I use RO lump and love it. It burns hotter, longer and cleaner then KBB. There is only 1/4 the ash too. I have never tried cowboy. When its hot out and I want to cook at 225 I use the KBB cause it's cheaper but if I want to smoke at higher temps or it's cold out I use the RO lump.
I've been a Kingsford Blue guy for just about as long as I have been grillin'. Tried Kingsford Comp and didn't care for it because it burned too fast. Picked up some Royal Oak lump to try but it hasn't been opened yet. Scored some Lazzari Mesquite Lump cheap yesterday and gave it a try. I was impressed!
In the smoker I had a few leftover KB briquettes. Made a small pile out of them. Surrounded the pile with two large pieces of lump and two medium pieces. Poured 3/4 chimney of hot lump in the center. With careful vent control I completed a 4 hour smoke that was 240 most of the time with a planned spike to 290 for the last hour. Could have gone two more hours probably.
What was most noticeable was how clean it burned. No flying ash when stoking the coals. Looked like the embers from a campfire in my smoker instead of a pile of hot dirt. I'll be switching to lump with KB as a backup when I can load up in the Spring.
Pretty good reviews for lots of different types of charcoal is at thenakedwhiz.com.BTW - Cowboy brand is pretty lame. Mostly old flooring scraps. I used it once and pulled stuff out of the bag that I had no idea what it was, but it didn't burn. Lots of dust and real small pieces along with large planks of stuff. You can do much better.
I use lump mostly in my smokes - I too like the fact that it seems to burn hotter and leaves less ashes. I have used "BB" or Better Burning and had good results with bags of Stubs that Costco sold this summer (I bought 4 bags). I agree with someone else's comments on the Cowboy, it seemed a bit cheaper with weird flat pieces. My only knock is that whatever brand I seem to use, when there is about a 1/4 of the bag left, the pieces get really small - and I end up wasting some at the end. If I could find a brand that has mostly nice size pieces, not huge and not too small, I would by a bunch. The Stubbs bags seemed to be the closest. All that being said, when Home Depot or lowes sells their two bag set of KBB for like 9$ I have no problem using that.
My brother recently got into smoking this past fall, so for Christmas I bought him a bag of Royal Oak lump and a chimney starter as a gift. I am headed there this weekend to smoke some stuff and interested to see how good the Royal Oak is.
Hope this helps - funny how picky I have gotten from when I first started smoking!
I do like and use KB for grilling and have used it for years. I think using lump for grilling is a waste of fuel. The KB with enough air easily gets the grill to 400 - 500* and when I am grilling time is not a factor.
I've tried lump a few times but for me, especially in the summer, it's not my choice for smoking. For grilling it's hands down the best pick. If I could find it easily I'd use Stubbs all natural briquettes all the time. They burn hotter and much longer than Kingsford and don't create a lot of ash.
I've used Cowboy brand for a few years now. All your input makes me wan to change to something else, but not Kingsford briquettes. I have found a few smallish rocks in my bags which burned me up. The shake at the bottom of the bag is mostly a waste. it will eventually burn, and burn hot and long, but it will take a good long time (hour plus) to get the fire burning right.
I do like the big chunks, I can throw a few on the fire and run up to the pub for a pint or two, when I come back the fire is still burning good and hot. Mostly what I've found is that you need to run a few bags, sort the chunks by size as you pull them out of the bags, sort like sized chunks in bag with similar sized other pieces. Mixing the shake at the bottom of the bag with medium size pieces, works well, small pieces when you need to make a small temp adjustment and larger pieces when you need a pub run.
Absolutely! I found it's better than charcoal briquettes. Burns hotter and longer. I use cowboy charcoal. Comes in a brown bag. Now each bag is not consistently packed with certain sizes because its lump charcoal which is petrified wood. So you get a ton of very small pieces that don't normally do you any good when you're heating it up with a chimney.
I'm going to go politician from my earlier post and change my position; I like both. In my WSM I've found what works best for me. I put down a single layer of KBB on the charcoal grate, then 3-4 pieces of wood, then cover the wood with lump. I use briquettes in the chimney and dump them on the lump. So my position now is I'll use both briquettes and lump.