Weekend Warrior from Wicked Good. 

First off, I don't like having a bunch of humongous chunks in a bag of charcoal. Extra work for me to break them up with a mallet and chisel. I made a wire sieve that I screen all my bags of charcoal through before going into my bin, so I get rid of all the dust and smalls right away. I can tell how much I'm losing in each bag, too. As noted in the video, I've been tagged quite a few times with sparks, including on the eye lid. Not Fun! So, I can 2nd his assessment from my own experience. I'm a recent convert to JD - my new go-to. I like the funky versions of Fogo (Eucalyptus and Quebracho), but have stopped using the 2 in this test - too large pieces and sparking/hard to light. I like the KJ and Wicked Good, but both are hard for me to source here. I can get KJ on Amazon  or the occasional CostCo online sale. Can't get WG anymore. Rockwood was a go-to in the past, as I could get it at the local BBQ store. It's decent charcoal, but I found that I like some of the others better. I might give it another try, since it's been a while using it last. 

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16 hours ago, jonj said:

@tony b what is the mesh size you’re using for the charcoal?

It's 1/2". I just used it to shift out half a bag of JD. Was shocked at how little went through, but I didn't get to the bottom of the bag yet. I was also surprised by how many very large chunks were in this bag. I think that JD is going to be my steady going forward. 

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Any comments on his take on Jealous Devil taste? He's become a paid ambassador for JD (and notes end of the other video that Fogo has a fail-to-disclose zombie army of "ambassadors"). He still says here that chicken at 300 F, JD is off. He prefers Kamado Big Block.

I use Fogo to protect my KK Coffee Lump (only 260 lbs left!), but I'm open minded.

 

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I've been frustrated by lots of small chunks and dust with multiple brands over the last year or so but I think that has come from shipping and handling issues - I've had the issues with Fogo, Royal oak, and cowboy (a bit further back in the past) bought locally after having good luck with each of them before, as well as jealous devil ordered from Amazon. The JD from Amazon had obviously been abused;  the bag wasn't brand but it was obviously best up.

I've had much better luck with the last two bags of B&B that I bought at academy sports after finding out that they stock lots of outdoor cooking stuff;  was going to try sourcing from Ace hardware locally but they're more expensive than academy. Academy stocks JD too; I may give it another try at some point.

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This guy (in the video above) said he's not getting scientific but this is a lot of work to evaluate charcoal.  Is it worth it to do all this work? I guess it depends on the "level of obsession" you have about this hobby.

I've done enough cooking in a kamado over the last dozen or so years - I probably cook once to twice a week on average, that's a lot of cooking.  I haven't gotten my KK yet so take me with a grain of salt.

I never use gadgets when I cook.  OK - I have one gadget - an instant read contact thermometer.  No probes, no air regulation jobs that go in the bottom vent of the green egg.  I have learned the hard way and get great results.

This is not to say that when I get my KK I'm not going to get a probe (b/c once you've spent this kind of money, why not get one), and that's not to say that in the future I'm not going to start sifting my charcoal b/c of the way the KK firebox works, and using better charcoal all the time - b/c again - once you're at this level, why not have the best all the time - but - 

My opinion is that "I can cook with anything".  I'm a value shopper - if you can't get "really good" charcoal or don't want to spend the money, learning how to "cook with what you've got" is a good skill.

What people say here about removing the ultra small pieces and just getting to know your equipment and how it works with different loads of charcoal - more small pieces, more large pieces, etc - what does your grill do?  Once you cook a few hundred times on something - you'll know.

While I can't completely argue against the notion on charcoal bags that charcoal is an ingredient to your food -- "the first ingredient" as some say --  I find it might be more important to learn about how fire behaves under different conditions (and different sizes and with different amounts and types of wood) in your equipment than it is to choose a certain charcoal.  ESPECIALLY when you're not using a BBQ guru and probe.  You need to know how to lay a good fire in your particular grill - one that will go the distance.

It seems like this guy is fishing for a sponsor or something.

My opinions based on all the cheap charcoal that I have used - 

The only charcoal I really dislike is Cowboy.  I've found nails and other metal debris in the bags.  One time there was an old hinge in there with screws sticking out of it. Even when there's nothing metal, I invariably find one or more rocks in every bag.  It's just crappy charcoal.  That said, I have had several successful low and slow cooks with Cowboy charcoal, including a really good brisket only a week ago.  Just because it's the crappiest doesn't mean it doesn't work.  I have to work with Cowboy often because my father in law is a Costco member, and he always buys the big bag of cowboy.  He sometimes gives me a bag, and instead of turning it down, I use it.

 If you want to go cheap, the best charcoal to me is a tie between Royal Oak and Frontier.  Royal Oak of course is at home depot - most people are familiar.  Frontier is at Sam's club (when you can find it).  I also find that Publix Greenwise charcoal is "OK".  I've used a lot of that because my wife found it easy to pick up a smaller bag of that at the grocery store.  I can't complain - she bought me charcoal without me asking her.  I give a slight edge to royal oak b/c all of it seems to be made of the same wood whereas it seems some other cheaper charcoals can vary in their flavor profile due to a mixture of woods.  Also it has a milder flavor.  But it's rather light and burns up quicker than other brands, so I feel even Cowboy can be better than royal oak for low and slow.  Shocking right.  Frontier is the most dense of these (at least the bag that I am currently using is).

To me, the green egg brand is basically just royal oak - I quit using it a long time ago b/c it costs too much for what it is.

If there's a medium end, I think the best is the black Fogo.  It seems like a good value to me just b/c it's not the most expensive charcoal, but I feel it is very good based on the 3 bags I have used.

