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Havanero VS Jalapeno Peppers

Habanero Vs. Jalapeno

Here we have two of the most popular chilies on the planet. But how similar are they really? How much of a difference between the two is there in overall spiciness? Do they taste different? Are they easily findable in grocery stores?

Let’s breakdown some of the similarities and differences.  When you’re ready to learn more about these top chilies, be sure to read our full articles on them: the habanero pepper and the jalapeno pepper.

Habanero vs. Jalapeno

Habanero peppers

jalapeño pepper

How Hot?

This is really a no contest between these two peppers. The habanero chili makes the jalapeno look like an ice cube.  What’s the difference?

Jalapenos range from 2,500 to 8,000 on the Scoville heat scale. That puts them in the lower rung of medium-hot peppers.  Habaneros range from 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville heat units, placing them squarely in the upper reaches of the Scoville scale, right below the super-hot peppers.

Let’s put this another way – the hottest habanero would be 140 times hotter than the mildest jalapeno. That’s the range of the heat difference, and it’s a big one. It may come as a surprise to some since many people think of jalapenos being a lot hotter than they really are.

Taste?

Beyond the heat, there is a definite taste difference. Habaneros have a slightly sweet hot to them. It’s one of the reasons this chili works so well in hot sauces, especially hot sauces that contain sweet ingredients like tropical fruits. Jalapeno peppers taste crisper, much closer to a green bell pepper in overall taste. Then there are dried and roasted jalapenos (otherwise known as Chipotle) which take on an earthy taste perfect for barbecue and marinades.

Are they available fresh?

The jalapeno pepper is arguably the most popular hot pepper around. Most grocery stores carry them, and you see them in more places than your local market these days too. More and more sandwich shops are carrying jalapeños next to the mild banana peppers as an option to spice up a sandwich. And spicy drinks, like the jalapeno margarita, are popping up in more restaurants. This is a level of spiciness that’s become mainstream. The habanero is popular too, but it comes nowhere near the overall availability of the jalapeno. Some upper-end grocery stores may carry fresh habanero peppers, but not very often.  You need to have a serious taste for spicy to really jump to the habanero, so there’s not a big enough audience yet for most grocers to carry, let alone the concerns from unhappy customers unaware of how hot this pepper really is.

How many products use these peppers?

Here’s where habanero peppers do get competitive with jalapenos in stores. For both habanero and jalapeno peppers, there’s a wide world of products surrounding them. There’s chili powders, hot sauces, salsas…you name it. Jalapeno chilies are the power behind the famous Sirach hot sauce and many more, and habaneros are quickly becoming the ingredient of choice for some of the hottest hot sauces you’ll find on store shelves. If you’re shopping online, the variety difference is really negligible here. There’s a ton of products for both chilies.

Conclusion

There are definite differences between these two chilies, the heat being the biggest one. For that, and the taste difference, substituting a habanero for a jalapeno (or vice versa) is not typical. They don’t work interchangeably like a jalapeno and serrano pepper do (or a habanero and a Scotch bonnet).

Still, we are talking about two of the most popular chilies around, so if your taste buds can handle habanero heat, find a place for both in your kitchen. They are two different worlds of spicy, but both deliver on their hype.

I personally use and prefer the jalapenos to the habanero due to the severe heat of the latter.  I am not a fan of such hot items that I cannot enjoy the taste, I put a little ice in my coffee every day just to cool it off enough to drink.

I do have a really great recipe for Smoked Jalapenos, check it here.

What are your thoughts on using peppers in cooking?  Any good recipes I can check out and perhaps post on my site?  Please let me know your thoughts.  Thanks

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Why and How to Buy Cast Iron Cookware

WHY AND HOW TO BUY CAST IRON

You may already have a set of cast iron cookware, or you may be asking yourself, why should I invest in a cast iron pan?  For the matter, why invest in a cast iron pan cookbook?

The unique properties of cast iron make it ideal for baking, sauteing, frying, slow cooking, and more.  A well-made pan is virtually indestructible and when properly seasoned is nonstick.  Iron is almost endlessly recyclable, so not only will it last you a lifetime, but you can feel good knowing it never has to end up in a landfill.  A good pan will also add trace amounts of iron, a necessary nutrient, to your diet.

