Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford Charcoal (long with lots o' pics)
Review: Original vs Competition Kingsford® Charcoal
Last year Kingsford® changed the formulation of their Original "blue bag"
charcoal, and I posted an in-depth comparison of the two formulations.
That review was very well-received, so now it's time to do a briq-to-briq
comparison of the Original versus their Competition product.
The Competition briquets are a relatively new product that was released in
early 2009. Here's how it's described on their site:
This charcoal combines the performance needed forEssentially, you can think of the Competition product as lump charcoal in
briquet form. You get the high heat of lump with the convenience,
uniformity, and predictability of a briquet.
As in the previous review, I wanted this comparison to be as fair and
impartial as I could make it. I don't have a laboratory, but I am an
engineer, so I did the best that I could in a home setting. I ran
side-by-side tests of two brand new off-the-shelf bags of the each
product. As you will see, I've weighed and photographed each product so
that you can see exactly what I saw.
Let's see how all of this went down.
The pictures above show an Original bag that may be somewhat
misleading. A standard blue bag weighs 16.6 pounds, but what's pictured is
a larger 20-pound bag from a two-pack.
Note: From here on the Original briquets are pictured on the left, and the
Competition on the right.
The appearance of the briquets from each product are all but identical, so
much so that I had to make a concerted effort to keep from getting
confused about which was which.
I weighed various quantities of the Original and the Competition briquets
and here is how they compared:
Original (1 briquet): 3/4 oz
Competition (1 briquet): 5/8 oz
Original (5 briquets): 4 1/4 oz
Competition (5 briquets): 3 1/8 oz
Original (10 briquets): 8 5/8 oz
Competition (10 briquets): 6 1/4 oz
For the burn test, I punched two aluminum pie pans with an identical
pattern of holes. I wanted to use a method that would contain the ash for
a final weight, as you will see later.
I arranged the Original and Competition briquets in each pan as similarly as
I could. I used 12 briquets in each, in layers of six, four, and two (all with
the grooves facing upward). I put a single Weber wax starter cube in each
I lit each cube and took pictures at five-minute intervals. For those
interested, the temperature when I started the burn was 38º and the
humidity was 82%.
At five minutes.
At 10 minutes.
At 15 minutes.
At 20 minutes.
At 25 minutes. I started taking temperature measurements at this point. I
used an infrared thermometer on the side of each pan at the 5 o'clock
position. I would have liked to have had more readings, but the
Competition sample was burning so hot that it exceeded the 600º limit of
my infrared thermometer.
At 30 minutes.
At 35 minutes.
At 60 minutes.
At 90 minutes.
I stopped taking pictures at 90 minutes, but I continued reading the
temperatures out to 180 minutes.
Original (120 minutes): 254º
Competition (120 minutes): 185º
Original (180 minutes): 182º
Competition (180 minutes): 129º
Here is a chart that shows the Original and Competition temperatures over
time. The horizontal axis is time and the vertical shows the temperatures.
Note: As I mentioned earlier, the Competition sample was burning so hot
that it exceeded the 600º limit of my infrared thermometer. Given that, this
graph doesn't really depict all of the true temperature profile.
What about ash? As you can see below, the Competition briquets produce
nearly half the ash by weight, which is a significant difference. However,
as you can also see, the undisturbed volume of ash is the same. I'm not
sure that really matters, but I found it interesting.
Original: 3 oz
Competition: 1 5/8 oz
In the end, the results of this comparison show exactly what I have
experienced firsthand over the past two years. I regularly use both the
blue bag and the Competition, and I appreciate what each offers. For
low-n-slow barbecue, I primarily use the Original for its long consistent
heat. For grilling and higher heat cooks I use the Competition product. It
gives my grilled foold just the right blast of wood fire flavor. At barbecue
competitions I mix them (about 70% blue to 30% Competition) to give me
the best of both worlds.
Here are some questions that I posed to the folks at Kingsford, and their
Me: It's been two years since the Competition briquets were introduced.
How have they fared commercially?
