Kingsford’s new Competition Briquets

I was looking at putting this together last week, but couldn’t come with an angle that pleased me. Me & briquets parted ways over 10 years ago and I never looked back. I found that mesquite gave me what I was looking for in grilling and smoking. Plus it didn’t have that telltale sign of a sulfurous smell during and after cooking. Why am I worried about what my smoker smells like after the fact? Grills aren’t so fussy, but if your smoker gets tainted by creosote (smoldering fire ((brown smoke)) or similar nasty smells, it’ll wind up on your food! Don’t believe me? Take some oven cleaner, spray your kitchen’s oven, turn it up to 350 and put a chicken in there. See if your chicken and house doesn’t smell like a chemical factory coming to pay a much feared visit? Heh, no drama here, eh?
A few weeks ago a really nice woman working for one of Kingsford’s PR companies contacted me, wanted to know if I wanted a bag of their new Competition Briquets. Fewer ingredients, burn hotter and longer. Sure, what the hell. Besides, she’s contacted me before over the years and wanted to finally take part in something fresh.
Up until this last Friday, still couldn’t come up with an angle. I googled a few things and read other people’s reviews of charcoal, lump or briquet. Man, these people are nuts! In a good way though, they really go all out. Gram scales, infrared thermometers, timed images, comparison to older versions of the same. It was crazy, I sure as hell wasn’t going to embark on such a journey. I just don’t care that much. There is something I care about though, and that’s how my food tastes. Let’s see how these new briquets cook and what I can come up with in the arena of flavors, or lack therein.
I ran off to Joya de Ceren for my meaty choices, they have the best flank steak around and it doesn’t cost 9 dollars a pound. Flank steak tacos for lunch and figured maybe a smoked whole chicken for dinner. I used a chimney starter and a few pages from my local phone book (really, who uses these things anymore?), and the briquets came right to life. They smoked a bit and smelled like charcoal briquets. It didn’t take long, about 10 to 15 minutes before they were ready to dump in the firebox. I let it go a bit longer, I was in no hurry and wanted to give them some severe heat for a little while longer.
Plus, as it turns out, a wasp was building a nest in the flue of my smoker. I figured this was a great opportunity to play! I got the kids in the house, made sure I had my escape route set up and dumped the briquets in the firebox. I gently closed the smoker and ran in the house. The boys and I spent the next ten minutes with our noses pressed up against the windows attempting to see what was what. The wasp finally came out, lit on the little hood of the flue. He kept trying to fly back down, but couldn’t due to the heat pouring out. After a while the little hat over the flue was so hot he couldn’t rest on it. Another 10 minutes rolled by and it was clear this wasp wasn’t leaving. So, I snuck out to the barn and found my wasp death in a can. It didn’t take long to take care of business and check on the briquets.
These are the new generation briquets from Kingsford. They have these grooves on the back that supposedly allow them to light faster. More surface area, don’t ya know. They could very well do that, it makes sense, in a scientific way. And these Competition Briquets are supposed to burn hotter, last longer with less ingredients. This could all very well be true, I don’t know. I’m more interested to see what they do to my food. I would also think they’d be very spiffy for camp dutch oven cooking, hotter would be nice!
The flank steak cooked right along, done directly over the hottest coals. Good colors and as you can see, pulled when ready. Tasted just fine to me, the odor I usually associate with briquets wasn’t there. After the steak was done, let the coals cook down a bit. Played with them, seemed to hold together just fine. I spent the next few hours adding more (cold, not pre-burned), playing, poking and seeing how they lit when added to a waning fire. As I remember, it used to take a bit to get the fire back up to snuff so you could add the food. That was one of my complaints versus their mesquite or hardwood lump counterparts, adding cold fuel with food on the grill is a nono. They seemed to fire up and gray over pretty quickly.
After a few hours of goofing off, started prepping the fire for smoking. Added more briquets, got them gray, spread them out and closed the lid on the smoker. After the fire simmered down a bit, tossed on a whole, trussed and salted chicken to the side. Added some hickory chips, got them good and going, closed the lid. Came back about every 30 minutes, stirred the briquets and added more hickory.
I added some briquets halfway through, pre-burned in the chimney so the temp in the smoker didn’t dip any further. In about 3 hours I had myself a whole, smoked chicken. Set the sucker aside for 10 minutes to cool. It smelled as it should, nothing that would have lead me to believe briquets had been used. I sniffed the firebox, not too close you knob, to see if I could get the sulfurous smell I remember so well. It wasn’t there, eeeenteresting. Of course it didn’t smell like mesquite or hardwood leavenings, but it didn’t smell bad either. And that my friend, is a good thing.
Z and I sliced up the chicken to see what was what. Damn, that was one fine smoked chicken! And you know what? The breast meat was juicy. Ha! I say, “Ha” to you. Nyah. This chicken totally didn’t suck, I’m impressed.
To sum it all up, Biggles used charcoal briquets for the first time in over 15 years, now that I think about it. While I found the briquets performance to be as good or better than I remember, and not quite as stinky, I’m not a convert. I’ll still be using mesquite or hardwood lump, it’s my preference. But I have to give it to Kingsford, this briquet is not my grandfather’s briquet.

