Sunday, May 29, 2011

New Kingsford Charcoal - Burns Too Hot and Does Not Have Charcoal Flavor

New Kingsford Charcoal

I am not at all happy with the new Kingsford charcoal. It burns way too hot and fast, and it does not have that distinctive Kingsford flavor. I think Kingsford made a "new Coca Cola" fail move with a favorite brand that was perfectly wonderful before they started messing with it.

I've been grilling for over 35 years, and my first pick brand for charcoal is Kingsford - or it was. Although I know the foodie trend is to favor natural lump which is said to give a hotter burn and cleaner flavor, I found Kingsford to be perfect. It did not burn super hot which is why a lot of people burn the outside of foods with it still uncooked in the middle. I see this all the time especially at tailgate events (not on my grill - but newer grillers or those who don't grill often). And, I personally love the rich charcoal flavor that Kingsford used to have. That extra flavor is especially nice on burgers and steak.

This is not the first time I've used the new Kingsford. The other time I had the Mesquite flavored and thought perhaps that was the difference. Since I just finished up my back stock of barbecue charcoal and since they had a great sale going on, I decided to go with the Original Kingsford. The deal was 2 twenty pound bags for $9.98. That is a great price. The bags were, however, shrink wrapped together partially which meant lifting 40 pounds up on the grocery store conveyor belt at once and then loading and unloading. The plastic does not totally cover the bags, so I had a mess in my car seat and also on the front of my shirt.

Although Kingsford does have the Original charcoal in the familiar blue bag, the bag (other than these sale bags I bought) are smaller. The company says that they made the briquettes smaller and that they burn hotter and longer. They also have grooves which they state mean they light up easier. Other than those things, this is supposed to be the Kingsford charcoal many of us know and love.

When I put the Kingsford Original (new version) in the chimney starter, I went inside as typical. It usually takes 15 minutes or so for a full chimney starter to be hot and ready to use. When I went out to check, the charcoal was basically gone. OK. I added more charcoal and watched it. Within 3 or 4 minutes, it was ready to go in the grill.

My son went out to put on the steaks but had to come in to get a grill glove. This has not been necessary before with a 22.5 Weber kettle. So, the charcoal was cleary burning hot even with the lid on. Fortunately I had offset the charcoal, so the steaks did not burn. They were, however, more done than we like due to the really high heat.

The night before last I decided to grill a pork loin and decided I'd better do the grilling duties, since the guys have not done a loin over charcoal. I ran into the same problem with the charcoal burning down right in the chimney starter and had to add more once I put the briquettes in the Weber. These caught right up and were burning hot as blazes which you don't want with a whole pork loin.

When I went out to check the grill and charcoal, I touched the lid handle and burned my hand. Geez. I forgot about my son mentioning that now being an issue. After I got the grill glove and looked into the grill, it was all singed (including the side handles) and had white ash particles all over. The charcoal was almost gone again. Added a little more. Very annoying.

The Weber kettle is usually easy to use for a slower smoke on a pork loin, but it was very labor intensive trying to damp down the heat with the the new Kingsford charcoal. To make matters even worse, the charcoals were so hot that they slightly warped the Weber kettle lid. Now it does not close up tight. This is an 8 year old grill, and I've never had problems with a Weber. This is a case of the charcoal burning insanely hot. So, they are right that it burns hotter, but they are dead wrong that it burns longer. The new Kingsford charcaol is gone in a heartbeat, meaning you have to try to add charcoal to a terribly hot grill. No fun.

The heat and fast burn are issues certainly, but the biggest beef I have about the new Kingsford charcoal with is billed as the Original is that they wrecked the flavor. Food tastes like it has been grilled over natural lump or maybe hardwood or pellets. It just has a little smoke flavor and not a charcoal flavor. This is not the flavor I grew up with and loved. If I wanted wood smoked, then I'd just buy natural lump or get some wood off the woodpile. I buy Kingsford charcoal (or I did), because it did taste different, and I happen to like that distinct charcoal taste.

I sure hope Kingsford puts the real deal back on the market. The new Kingsford charcoal burns way too hot and fast. It made my grill lid handle hot enough to burn my hand and warped my Weber grill lid. And, the steaks and pork loin just weren't all that with ash on them and semi-wood smoke flavor (but not quite that). All in all, the new Kingsford is a bust. I'll just pick up a store brand or something, unless Kingsford brings back real charcoal.


H. Mikael said...

I thought it was just me, but this last weekend when I used the new charcoal, I nearly burned my hand because my grill lid handle was so hot! I've never had to use gloves to remove the lid before. As for how long the briquettes lasted -- I did not notice any difference.

