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The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke


More on Duraflame Charcoal

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This is a follow up to my blog entry on DuraFlame charcoal that I wrote back in July: NEW CHARCOAL ON THE BLOCK. Some more hands on time with the Duraflame has given me new insights into it’s performance.
I’d switched to DuraFlame rather than try the New Kingsford, which was getting very bad reviews on the various BBQ message boards.  Back in July when I compared DuraFlame with the old  Kingsford, I noted that DuraFlame seemed to burn hotter, last longer and produce less ash. On the downside: I mentioned it seemed to be a little fussier to control and made more embers.
DuraFlame definitely produces less ash. While I didn’t do a scientific test to measure the ash, I would estimate DuraFlame produced about 1/3 less ash. It seems to light faster in my charcoal chimney too. The DuraFlame heated up 3 or 4 minutes faster than Kingsford, taking 12 minutes to ash over vs. 15 minutes for Kingsford. When making smoked meat loaf you cook it at 300 (150 C) not 225 (110 C). Using Kingsford in the Side Fire Box, I have had difficulty getting the main chamber of my smoker up to 300 degrees (150 C). Using Duraflame I was easily able to hit 300 degrees (and higher) very quickly. The only downside here is DuraFlame creates a LARGE amount of embers when you dump it out of the charcoal chimney. So be careful that the area around your grill is kept free of combustibles: leaves, pine needles etc.
DuraFlame also burns longer and is actually quite stable. In my first blog entry I mentioned I had a bit of trouble controlling the DuraFlame. This charcoal reminds me more of lump: it reacts quicker to changes in venting. Once I got used to that, it was easy to control. The one thing you don’t want to do is let the DuraFlame get too hot. It is very difficult to get the temps back down if they have overshot. You lift the lid to bleed of the heat and it quickly bounces back when you close the lid. Of course there is also a plus to this too. If you are lifting the lid to mop or turn your meat a quick recovery to your base temp is a good thing.
One thing that is very different about the DuraFlame vs. Kingsford is the way it holds temperature right up to the end. With Kingsford you get a slow falloff at the end and you have about 30 minutes to get ready to do a charcoal swap. Using the DuraFlame I was surprised to open the SFB and see I was left with a dozen or so small coals, but yet my temperatures were still steady. So get in the habit of checking the condition of the charcoal regularly when you are getting near the time to swap. You want to makes sure to leave yourself with enough lit coals to ignite the fresh coals.
Now for burn times: Depending on what I was cooking and how many times I’ve had to open the lid to mop or turn the meat, I’ve gotten up to 7 hours on a load of the old Kingsford, with 5-6 hours being typical. With DuraFlame the norm seems to be 6-7 hours and I had one extended run of 9 hours. One of the things this has done for me is allow me to skip a full fledged charcoal swap on 10 hour brisket cooks. I’ve simply poured on some fresh coals to finish the cook, rather than use fresh baskets.
So to sum up: I REALLY like this charcoal. You must be careful with the embers when dumping out your chimney and you must watch your temps when you approach 225 (110 C), but other than that the negatives are minor and the positives are great!! DuraFlame lights faster, burns hotter and longer and creates less ash. There is one big downside for me here in Massachusetts: No one seems to carry it. You can find DuraFlame fireplace logs everywhere, but the charcoal is found in very few locations. I found some in a Market Basket supermarket this summer but by mid August it was gone. This charcoal is good enough that I’m going to look into getting a pallet. In the meantime, I’ve had to get some of the New Kingsford to hold me until I can stock up on more DuraFlame. I have a feeling the New Kingsford will be  a future blog entry.  If you haven’t tried DuraFlame Charcoal yet, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot. I think you’ll like it a lot.
  NEW CHARCOAL ON THE BLOCK: 1st Blog Entry on DuraFlame

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