Interesting Testing on Charcoal from America's Test Kitchen

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seenred

Epic Pitmaster
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Feb 9, 2009
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N.E. Oklahoma
As an admitted cooking nerd, I've always enjoyed and respected America's Test Kitchen for providing scientific, unbiased information about all things related to cooking. Their newest video is about charcoal. I was surprised by their findings! While I've never done any real comparison testing, I've always believed lump burns hotter and makes food taste better than briquettes. This video makes me wonder if I should test this for myself.




Watch it and judge for yourself...and let me know what you think.

Red
 
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Well dang, I was gonna get some lump for Tatanka. I've already got close to 40 pds of briquettes. I may just see how those do and go from there.

Jim

LOL I guess I'd suggest using up those briquettes, Jim, then trying lump and see which you believe performs the best.

Been using jealous devil lump for a while, and it is expensive. I think it burns longer than Kingsford briquettes, & I like the flavor better too! So that’s my test!
Al

Yeah Al, that was my thinking too. I've been using B&B lump - not as expensive as Jealous Devil, but still more than briquettes. I've always thought it burned hotter and tasted better...but this has me wondering if that's all in my mind LOL!

At the very least, I may load my Kettle up with briqs, test how hot the kettle gets, then do the same with my lump...and compare the results.

Red
 
When I finished to Copper Pot, I started off using lump of many different brands and found about exactly what they said and I went to briquettes (and have never looked back) and have landed on the "K" brand, one because Costco carries it at a good price, and it seems to burn very clean to some of the cheaper brands I tried.

This pic of the X-Fire speaks for itself .....find the "K"
x-fire-burning.jpg
 
I saw that episode awhile ago on TV . As much as I love America's test kitchen / Cook's country , I don't really take much away from , or agree with this one . There's a lot more that goes into it in my opinion .


, I've always believed lump burns hotter and makes food taste better than briquettes.
I agree with that too , but I've recently switched over to using B&B briquettes . That stuff burns insanely hot !
20240303_175804.jpg
 
I've never been able to determine if lump is hotter than briqs. I read on the internets that it is.

I burn B&B Oak lump and I like the aroma while it burns. I think it has more aroma than the B&B Oak briqs I use. Whether that translates to flavor, IDK.

To further complicate it, when I'm smoking on the Kettle, I always have a small split of pecan in the charcoal , and that has a much better aroma than either briqs or lump

I think there's a big diff in brands of briqs. How much additive do they use to bind the sawdust. KBB burns with white smoke when ignited until its completely ashed over. B&B Oak burns TBS from the get go. It really is natural. Has a better aroma. I've no idea how they bind it.
 
When I finished to Copper Pot, I started off using lump of many different brands and found about exactly what they said and I went to briquettes (and have never looked back) and have landed on the "K" brand, one because Costco carries it at a good price, and it seems to burn very clean to some of the cheaper brands I tried.

This pic of the X-Fire speaks for itself .....find the "K"
View attachment 697960

All I can say is I've had much better fire/temp management in my WSM with briquettes compared to lump.

Frontier Lone Star Texas Blend briquettes are my go to when I can find them.

I saw that episode awhile ago on TV . As much as I love America's test kitchen / Cook's country , I don't really take much away from , or agree with this one . There's a lot more that goes into it in my opinion .

I agree with that too , but I've recently switched over to using B&B briquettes . That stuff burns insanely hot !

Interesting guys. I'm definitely gonna do some testing of my own. If briqs burn as hot or hotter than lump, I'll likely stop using lump altogether. Easier to store only on kind of charcoal...and it has always annoyed me the way B&B lump sparks and pops while igniting.

chopsaw chopsaw I like B&B briquettes too - use 'em in my gravity feed cabinet all the time. If they truly burn hotter than lump, I'll probably go to those exclusively!

Red
 
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I've never been able to determine if lump is hotter than briqs. I read on the internets that it is.

I've read the same...which is maybe why I took it for granted. I'm gonna test it, though, and see if it's really true.