Unknown said...

Cyndi - I've been a huge Kingsford fan for most of my life. I have to respectfully disagree with your opinion of the "new" (although it's not really new anymore) Kingsford formulation. I posted an in-depth, although quasi-scientific side-by-side review of the old and new formulations on my blog and I don't see the huge differences that you described.

Perhaps you got a bad bag, I don't know. I do know that Kingsford is the best-selling and the winning-est charcoal in the world, and for good reason.

Just my thoughts,

CA said...

Hi John - I do know that Kingsford charcoal changed over to the smaller size and the ridges in 2006. I wan't real keen on that. I did adjust. But, this new Kingsford charcoal is just way too hot and lacks flavor. As you say though, it could be the batch. I might buy more, but I do hesitate.

I'm a Kingsford girl. That is what my Dad used. I've used it all these years too. So, it never crossed my mind that I'd have a charcoal fail. I've stood firm on Kingsford even with the natural lump being the "hot" charcoal on the block.

It really is a shame that my Weber lid does not fit right now. That is a high dollar charcoal mishap. So, I'm not sure what I'll do in terms of charcoal. I guess I can play around, since the grill is already warped now.

Anonymous said...

Wholeheartedly and sadly agree with much I'm reading here. I've been using these coals nearly 30 years, always had rave reviews for them, made fun (and often was the envy) of my gas grilling buddies, they always came back for that good taste. Unfortunately Kingsford charcoal briquettes have changed not for the better. The narrower ridged briquettes get hot real fast, become brittle too soon, die quickly (used to be able to cook multiple times with the same coals or only with minor reinforcement), and break or fall through the grate rendering them useless. And what is this layer of crap forming up and around all the vent holes on the lid now? It's impossible to put up with this anymore because the flavor of the meat is now suffering, and that's just unforgivable. Defeats the whole purpose of grilling a tasty meal outside in the first place. Time for a change. I'm looking hard at my other(non-gas grilling) options, something I never thought I'd do.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one! I had been using Kingsford since I was a kid (at least 30 years)! I hope they offer a "Kigsforf Classic" as Coke did for us that prefer the old formula.

If you have a Kroger in your area, try the Kroger brand charcoal. It's not exactly like Kingdsford was, but it's pretty close. The first time I tried the Kroger brand, it was Ahhh, there's that taste! ;)

Deborah said...

Thanking the poster who suggested Kroger charcoal. We have used Kingsford solely for decades, grill year round more often than I run the stove, but charred, tasteless food is not why we do it.

Anonymous said...

I too have had the same problems on my last two smoking outings. Super hot real quick then a complete die off and nothing but ash in like an hour to a hour and a half. I was thinking it had to be the charcoal but could not say for sure.

Lasivian said...

I love the new hotter charcoal, and i'll explain why.

#1 Cook to temp, not to time. Use a probe thermometer and use the following temps:

Poultry 165f
Pork (Not ground) 150f
Ground Beef 155f
Ground Pork 160f
Ground Turkey 170f
Beef steak (any temp you want, my GF likes 110f, I like 130f)

If you're not doing this already try it, you will probably like the results quite a bit.

#2 An extremely hot fire is not a bad thing. I learned to grill over campfires in Arizona using ironwood coals, it was much like cooking on a forge. But you would not believe the difference a very hot bed of coals makes compared to a "warm" bed of coals. On top of that I use an electric bellows to blow to coals before I put on a steak. (I have actually melted a probe thermometer doing this, you can easily reach 700f) Which leads me to #3.

#3 Treat your grill as a consumable. I use a Smokey Joe from Weber and it lasts me maybe 2 years. I use a Weber chimney full of charcoal for one grilling and it comes up to almost 1" below the grill surface. This makes for an incredibly hot fire. The steaks go on first and are done in maybe 2-3 minutes. Then I put on something that takes longer like pork or chicken and leave it to "slow cook" over the cooler remaining coals.

#4 Use REAL charcoal. Not the little bricks formed out of sawdust I mean the real chunks of wood that you have to break apart. The flavor is well worth it, and it holds it's heat much better in the chimney.

Try it, I have a feeling you'll like the results :)

Richard N. said...

We've always used Kingsford because we thought it was quality but have been frustrated with how it burns out so quick. There's no way you can do two batches on the grill anymore--you're lucky to get the first one cooked. We will probably switch to a gas grill--not as much flavor, but at least it will be dependable.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the author of this article. It burns way to hot and it is gone in a second. Then when I try to use my smoker, I use a whole bag with the wood to smoke a piece of meat for 6 - 8 hours and I used to be able to use a small amount with the wood we used to smoke. My wife and I came up with the conclusion Kingsford is using this so called new "Formula" as way to cut cost and increase revenue. The charcoal is very light, meaning it isn't compressed as tight, this allows for more "air" in the same sized brick. With more air and less charcoal, you will burn hotter and faster. Simple physics.