Cast iron heats slowly and holds that heat.  It’s a bit of a myth that it holds heat evenly, though.  The pan will always be hotter directly over the burner.  ( You can sprinkle some flour in your pan and place it on a burner to see.  The flour will darken first where the pan gets hottest.)  To remedy this, consider purchasing a heat diffuser.

Recipes that are designed for cast iron take into account slower heating time and longer hear retention.  Where glass will keep your baked goods light, cast iron is the choice for when you want a screaming hot pan for searing or a terrific golden crust.

The pans work on gas and electric stoves.  They can go in the oven and can be used on induction burners and direct heat; outdoors, too, on a grill, hearth, or open fire.  Many recipes in this site include directions for outdoor cooking.

At the most basic level, a cast iron pan is just that, a pan make of iron that was cast in sand-blast molds, then polished.  The tools have been slightly upgraded, but the manufacturing technique is the same as it has been for hundreds of years.

When buying cast iron, you will notice that there’s only one major manufacturer left in America today, Lodge.  However, there are several very popular vintage brands you can buy online or find at garage sales or thrift shops.  Happily, there are also at least two very small craftsmen making pans to order.  Finex in Portland, Oregon, and Borough Furnace in Syracuse, New York.  They are worth seeking out.

Whether you decide to buy a brand new pan or go with something vintage, think about what shapes and sizes you need.  Always remember the weight of a pan when purchasing.  It is too heavy to pick up, you aren’t going to use it.  Find a smaller size that will be used.

Check out our Recommended Products page to see all the cast iron we have used and recommend.

What are your thoughts on cast iron?  Please leave us a comment.

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Types of Cast Iron Cookware

TYPES OF CAST IRON COOKWARE

Cast iron cookware comes in many types, shapes and sizes.  Here I show you some of the most common, and a few uncommon options in cast iron cookware.

Skillet.  Also known as a frying pan, a skillet has a handle, a wide cooking surface, and low sides.  It’s ideal for sautéing.  Searing, pan frying, broiling and some baking.

 

 

 

Grill Pan.  This is a skillet with raised ridges inside the pan that add the look of grill marks to cooked food.  The benefit to a grill pan is that whatever you put in it isn’t going to cook in its own fat or moisture.  The drawback is that this pan will need to be re-seasoned more often than a flat bottom pan, since sauces and fats pool in the grooves, requiring additional cleaning that often takes off the seasoning.

Dutch Oven.  A large, deep pot with a tight fitting lid, a Dutch oven is sometimes called a cocotte or casserole dish.  It can be round, oval, or heart-shaped, and some are made with legs for outdoor use.  Dutch oven sizes are typically measured in quarts.  Dutch ovens come in original cast iron and enameled cast iron.  You can cook acidic foods and boil water in enameled cast iron, which are not recommended in seasoned cast iron.

Inside use                                                                                                                              Outside use


Stovetop Accessories.  Many stores offer the option of a cast iron grill or griddle, custom build to fit over an oval-shaped burner in the center of the stove top.  These, too need to be seasoned and treated the same as any other piece of cast iron cookware.

Griddle.  This is a rectangular flat surface, with grilling ridges on one side.  It is designed to rest over two or more burners and is perfect for making multiple pancakes or fried eggs.  The grill side is ideal for steaks, burgers and whole vegetables.

Outdoor Pots.  All well-seasoned cast iron can be used outdoors, but some pots are designed specifically for grills, hearths, and campfires.  They come in sized up to 40 gallons and typically have legs or a handle for hanging.  Enameled cast iron should be avoided.

Specialty Pans.  There are a few novelty cast iron pans on the market.  The classics are the aebleskiver pan(for creating the round, Danish popover-style doughnut) and the corn stick mold, but you can also find pans divided into wedges for cornbread, or in the shape of a cactus, and there’s one Midwestern artist making pans in the shape of all 50 states.

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What is a Dutch Oven?

What is a Dutch Oven?    