I burn B&B Oak lump and I like the aroma while it burns. I think it has more aroma than the B&B Oak briqs I use. Whether that translates to flavor, IDK.

I use B&B oak and/or hickory. My only real problem with either one - they spark and pop a LOT when you light them. I've burned holes in shirts as a result.

To further complicate it, when I'm smoking on the Kettle, I always have a small split of pecan in the charcoal , and that has a much better aroma than either briqs or lump

IMO, this is a good practice regardless of what charcoal you burn...and I do this regularly too in my Kettle.
 
Interesting guys. I'm definitely gonna do some testing of my own. If briqs burn as hot or hotter than lump, I'll likely stop using lump altogether. Easier to store only on kind of charcoal...and it has always annoyed me the way B&B lump sparks and pops while igniting.

chopsaw chopsaw I like B&B briquettes too - use 'em in my gravity feed cabinet all the time. If they truly burn hotter than lump, I'll probably go to those exclusively!

Red
Red, the popping and inconsistent temp burn is what I experienced with the lump, It, just didn't burn consistently. So, I never knew what the base coal temp would be..... With the "K" the base coal temp per chimney is the same every time. So, for me its consistency and it will light with paper if I need to be....
 
There's just so much that goes into it. I think the size of the briquettes/lump is critical because the burning surface area you have. With lump it could be a crap shoot and there's been a movement for lump to be bigger and bigger. Larger pieces will give you longevity. Smaller pieces will give you more surface burning and more heat. Too small and the pieces mesh together and choke off the oxygen so you get less heat. What's best might depend on the size and shape of the container the briquettes are in. With briquettes the binder used will matter. With lump the uncarbonized material will matter. Charcoal can also absorb moisture so that could play into it

I think it's tough to say definitively which is best without a ton of tests and even then it depends on the conditions and use such as searing vs. low and slow.
 
I switched to briquettes a while ago, B&B, and saw enough positive difference in heat, longevity and useable product that I stayed with them. Recently I’ve been burning briquettes from Blues Hog. Liking them just fine too.
 
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Red, the popping and inconsistent temp burn is what I experienced with the lump, It, just didn't burn consistently. So, I never knew what the base coal temp would be..... With the "K" the base coal temp per chimney is the same every time. So, for me its consistency and it will light with paper if I need to be....

That makes sense to me! Mostly what I look for in my kettle fuel is consistency and a screaming hot fire. In my gravity feed smoker, it’s mostly about the consistency.

The one thing I do like about lump in the kettle is, after I’m finished cooking, I can choke the fire out and reuse the leftover lump the next time. With Briquettes, there never seems to be much left that’s reusable.

Rec
 
That makes sense to me! Mostly what I look for in my kettle fuel is consistency and a screaming hot fire. In my gravity feed smoker, it’s mostly about the consistency.

The one thing I do like about lump in the kettle is, after I’m finished cooking, I can choke the fire out and reuse the leftover lump the next time. With Briquettes, there never seems to be much left that’s reusable.

Rec
Agreed on the re-use part..... when I finished my cook on Memorial Day with the Copper Pot I went out 4 hours later, and it was still 190 degrees..... but once the 3/8" plate FB gets hot it stays hot for a LONG time......
 
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Interesting to watch but unsure on how I feel about it. One thing I noticed is it seemed they compared burn time on volume (quarts) of charcoal. If so that is flawed imo. Burn time would need to be calc'd on equivalent weights of the two. Top end heats of about 100F difference don't surprise me and likely don't matter a lot down in the actual cooking temp ranges as opposed to their being in the 550-700F range. I'm certainly going to explore this a bit though as lump is far more expensive than briquettes and there are far less deals on it. I already have been using B&B and Cowboy briquettes in my kettles as I go then half off last year and stocked up. I start the Lang with them too. I am unsure of how they will perform in my 270 packed into a fire basket. I wonder if airflow will be impacted? I'll find out soon enough. Thanks for posting Red, good testing to get done.
 
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