12 thoughts on “Kingsford’s new Competition Briquets

  1. So what brands of lump do you like?
    I tried one bag and it would barely burn. Haven’t wanted to deal with that again.

  2. Hey Greg!
    Well, wood charcoal, lump or mesquite like, is a natural product. This means you cannot gauge one back to the ‘nother. It sounds odd that you couldn’t get it to light, that isn’t right. But then, with mesquite we usually deal with a 20% loss due to wood DUST. I recently went through a bag of Kingsford’s lump and it was just fine. Been through others with equal success. Did you soak the wood first for 3 weeks before you attempted to light it?
    xo, Biggles

  3. Nice review. Just bought a two pack at Costco. Look forward to using them now that they’ve got the Meathenge thumbs up.

  4. This is good info. I’m kicking the idea around of using a handful of briquets and some wet wood chips on top of my grill to do some pseudo cold smoking. In theory, the small amount of charcoal won’t be enough to raise the heat much above 90 or 100 degrees, but it should generate sufficient smoke to get the taste I’m looking for. I have an old cake pan that’s been beggin for a new lease on life, and I’m thinking this might be the ticket.

  5. Biggles,
    It is so dry here I doubt moisture could be an issue.
    The stuff would light but it didn’t produce much heat and the chunks on the periphery would go out. Who knows what kind of wood it was. The brand was Wild Oats (store brand) purchased before Whole Foods bought WO.
    I found the Nakedwhiz website and will try to locate some of the lump they recommend.

  6. Hey Chef,
    Please stop by and let us know what you think. It’s one thing to have 1 person’s perception, but quite another to have someone else’s. Eh?
    Hey Jeff,
    For cold smoking, it really doesn’t matter where you get the heat source. If you can keep it from 90 to 110, with good combusting wood? You’re golden for sure.
    Hey Greg,
    That’s odd. Hardwood lump is always a crazy mix of scrap from cabinet makers and related, you never know what you’re going to get. It varies from bag to bag. I’ve never run across the problem you mention but that doesn’t mean much. Don’t give up, try again.

  7. Briquets have a useful purpose in barbequing. They have consistent burning times. I prefer them while smoking. You can add wood of choice for flavor. If you use mesquite charcoal for an extended time bitter flavors can come out.
    I use Mesquite for grilling and briquets for smoking. Dutch Oven cooking ,briquets are mandatory.One of the complaints of the Kingsford is with there new grooves is that they do not burn as long as the older versions. Did you happen to notice if this competition stuff burned any longera

  8. CB,
    I don’t really have any reference point for longevity of the burn. I know I used less briquets than I would have mesquite. And speaking of which, I’ve never run across any bitterness from mesquite, even for 12 hour + cooking times. Usually the bitterness comes from a smouldering fire, which is easy to do with wood. That would make things bitter. I’ve even smoked meat using nothing but mesquite and there’s almost no smoke flavor at all. Which is why I keep uncharcoaled wood around for flavors!

  9. Thanks for the review. I’m going to give them a try. Every time i use hardwood they spark and I have a fear of burning down adjacent open space.

  10. Biggles is using briquets, Biggles is using briquets… na na…….Oh!…… yeah……… Im using them again too.
    A chimney full piled under the wood chunks puts you into the smokin’ game in less than 10 minutes. And the chicks dig the chimney and newspaper thing.
    BTW, creosote is bad?

  11. Hey Greg,
    Yeah, it’s a bag of mixed nuts that way. Some bags are like the 4th of July. And some, burn clean as can be. You just never know, wood is a natural fuel and it varies. Feh.
    Creosote tastes bitter, blech! Creosote=Bad
    Hey Green Light,
    Thank you and you bet! They’re darned easy to make, I’ll just throw in an extra next time.
    xo, Biggles