Recommended Dutch Ovens

This is a great tool to add to your cooking tool shed.  The best thing to have for campfire cooking is an old-fashioned Dutch Oven.  This heavy cast iron, lipped lid, three-legged pan has some interesting history.

History

In 1704, an Englishman by the name of Andrew Darby, taking what he learned by observing the Dutch system of making these cooking vessels, patented a process similar to them and produced cast-metal cooking vessels for Britain and the new American colonies. The term “Dutch Oven” has been used since about 1710.  American’s changed the design over time, including making a shallower pot, putting legs on it, flanging the lid, something that has been credited to famous colonist Paul Revere.

General Information

You can use a Dutch oven on a wood stove or open fire cooking. Dutch Ovens come in all shapes and sizes but the most usable size is a 12-inch diameter with legs, a bale handle on the body of the pan, a small loop handle on the lid, and a lipped lid — the heavier the better.  Twelve inches may seem like a large pan, but not so large that a meal for four would be lost and versatile enough for a crowd of 8-10.

A heavy pan will retain heat for longer periods and cook your food more evenly than a thinner pan. Any pan you use on the open fire needs to have a bale handle, as you will need to be able to slide a stick or pot lifter under the handle to move it.

Flat bottom pans are not so popular, they will not allow heat from a fire to evenly absorb into the iron to provide even cooking and prevents from getting hot coals under it.  A pan with 3 legs allows for hot coals to be pushed up under the pan and is actually more stable than one with 4 legs.

A lipped lid that runs around the outer edge will make your job of regulating the temperature easier, as well as keeping the hot coals in place.  Most lids are somewhat dome-shaped and can be turned upside down to use as a griddle or frying pan when needed.

Seasoning

A new cast Dutch over requires season.  It is necessary to season it well in order to make it as non-stick as possible and prolong its life.  Some ovens that are well taken care of will last for generations. Wash the new pan with soap and warm water very well as there is usually a lacquer on them that will burn onto the food the first time it’s used. Old, rusty ovens can be scrubbed with steel wool and washed with soap and water, too, but be sure to clean any residue of steel shavings from the steel wool out of the oven.

Cleaning

Dry the pan well and use a clean towel or paper towel to rub a thin layer of shortening or other vegetable oil all over the unit.  You may want to oil the outside of the pan also, purely for appearances. Do not use animal fat or lard as it can become rancid very quickly.

After rubbing the oil into the pan, place the pan in a warm oven at 250 F, or over warm coals for 2 hours, replacing the coals often to maintain the temperature.  Cool the oven and repeat the oiling, heating and cooling process 2 more times.

To clean your oven after the oiling and baking process, wash with a mild soap, rinsing and drying thoroughly after each use.  Each time you wash your oven dry it completely in a low oven or on warm coals. Then oil it lightly and bake in the oven or over coals again. This process, known as “curing” will ensure that your pan maintains its non-stick surface and keeps your oven lasting for a lifetime.  To assist with the cleaning process, we recommend a metal chain net cleaning device.

 

 

Cooking Methods When Using a Dutch Oven

There are four different methods of cooking with a Dutch oven over a campfire – each achieved by altering the source of heat.

Roasting – In roasting, the heat from the coals should come from the top and bottom evenly. Place coals on top, as well as pulling the coals up under the pan to create an even heat. Place the same amount of coals on top as under the pan.  Roasting is best achieved at high temperatures and short cooking times. This will seal in the juices.

Frying and Boiling – When frying and boiling, all the heat should come from underneath the pan. The temperature should be high and kept even during the cooking processes.

Baking – Baking requires cooking mostly from the top. Place coals on the lid and underneath the pan at a three to one ratio, with most of the coals on the lid.  You will want to watch baking foods very carefully.

Simmering and Stewing – Most of the heat should be from the bottom of the pan. The coals should be placed on the lid and underneath the pan in a four to one ratio, with the bulk of the coals underneath the oven. Regulate the heat in stewing and simmering by moving hot coals underneath the pan.

Remember not to rush the cooking process.  Allow adequate time for the oven to heat up before adding the food, and keep the coals manipulated to maintain the temperature.

