First time ribs using hardwood charcoal

Discussion in 'Pork' started by teebob2000, Apr 21, 2017.

  1. teebob2000

    teebob2000 Meat Mopper

    Hey all - I've always used regular Kingsford charcoal for all my smoking.  Costco recently had the huge bags of Cowboy brand hardwood charcoal (hickory and oak) and I picked one up to try.

    So, here are my stupid questions:  as I've never used "genuine" charcoal, does it work the same as regular processed charcoal like Kingsford?  Things like how the temps run and total smoking/cooking time?  Do I still need the same amount of regular smoking woods?  Or does the natural stuff impart its own smoke flavoring?


  2. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hey Tom, I'm assuming you're referring to their Hardwood Lump charcoal, not their hardwood briquettes.  I have not used Cowboy lump but I have used Royal Oak Hardwood Lump and Lazzari Mesquite Lump. 

    Taste: there is a slightly noticeable taste difference between any hardwood lump and Kingsford Original.  The lump is a cleaner tasting burn.  You may not notice it initially, but if you do several lump smokes, then return to KBB, you'll taste it.  Now, will you taste the hickory or oak?  Possibly.  You can tell looking at the charcoal whether it is completely carbonized.  If there are some pieces that are not completely carbonized, those will add some of the wood taste to your smoke.  If it is completely carbonized, you'll get a cleaner tasting burn than the Kingsford. 

    Same amount of regular smoking woods?  Yes.  Only decrease it if you see a lot of incompletely carbonized pieces. 

    Time?  Lump has inconsistently sized pieces by nature.  Consequently the air spaces in lump will be more inconsistent than briquettes, offering larger surface area of the charcoal to burn.  Lump burns hotter for that reason, decreasing times.  I find it doesn't quite last as long as briquettes for that same reason. 

    Suggestion.  I'll be doing a Royal Oak Lump cook this weekend as a matter of fact (pizzas in the WSM).  One of the tricks I've learned is to put a single layer of briquettes in the bottom of my WSM before adding the lump.  I do the same thing in my chimney.  By doing so, it keeps the smaller pieces from falling through the grate or the bottom of the chimney.     

    Keep us posted how you like the Cowboy Lump. 

    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017
  3. teebob2000

    teebob2000 Meat Mopper

    Awesome, thanks for the reply and tips, Ray!

    Yes, sorry, the lump charcoal.
  4. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Good luck with the Cowboy lump.

    It spits & pops like the fourth of July.

    Royal Oak lump is what I use.

    Ray gave you some good info, just be ready for some fireworks!

  5. crankybuzzard

    crankybuzzard Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Also be prepared to find rocks, small metal pieces, and some unknown stuff in the ash collection pan.  Cowboy is notorious for that.
  6. browneyesvictim

    browneyesvictim Smoking Fanatic ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Other than the aforementioned... You should find it does behave like briquettes for the most part, but you will want to watch your pit temps and adjust your vents accordingly for your time/temp for your cook.

    When I tried it at first, I had a trouble when doing chicken on the kettle grill. It either ran too hot or I ran out of heat at the end. I needed ALL the grill space so indirect wasnt an option. This was when I really learned how to manage vents!!! Things like steaks were a breeze because it gives a way better sear and don't need a longer burn time.

    The times I prefer briquettes are when I am camping and/or using the dutch oven and I can follow the Boy Scout guide for temperature by the number of briques. If you are doing a low and slow with the snake method (or similar), briquettes can stack more uniformly. The jury is still out with me on if I like lump better when doing that, but they both work. Again, it comes down to vent management for me.

    Another thing I will point out that you are probably already aware of since you have done mods to your WSM, is keeping your bottom vent from plugging and keeping good air flow by using a smaller mesh basket to catch and keep the smaller chunks of charcoal.

    Check out for reviews of lump charcoal.
  7. teebob2000

    teebob2000 Meat Mopper

    Thanks for all the tips/advice, guys!!!  Invaluable as always!

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