Does anyone have a suggestion of a good long lasting charcoal?

Tom said...

I was away from grilling/BBQing because I lived in a condo for a few years. Now that I'm back in a house I've also noticed that Kingsford burned too hot and fast compared to what I remembered. After much frustration, I finally did a quick Google search and came on this site. Kingsford is not the same charcoal I used for 30 years prior to their change and came to love. I am looking for alternatives now.

usswl said...

I am working with Kroger briquettes here and man they burn out real quick. Used the chimney. One they were lit I spread them and covered the grill to heat the grates about 10 minutes. Threw some brats and burgers on. 10 minutes later the burgers are still mushy.

Not impressed.

Al Gozinya said...

I don't generally use briquettes, but figured for 40 lbs. @ 12 bucks n' change, I'd give it a go.
Like the author, when I checked my chimney after ignition, most of the fuel was spent.
I now place the amount I'm going to need, (used about 18 briquets to grill low and slow, two split chicken breasts) and dump them once they are about half ashed. Then I arrange them with tongs, flat and near each other. As the ash begins to encase the top of the briquettes, I begin cooking.
I find that keeping the cover down, or slightly ajar with the vents open half to full, keeps the briquettes heat under better control. If you don't have a cover, try using less fuel and spacing the briquettes a bit if you're burning your food.

Anonymous said...

Just paid $12 for a 20 lb bag which now weighs 16.6 lbs. ?WTF? Our 10 under, 16 over on my 12" Dutch oven as always, filled it with a chicken, spuds, onions on the bottom as standoffs, and carrots. Usually this cooks in 90 minutes. Gave it 15 extra. Came out severely undercooked. The charcoal burned out and the pot got cold. This is crap. ? Is kingsford charcoal now made in China? Does anybody know?
I paid 20% more for 20% less that was crap. After 30 years with this charcoal, consider this a Divorce...

Frank Court said...

Way way too hot. Burned my hand trying to turn the brats I was grilling. I had to back off the brats and put them on the top rack away from the coals because they were cooking (read "burning") too fast. That's the end of my buying Kingsford until they go back to the old type of charcoal they were selling. I use the super market specials now (anything other than Kingsford) and once again I'm getting satisfying results. Good to see this website. Confirms what I thought when the meat started to burn with Kingsroad. What a shame.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree. We've used Kingsford charcoal forever. We no longer use it. We can't even get burgers cooked before the coals go cold. They definitely lost this customer when they changed their charcoal.

Anonymous said...

The new charcoal definitely burns hotter and faster. These things you can compensate for. Its surprising to me the biggest difference using these coals. THE FLAVOR!!!! Big difference. My wife and I operated a bar / restaurant for 20 years and we are sensitive to this sort of thing. Very disappointing. Does any thinking person believe they changed to product to make it better??? C'mon people! They changed the product to make it more cost effective to produce. The cooked food just isn't the same. Very disappointing!

KG said...

I have to agree with you. I've been cooking Dutch oven style with Kingsford original briquettes for 27 years, and wrote two cookbooks. The new formula Kingsford/Clorox company uses is terrible! It throws all our cooking times way off. The old briquettes used to provide a consistent heat for around 90 minutes; the new briquettes only last about 45 minutes if that. I written to Benno Dorer, the CEO of the Clorox company who owns Kingsford and he just blew me off. Their customer service department sent me a reply that was basically a form letter with a promo about how great their briquettes are and enclosed a coupon to buy more. The imprinted "K" and the two grooves are designed to reduce product and mass--NOT air flow. With the old round design, they had all the air flow they needed, so their claim for why they put those mass-reduction imprints is a bald-faced lie. The product is worse, period. I've been trying other brands and they all have their own problems. Royal Oak was the worst. So I took my charcoal barbecues that I use for my Dutch ovens, placed a Camp Chef stove underneath with the ash cup removed, put a pizza pan inside for a baffle to create convection, and it works perfect. For camps, I took a Weber 22" kettle barbecue, cut out a circle in the bottom, and used the leg sockets to fit grooves on the Camp Chef stove and it works perfect using propane. Since the Clorox Company is money-driven, and NOT mission-driven, doesn't listen to their customers (I told the CEO that), they've done me a favor. Bye-bye Kingsford, they've lost a loyal customer. If they wake up and fix the problem, I'll buy them again. Until then, propane is the order of the day.