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Wicked Good Charcoal

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Wicked Good Charcoal is both the name of the charcoal I am going to talk about, and it describes my feelings about the product after a short time using it. For those of you not from this neck of the East Coast “Wicked” is slang which translates to “Very, very..” . This indeed is is very, very good charcoal and truth be told is probably the best charcoal I’ve ever used. But let’s get to the specifics, because while it IS wicked good, it IS NOT totally perfect.

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The briquettes come in an 11 pound bag which is made of several layers of regular paper which should be greener than the bags on glossy stock. A downside to the bag is I can’t use the tear string to open it - a knife or scissors a required.


I first found out about this charcoal back in January. I could no longer find my go to charcoal: Duraflame All Natural Hardwood Briquettes around here, even in the summer. I‘d run through my last batch of Duraflame and was having trouble getting even blue bag Kingsford. One day I was at a Home Depot to get a part for my snowblower and I saw they had charcoal. In addition to the blue bag Kingsford, they had Kingsford in a red bag which I’d never seen before. It was Kingsford’s version of an all-natural hardwood briquette. I’ve already written about my experiences with that product, and I will provide links to those blogs at the end of this entry. I started doing some online research and I found a 3-way review of this product on the Naked Wiz website. If you haven’t heard of Naked Wiz before, it’s a website that reviews principally lump charcoals with a slant towards using them in ceramic cookers like Big Green Eggs. They compared blue and red bag Kingsford plus to my great surprise and delight: Wicked Good All Natural Hardwood Briquettes. Wicked Good Lump is very highly thought after in these parts and is easy to get. Sadly I don’t use lump and I’d not yet seen the briquettes. The test results were very interesting: while the red bag Kingsford was easy to light, got going faster and ultimately reached a higher temperature, the Wicked Good burned much longer and steadier and made far less ash. Nearly 50 percent less ash. The other thing that bothers many people about the red bag Kingsford is they use borax in it to help the briquettes release from the mold. I am guessing those “sure fire” grooves which give the briquette more surface area, also help it cling to the molds better too. Even more interesting was the price, the Wicked Good was 2/3 the price of the red bag Kingsford.

I’d gotten in a good sized supply of the red bag Kingsford and started looking around for the Wicked Good briquettes. I was running low on Kingsford and I hadn’t found WG yet, so I was considering driving out to their distribution facility to buy a 60 bag palette. I really wasn’t keen on having to unload and store 60 bags in my basement, but if that is what it took to get a decent supply of really good charcoal, so be it. Then a wonderful thing happened. A new high end, high quality butcher shop called the Meat House opened in our town. When I went in on a kick the tires visit, I was stunned to see Wicked Good briquettes right next to the Wicked Good lump. I was almost as happy for that as I was about the availability of prime grade meat which was why I was there to begin with. I grabbed several bags and have done two cooks using the WG briquettes. Below is what I‘ve noted so far:

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The coals are fairly traditional in shape and don’t have the grooves in them like Kingsford. They also seem to have less broken coals which I think is also due to the less complex shape.


I wished I’d paid a little more attention to the part in the review where they showed how hard or easy the charcoal was to light. WG took the most single sheets of newspaper at 4.5 to light. I always use 4. The first time I tried lighting this it took three tries. I actually left and didn’t come back for 15 minutes the first time, and I fully expected to see a roaring fire. The second time I came back in 5 and things were dead again. The third time I stayed and it looked again like things had gone out after the newspaper burned out. But I peered inside and saw one coal with a lit corner way down in the bottom of the chimney. This did catch on and 15 minutes later I had a roaring fire going in the chimney. I wasn’t sure if this was due to the WG briquettes being hard to light or that it was damp and humid and my newspaper might be damp. The next time I used the WG, it took two tries. This time I was smart and stayed right there. This second day was warm, dry & I had new newspaper that I knew was dry. So next time I will use 5 sheets of newspaper to see if that doesn’t do the trick. Once lit the charcoal doesn’t make as many fiery floating embers when you dump it into the side firebox as some brands I’ve used, but more than some others. You do want to make sure the ground is free of flammables when you dump the lit coals into the side fire box.

