GFS is a great buy if you got it in your area - like they said re-branded Royal Oak (usually cheaper). I usualy use Royal Oak, but I have started using Lazzari as well. The only draw back to Lazzari is it sparks like mad when you first light it.
Since I found out I get my best results of temp. vs. burn time using a mix of lump and briquets, I now put a mix of Lazzari and briquets unlit in my basket, then fill my chimney 1/2 full of Lazzari and top it off with briquets. That way when the Lazzari starts sparking the sparks aren't flying off onto the wood deck and/or fence.
Also remember Lazzari is made 100% from mesquite... so if you don't want a mesquite flavor pick something else.
Geez, all this bad press about the Cowboy lump is making me want to ditch the stuff I have..To be honest, I've never really been happy with it, pieces are too small and it seems to burn way to fast, but it's all the stores around me seem to carry. Guess I need to start looking for something better.
I wouldnt ditch it, use it up, and then move onto some better stuff.
I avoid Cowboy, but if it is all I can find I grab a bag(bbq using Cowboy is better than no bbq ), I even used Kingsford Comp. briquettes last week for the first time because a stop at another store wasnt in the cards9worked pretty good in sub zero temps).
I try to use Royal Oak, but am going to try a bag of that Peoples Woods generic lump from the reviews.
After burning it I have found stones and other substances. The only way I describe the other substances is it looked like melted rubber. I never smelled rubber but it's just the idea of it. It wasn't just once but every time I used it I would find this in my pit after a smoke.
To me it burns a little quicker than Royal Oak, also it seem to have more small pieces.
I mentioned upthread, I have found junk in bags of both Cowboy & Royal Oak.
The Super WalMart by me used to always have Royal Oak lump, but reduced all their bbq space when x-mas came(no wood chunks, no lump, etc.), hoping things are back to normal now. Ive been going to Bass or Home Depot instead.
I've been using Steakhouse brand of RO as I had a gift certificate from Menards and the same can be said about this stuff. It has a lot of smaller pieces that fall right through the grate of both my units and grill.
It (Cowboy) does burn a tad hotter but I don't see this as a negative thing. It also has less ash than any other brand I've tried.
Cowboy is not the brand I use the most but it sure as heck wouldn't keep me from having Q if it's the brand on hand.
I just bought two bags of RO this morning. Around here I have very little choice. The fleet supply store carries Cowboy but they are more expensive than the RO I get at Wally. Seeing as how I have never tried Cowboy I really can't comment on it. I am pleased with the RO performance. I have never found anything in the bag that caused me alarm but then again I don't always look that closely.
I use lump and charcoal as a supplement to wood rather than the main source of heat. Kingsford as a starter for the wood than the lump here and there along with wood for more heat as I go along.
When I first started smoking I used Cowboy. It does work, but I did have a lot of of uncarbonized plywood. I can't help but think that the glue used in plywood is not great to burn. Also the length of burn time on the Cowboy is way shorter than Royal Oak or Lazzari. I would use 20+ lbs. of Cowboy on a 6 hr. smoke, now I use about 12 lbs. of RO or Lazzari.
The one place I did like Cowboy was when I was doing high heat searing. On The Naked Wiz.com I believe Cowboy had the 2nd highest score for temperature - something like 1100 °F!
If I have a choice I will buy RO or Lazzari, but if Cowboy was all I could get I would use it. Just try to pick out the stuff that is obviously plywood.
Being from KC. I'm surprized by the lack of choice in lump charcoal. All I can find is Kingsford and RO. The Kingsford seems to have alot of small pieces and fines in it so I've been using the RO. Have not seen Cowboy around here but then I have'nt looked evrywhere. But as far as finding thing like plywood in lump charcoal, I would stear clear of it. Plywood and other conctruction lumber are made from pine and fir that contain creosote. For those of you who have checked out woods for smoking they tell you that these woods are not acceptable for use in smoking. Not to mention the glues and other chemicals that are used in processing these products. How do you know if these plywood products were presure treated? If so these are treated with things like copper cianate. Are you going to feed this to your family? I would contact these manufacturers who put these things in your lump charcoal and ask them to stop allowing these products in their lump charcoal.