guys, thanks for the links to reviews and for personal experiences. unfortunately, i live in the middle of nowwhere and as far as i can tell so far, this is the only lump charcoal available. i understand that i can make my own and might give that a try in the future, but the complication there is that the only tree in abundance around here is cottonwood.
for now, it looks like i am stuck with the kingsford charwood, which seemed to work "ok" for this beginner. next trip to great falls or billings, i might try to see if i can get ahold of something different and do a comparison ~