A single 11 pound (5 Kg) bag of Wicked Good is enough to fill my Weber charcoal chimney 3/4 full (the way I like) and also fill the side firebox with no left over coals. These bags are smaller than Duraflame and Kingsford red bag sizes, but this makes it easier to handle too. The coals themselves were in very good shape, unlike the red bag Kingsford which seems to have lots of pieces that are chipped. Once again probably a function of the grooves. Once the coals were added, it took about 30 minutes to rise to 225 (105 C) and another 15 to get it up to the 275 (135 C) I was using for my beef ribs. These coals seemed very stable. I really didn’t have to tweak the two vents once it had settled in at the cooking temperature. Like many other natural charcoals I’ve used I sense that you don’t want to let these run high or it will take a lot of effort to get the temps back down. The two cooks I did were relatively short at 3 hours plus the 45 minute initial rise to 275 (135 C). I kept checking the coals when I mopped the ribs and they seemed to be burning in a steady progression. It seemed like the same relative amount of coals were always lit. There was far less ash produced and I never did have to shake the charcoal baskets to knock any ash buildup off while I was cooking.

The second time I used this charcoal I hadn’t disconnected the smoker thermometer when I brought the food in. When my guests left, it was a full three hours later and the grill was still reading 228 (109 C) with my having done nothing to it for the last 3 hours. This was a total burn time of around 7 hours over half of it at 275 (135 C). When I looked inside the SFB I was surprised to see about a dozen little coals that had shrunken down to the size of marbles were what was doing this. As I experienced with Duraflame natural briquettes, this longevity was both a good and a bad thing. The coals burn long and steady which is good, but they don’t give you advanced warning of their imminent demise. When I used to use blue bag Kingsford the temps would start dropping about an hour before you actually needed to add more coals. With the Duraflame and it seems to an even greater extent, the Wicked Good, you get no warning. If you wait till the temps start dropping there aren’t enough coals left to get the new ones started. That is if there is anything left to use at all. Often these shrunken coals turn to dust if you disturb them. The last plus with WG was the amount of ash. Put quite simply these coals produce less ash by a considerable margin than any charcoal I’ve used. It was about half the ash of red bag Kingsford which is what the Naked Wiz charcoal test had shown too.

So after a couple runs with Wicked Good 100% Natural Hardwood Briquettes I’m very happy. This may be the best charcoal I’ve used yet. Here are my Likes and Dislikes:

LIKES:

  • Decent Quality Packaging and the Coals Seem to be Pretty Much Intact.
  • Burns Hotter - I had no trouble driving it up to 275 (135 C)
  • Burns Longer
  • Seems to be Very Stable Once You Reach the Desired Temperature (Also a Minus - See Dislikes)
  • The Least Ash of ANY Charcoal I’ve used
  • Use Less Coals

DISLIKES:

  • Hard to Light Even in Charcoal Chimney - Hopefully One More Sheet of Newspaper Will Help
  • Until Recently Has Been Impossible to Find, at Least Here in Eastern Massachusetts
  • Bags Harder to Rip Open With Your Bare Hands
  • Somewhat more embers produced
  • The Coals Burn so Long and Steady (Also a Plus) You Don’t get a Warning the Coals are Almost Gone. If you Wait for the Temps to Drop There May Not be Enough Left of the Coals to Ignite Fresh Coals.
  • I Haven’t had the Problem Yet, But the Stability May be a Double Edged Sword. I Have a Feeling These Coals Will be Hard to Drive Back Down if You Let Them Run Too Hot. Better to Undershoot, than Overshoot.

Definitely try some Wicked Good 100% Hardwood Briquettes out. I think you’ll like them as much as I do!!! At some point, after I have some more hands on time with this charcoal, I will probably write a follow up blog.

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SOME RELATED LINKS
Here are links for some of my blogs related to what was discussed here, plus an external link for the 3-way charcoal review on the Naked Wiz web site..

  KINGSFORD COMPETITION BRIQUETTES Blog Entry
  KINGSFORD COMPETITION BRIQUETTES - SECOND THOUGHTS Blog Entry
  YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE Charcoal Chimney Blog Entry
  3-WAY CHARCOAL BRIQUETTE REVIEW Review on Internet


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