I am not a leading expert, but I have been doing this a while, so this is purely our opinion. In our process to make the best BBQ we could, we tested every and I mean every brand of charcoal we could get our hands on. Some of these brands while the price looked good, the actual end product – the meat was terrible. The “smoke” taste on the cheaper brands was bitter at times and acrid.
So here are some of the other things we found with the cheaper brands:
- Filler of by products: sand, dirt, small pebbles
- Soft – crumbled very easy – makes for faster burn time and having to buy more
- No or very little “hardwood” – provides a longer burn and the smoke flavor
We use Kingsford charcoal exclusively. It burns long, creates of great flavor and burns to almost complete ash – there is very little by product. I personally don’t think there is a big difference between the regular Kingsford and the Competition bag.
Royal Oak hardwood charcoal is an excellent choice also. It is a little more expensive than Kingsford, but provides a great addition to regular charcoal. It burns hotter and very clean, and we use it during the winter months along with Kingsford to maintain temperature.
Stay away from bargain and off brand charcoal. In the end you will not be satisfied with the meat you eat. Spend the extra money and buy Kingsford or Royal Oak.