Kingsford: When we initially launched Kingsford Competition Briquets, we
couldn’t keep bags on the shelves! The briquets continue to sell well,
especially at places such as Costco, which we attribute to the unique
combination of high heat associated with lump charcoal and the consistent
burn associated with briquets that allow backyard grillers to barbecue like
Me: Is it fair to say that the composition of the Competition briquets is
pure charwood with a natural binder?
Kingsford: Yes, Competition briquets are 100% natural. They are made up
of wood char with just enough natural binder to hold it together.
Me: Does the Competition product use the same charwood as the blue bag
product? If not, how is it different?
Kingsford: Yes, our Competition briquets use the same wood char that we
use in Kingsford Original.
Me: How do the burning and temperature characteristics of the
Competition product differ from that of the blue bag product?
Kingsford: Competition briquets burn hotter than Kingsford Original
briquets. They also reach cooking temperature faster than Kingsford
Me: Does the Competition product produce less ash than the blue bag
Me: I noticed that the Charwood product has been discontinued. Will the
Competition product remain widely available for the foreseeable future?
Kingsford: Currently there are no plans to discontinue Kingsford
Competition Briquets. That said, our research and development team is
constantly thinking about how to improve our product line up, so we
cannot rule out a line change completely, but we don’t have any immediate
plans to do so.
Me: Are there any plans to offer a line of smokewood-impregnated
Competition products like you have with the mesquite and hickory lines?
Kingsford: That’s a great idea! At the moment, we don’t have a product
like that in development but we are always thinking about ways to improve
upon our product. Keep the feedback and ideas coming! We’d love to hear
ideas on our Facebook page.
I hope that you've found this to be informational and helpful.
dang, thats ALOT of info. thanks for taking the time to post this and share your knowledge and expertise.
Well done, John. Another great review!
i wonder what there charwood consists of? they use it for both the comp and blue bag. Is it real hardwoods?
Thanks, guys. These long-form reviews are fun, but a lot of work.
I'm glad that you find them helpful.
U.S., and I believe they source it as locally as they can.
I tried using the original Kingsford Charwood product a few years ago. I started a chimney full of the stuff and it was like the 4th of July! Sparks flew everywhere! Once lit, I poured it into the firebox of our old backyard offset and it was like having a firebox full of Rice Krispies. Lots of Snap, Krackle and Pop!
John, regarding the ash: I understand that the weight of the ash was different but the volume was the same. I have only used Comp K once and I had a real problem with what I called "ash blow" meaning that there was ash all over the food. Now someone I told about this thought it might have been caused by the Stoker I use having blown the ash around but it has never happened when using Blue K and a Stoker. Also, another person I know had the same "ash blow" thing happen to him with Comp K, also in an 18.5 WSM but without a Stoker attached to the cooker.
Do you think that the similar volume of ash might indicate that the Comp K ash is, for lack of a better word, fluffier than the Blue K ash and therefore more prone to becoming airborne within a cooker?
Great review!!! Thanks a lot John for your hard work.
notice anything "fluffier" about the ash, but then again I wasn't
really paying attention to that aspect. However, as you say, for the
volume to be the same but the weight half, that says to me that it
must be "fluffier".
I only use it in undisturbed (non-blown) cookers, so maybe that's
why I've never seen the blowing that you have.
I'll run it by the Kingsford folks when I see them in Vegas.
interesting though about rancher and you wsm. I guess i should stop using the hair dryer to heat up the coals. maybe that will stop the ash from blowing around. haha
Also, I bought a huge supply of Blue K last year over the Memorial Day weekend when Home Depot had the 20 lb. twin paks on sale for about half price. If I recall correctly, I bought about 70 bags (35 twin paks) at that time and we used the last of it at the New Years Eve/New Years Day contests in California.
Thanks a ton for the review. I love the scientific approach. Very helpful for us new guys. I really love regular K but just got a stickburner. Using K to start a bed of coals before going to cherry splits for the remainder. I think I'll give he K comp a try. By the way, the turkey you gave me some input on turned out awesome. Thanks for the help.
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