Pros: Size of Chunks, Mixture of Woods, Great for UDS or WSM
Cons: May not be the best for hot & fast grilling
I’ve been running a UDS for about a year now, and it’s hard for me to imagine going back to a SFB style smoker. I went through my learning curve with Kingsford Blue Bag for the most part (on sale at Sam’s), and tried a couple different lump charcoals in between, but always ended up favoring the briquettes because they’re so low maintenance. I was amazed that I could set the drum at my preferred temp, and leave for over 3 hours and come back to next to no change in temp.
So I started wondering why so many others are saying they prefer running lump in their fire baskets over briquettes. Of course there are the ‘all natural’ bbq elitists, but others seem to dislike the amount of ash build up on a 10+ hour smoke with briquettes. Kingsford offers Competition Briquets now that burn longer, and have less ash, but they still leave more ash than lump will.
I decided to continue my search for a better lump charcoal to run in the drum. If nothing else I could figure out why so many WSM and UDS users were sticking to their guns in the lump vs. briquettes debate. The main reason I got away from lump in the UDS was due to availablity in Southern AZ. Local lump has a lot of mesquite in it (or is all mesquite). Don’t get me wrong, I love grilling with mesquite and would choose nothing over it when cooking up some carne asada hot & fast. But the likes of Home Depot, Lowes, Carneceria’s, etc around here don’t have a selection to choose from besides the hot-&-fast mesquite (with rocks in the bag) varieties.
An example of the local Hot & Fast Mesquite Lump
So after ruling out all the local options, I purchased a bag of Ono Kiawe Lump from Barbeques Galore. Ono Lump is Kiawe wood (?) and you can read a review here on NakedWhiz.com. Make sure to bookmark this link, it is by far the most extensive lump charcaol review database.
ONO Kiawe Lump
Anyhow…I filled up my fire basket with the ONO and threw in a couple of peach wood chunks for smoke. Hours later, pulled the brisket off and….same thing. Strong smoke flavor. Not to mention I had to mess w/ keeping temp steady a lot more than I had been used to.
I wasn’t going to give up now, so on to the next one. I went by BBQ Island and perused their huge collection of lump. Since I have been satisfied by “Three Little Pigs” Rubs & Sauces (in kahoots w/ “The Good One Smokers” and Chris Marks), I decided to try The Good One lump charcoal.
The Good One Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal
When I opened the bag I noticed something instantly. The size of the lump chunks, and weight of each piece were much smaller and lighter.
Here is a pic of The Good One Lump courtesy of Nakedwhiz.com
This instantly gave me a glimmer of hope. I can’t tell you whether it’s oak, maple, hickory, or all of the above as the bag only says “American Hardwood”. The big chunks in the Ono and local hardwood bags like the Cowboy brand I had been using were big (baseball sized) dense pieces of lump. Due to how a UDS runs, it makes sense that when letting in “just enough air” in to keep temp, you will struggle igniting a bigger/denser piece of wood right?
Here you can see the size difference in the local mesquite varieties. Courtesy of Nakedwhiz.com
I filled up the fire basket with The Good One and added some Cherry wood chunks for smoke. This time I was cooking a 3.7lbs chuckie by the way. After pouring in about 3/4 of a set chimney full, I could smell a distinct difference in the air. There was a nice thin smoke coming out of the drum and the smell wasn’t overbearing. The 2nd thing I noticed was that the 3/4 chimney only brought the UDS to 225 while the previous lump would send it to 260 degrees within 20 minutes. After a few adjustments to my intake, most notibly leaving 2 of 3 intakes 100% open, I was cruising along @ 225. So with my fingers still crossed, I walked away, only checking back every hour or so. After about 4 hours I did have to use my wiggle rod (heheh) to move the coals around since the temp dropped to 206. But the combo of having the lid off, and shifting the coals brought the drum back to the needed temp.
After about 7 hours (hit a ridiculous stall in the chuck at 152 degrees), the chuck had come to temp (here is the Chuckie post for reference), but back to the lump. I have plenty left in the fire basket for my next smoke, and the ash build up was minimal. Could it be that I found the final fuel for the UDS? I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions without doing the most important test…the taste test. The “uh-oh is this going to be too smokey” test. I pulled the chuck after a 1.5 hour rest in the foil to unveil one hell of a red smoke ring. The type of smoke ring that dreams are made of. Tasted my first piece and NO MESQUITE LIKE TASTE!
I would highly recommend the Good One Lump to any smokers out there. I can’t say I would advise it to be grilled with since I did notice it just didn’t run as hot as some of the others, but that’s a whole other topic. So if you’re willing to watch the smoker and adjust temps just a bit more than with briquettes, I say go with Lump too! When I get down to the bottom of this bag, I may try another brand, but for now I’m satisfied with The Good One