I've not used the better Fogo.  I've not used JD.  Have not tried rockwood - will try it if I can get a hold of it.  If the flavor profile is as good as this guy says it is, I look forward to it.

On the higher end I wish I could get weekend warrior - it used to be my favorite but the Ace Hardwares in my area quit carrying it.  Maybe I'll find out how to order it.

Edited by johnnymnemonic
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My experience is spot-on with your description of Cowboy & Royal Oak.  I've had some pretty good low & slow cooks using Cowboy...there is a fair bit of uncertainty as to what wood (& therefore what smoke flavor) you're going to get out of it, but if you want a cheap option that adds a bit of flavor without adding any hardwood into the mix, Cowboy can work out just fine.

JD is on the other end of the spectrum--it tends to burn very clean, with less flavor imparted from the charcoal itslef, the chunks are fairly consistent, it burns consistently, and it produces less ash than most charcoals I've used.  It isn't going to be as neutral-flavored as a coconut/extruded charcoal, and it will produce more ash than those, but it also (in my experience) burns much hotter.  That said, I feel that it's a bit too expensive for high-temp pizza cooks and the like...and I wonder how much of the price goes into marketing and the appearance of quality.  For example, they use a ziplock-style zipper at the top of the bag to re-seal it, and I've found that this is prone to fail well before you get to the bottom of the bag.  A great option for 300-400 degree cooks, in my book.

5 hours ago, johnnymnemonic said:

This guy (in the video above) said he's not getting scientific but this is a lot of work to evaluate charcoal.  Is it worth it to do all this work? I guess it depends on the "level of obsession" you have about this hobby.

I've done enough cooking in a kamado over the last dozen or so years - I probably cook once to twice a week on average, that's a lot of cooking.  I haven't gotten my KK yet so take me with a grain of salt.

I never use gadgets when I cook.  OK - I have one gadget - an instant read contact thermometer.  No probes, no air regulation jobs that go in the bottom vent of the green egg.  I have learned the hard way and get great results.

This is not to say that when I get my KK I'm not going to get a probe (b/c once you've spent this kind of money, why not get one), and that's not to say that in the future I'm not going to start sifting my charcoal b/c of the way the KK firebox works, and using better charcoal all the time - b/c again - once you're at this level, why not have the best all the time - but - 

My opinion is that "I can cook with anything".  I'm a value shopper - if you can't get "really good" charcoal or don't want to spend the money, learning how to "cook with what you've got" is a good skill.

What people say here about removing the ultra small pieces and just getting to know your equipment and how it works with different loads of charcoal - more small pieces, more large pieces, etc - what does your grill do?  Once you cook a few hundred times on something - you'll know.

While I can't completely argue against the notion on charcoal bags that charcoal is an ingredient to your food -- "the first ingredient" as some say --  I find it might be more important to learn about how fire behaves under different conditions (and different sizes and with different amounts and types of wood) in your equipment than it is to choose a certain charcoal.  ESPECIALLY when you're not using a BBQ guru and probe.  You need to know how to lay a good fire in your particular grill - one that will go the distance.

It seems like this guy is fishing for a sponsor or something.

My opinions based on all the cheap charcoal that I have used - 

The only charcoal I really dislike is Cowboy.  I've found nails and other metal debris in the bags.  One time there was an old hinge in there with screws sticking out of it. Even when there's nothing metal, I invariably find one or more rocks in every bag.  It's just crappy charcoal.  That said, I have had several successful low and slow cooks with Cowboy charcoal, including a really good brisket only a week ago.  Just because it's the crappiest doesn't mean it doesn't work.  I have to work with Cowboy often because my father in law is a Costco member, and he always buys the big bag of cowboy.  He sometimes gives me a bag, and instead of turning it down, I use it.

 If you want to go cheap, the best charcoal to me is a tie between Royal Oak and Frontier.  Royal Oak of course is at home depot - most people are familiar.  Frontier is at Sam's club (when you can find it).  I also find that Publix Greenwise charcoal is "OK".  I've used a lot of that because my wife found it easy to pick up a smaller bag of that at the grocery store.  I can't complain - she bought me charcoal without me asking her.  I give a slight edge to royal oak b/c all of it seems to be made of the same wood whereas it seems some other cheaper charcoals can vary in their flavor profile due to a mixture of woods.  Also it has a milder flavor.  But it's rather light and burns up quicker than other brands, so I feel even Cowboy can be better than royal oak for low and slow.  Shocking right.  Frontier is the most dense of these (at least the bag that I am currently using is).

To me, the green egg brand is basically just royal oak - I quit using it a long time ago b/c it costs too much for what it is.

If there's a medium end, I think the best is the black Fogo.  It seems like a good value to me just b/c it's not the most expensive charcoal, but I feel it is very good based on the 3 bags I have used.

I've not used the better Fogo.  I've not used JD.  Have not tried rockwood - will try it if I can get a hold of it.  If the flavor profile is as good as this guy says it is, I look forward to it.

On the higher end I wish I could get weekend warrior - it used to be my favorite but the Ace Hardwares in my area quit carrying it.  Maybe I'll find out how to order it.

 

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I've not tried it. There are some other extruded coconut charcoals out there that I toyed with trying, but haven't yet. I still have boxes of Dennis' cocochar and coffee wood lump for special cooks. 

My 2 cents - Cowboy is CRAP! Scrap lumber, often not fully carbonized, almost always has "stuff" in the bag, burns up like paper. It's cheap for a reason! Do your food a favor and buy good quality lump. 

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Let us know what you think Johnny.  Not having much cocochar or coffeechar left, I’m a huge fan of the KJ lump.  Personally am looking forward to having both of Dennis’s in plentiful supply again.  

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