Charcoal--did I screw up?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by newarcher, Apr 20, 2013.

  1. newarcher

    newarcher Fire Starter

    I just bought my smoker and I bought the Lowes brand Cowboy charcoal which has some bad reviews.  I asked a buddy and he suggested Wicked brand of charcoal that the ACE hardware sells.  I went there today and I accidentally bought their briquettes instead of lump (it was on sale 50% off, I got excited and screwed up! :D).

    Can I use the briquette's instead of lump?  I'm thinking no but just wanted to check.

  2. kathrynn

    kathrynn Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I am not sure havent used charcoal in a long time.  Try them and see what works best for your needs in your smoker.  See which type you like best.  Couldn't hurt with the 50% off!

  3. seenred

    seenred Smoking Guru Group Lead OTBS Member

    Hi, newarcher.  Of course you can use briquettes.  A good quality lump will probably perform better, but any decent hardwood charcoal will get the job done.  Most charcoal users here have tried a ton of different types and brands until they settle on what works best for them.  Since you've already got the briquettes, I'd suggest using them up and see for yourself how you like it.  If they don't perform as well as you like, you'll know what not to buy next time.  I don't burn much charcoal myself any more, but I always liked Royal Oak Lump. 

    Good luck, and let us know how it goes...

    Last edited: Apr 20, 2013
  4. newarcher

    newarcher Fire Starter

    Thanks folks, I will probably go back and get lump.  Maybe keep one bag (I opened it) to mix in.
  5. There are pros and cons.  I like briquettes on overnight cooks.  I like lump on daytime cooks.  The briquettes last longer but I like the way lump burns.
  6. frosty

    frosty Master of the Pit

    No harm, no foul.  Use it!  The briquettes will burn differently, and the lump will burn hotter but produce less ash! 
  7. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    Briquettes will burn cooler than lump...nothing ever wrong with mixing it in regardless.   The benefits of lump only are hotter temps, pure wood and better taste...along w/ lower ash as someone said.    If i don't have lump i have no problem with Kingsford alone. 
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2013
  8. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    If it were me I'd keep the briquettes. I mix them with lump when grilling because it burns at a lower temperature than lump and I can get the high temp of the lump to sear and the more steady heat of the briquettes to finish grilling with indirect heat.

    Lump charcoal responds faster to changes in air supply than briquettes, thus you will slow or speed up the burn rate of lump more quickly than briquettes when you adjust you intake vent.

    Good quality briquettes are always on hand at my house.   
  9. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Nothing at all wrong with briquettes. The tend to be more consistent from load to load as they are more uniform in size.  Also will tend to burn a little cooler than lump.  As to how long they last? I've seen posts either way so I'm not certain (lump last longer and briquette last longer).  With briquettes you do want to give them a minute to get fired up before putting on the meat.  Make sure the initial white smoke has turned to the good thin stuff as briquettes do have a binder in them that lump does not.  You get more of an acrid start up smell with briquettes due to the binder but it goes away once they are up to temp.

    And Wicked Charcoal is good stuff.  Nothing wrong with blue bag Kingsford briquette either, especially if you can find it on the $6 per 20 pound bag sale like we just had at HD. Heck, even el cheapo Cowboy lump will work.  Some just work better than others...
  10. I always use briquettes in the chimeny and then pour that over the lump in the I say always but I have only had my smoker for about 3 weeks now and only have done 4 smokes on it lol. However I do see that they keep the heat steady, light the lump good via minion method and so far my longest smoke 6+hours I have never had to add fuel to the fire. BTW: I use RO lump which I love, Very low ash and a good solid heat.

  11. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    As others above have already mentioned, I use a mixture of briquettes and charcoal depending on whether I can give it the attention it needs to manage the temperature or I need to leave it for a time unattended (e.g. a few hours overnight). Throughout the cooking period I will often use both in combination for better control. As mentioned above charcoal will usually burn hotter whereas briquettes will usually burn for longer and more consistently.

    The important thing with briquettes though is to make sure that they are good quality and the ones designed for use in kettle BBQs are great in the smoker as they tend to be denser. Whenever I come across a new brand of briquettes that may be worth trying I always buy one bag to begin with and just light a chimney of them and pop them in the kettle (without any meat) to see how they smell. If at the lid vent they have an unpleasant, strong or off smell during the burn then you can discard them and move on. If not then they would usually be OK to use. If in doubt at that point it is best to err on the safe side for low and slow but they may still be OK for grilling. Here in the UK I tend to use Heat Beads (Australian) but I am not sure how common they are in the USA.

    Whenever you use good quality briquettes or charcoal these will really only give you the consistent heat source and will not usually provide significant distinctive flavour. For this I always add additional wood blocks/offcuts on top of the charcoal. I find that small solid wood blocks are more controllable with the charcoal/briquettes for longer cooks than using either pellets or sawdust.
  12. mdboatbum

    mdboatbum Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    To address the OP's questions...

    A) Cowboy has changed quite a bit in the last year. It used to be pretty awful, but now is much better. Try it and see if you like it.


    B) Wicked Good is one of the most praised and respected brands out there. I've not personally used it, but I have used all natural briquettes from Stubbs (which I believe is a similar product) and can attest to the fact that it burns hotter than Kingsford, burns about twice as long and produces significantly less ash. By the same token, good quality lump will burn even hotter yet and with even lower ash, but for about half as long as natural briquettes, roughly the same burn time as Kingsford. (this has been my experience, your results will vary)

    It sounds to me like you have (or had) a bag of Cowboy lump and a bag of Wicked good briqs in your possession. I think the only real answer is to do a cook with each, compare and contrast and then post your detailed analysis here for the benefit of all of us. With Q-view of course.

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