Number of Coals to Use to Achieve the Desired Temperature

Coals must be used on both the top and the bottom of the Dutch Oven. Use only quality charcoal briquettes for consistent temperature control. The chart below shows you how many coals to use for a desired temperature.

Note: Adding one coal to the top and bottom will raise the temperature of the Dutch oven approximately 25 degrees. Or conversely removing one set of briquettes will lower the temperature by 25 degrees.

 

Temperature 10″ Oven 12″ Oven 14″ Oven
Degrees F Top Bottom Top Bottom Top Bottom
300 12 5 14 7 15 9
325 13 6 15 7 17 9
350 14 6 16 8 18 10
375 15 6 17 9 19 11

 

Best place to purchase the 8 Qt Dutch Oven

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Cast Iron Skillet Cooking

How to cook on a cast iron skillet.  Cast iron skillet cooking.  Cooking with cast iron cookware.

Cast iron is one of the most popular materials for cooking food, and many restaurants use cast iron skillets to cook delicious, juicy steaks. Cast iron heats up quickly, releases foods easily, and maximizes flavor by perfectly browning its contents. Unlike many other fry pans, cast iron can also be safely transferred from stovetop to oven. Additionally, when properly seasoned, cast iron is relatively nonstick, 100% chemical-free, and will not damage foods as you cook them. Cast iron can also be used with electric, gas, or induction heat and is very easy to clean. With all of these things in mind, it is easy to see why a cast iron skillet is the perfect tool for cooking a high-quality steak.

Tired of overcooking steaks on the stovetop? If you’re using a regular ol’ pan the whole time, you’ll likely end up with a tasteless black crust by the time the middle reaches the right temperature. Oftentimes, the interior will end up overcooked. Not anymore!

Using this sear and bake technique with high heat and a cast-iron skillet, you’ll end up with a flavorful crust and juicy interior every time.

I’ve been cooking my steaks this way for the past several years and love it. As long as you follow the easy steps and set a timer, it’s pretty much foolproof!

What are your thoughts on using cast iron?  Do you have any good stories or recipes we could use on our site?  Please comment below.

Cast Iron Skillets         Cast Iron Skillet Cleaner

 

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Top Ten Toys of Technology

These are just some great toys we play with here at Burnt Offerings BBQ while waiting for our meat to reach its perfection.

Most of us who spend time in the great outdoors, make use of many forms of technology, in our day to day activities.  As we venture further into the wilderness, technology makes our lives safer and more enjoyable.  The scope and breadth of equipment we carry become more and more specific to the activity we are involved in.  Many sports and disciplines have equipment that is activity-specific, but many items can and are used in multiple sports.  All this new gadgetry will make your life easier, but always be prepared for the glitches that can occur with these expensive new “toys”.

1)   Binoculars  

Modern-day binoculars have come a long way from their early beginnings.  Today’s binoculars are lighter, have more features, and have a greater range of purpose, function, and magnification.  Magnification can range from 8x to 20x and have wider fields of view (fov), ED glass, and fog proof and waterproof characteristics.  They can also be obtained for birding, hunting, and marine environments.  Binoculars in the 8x to 10x range are the most useful for quick target acquisition.


2)   Cameras

Cameras have become as common as wristwatches and cellular phones.  In fact, all modern cell phones have their own cameras.  Cameras let you capture special moments.  Modern day cameras come in a simple point and shoot function and more professional slr’s.  Camcorders and Go- Pro helmet – type cameras are also very popular and quite capable of capturing memories to impress our friends and family.

3)   GPS units

Global Positioning is a space-based navigation system that provides location and time information anywhere on Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to 4 or more GPS satellites.  GPS units provide navigation, barometer readings, elevation readings, store your routes and maps and have many other features and functions.

4)   Spotting Scopes

If you are a birder or a hunter, the spotting scope or fieldscope is an essential piece of glass tech that you will have to become familiar with.  There are two types of spotting scopes; the straight body and the angled body.  Magnification is almost always higher than that of binoculars and because of this, a stable platform is required.  This is provided by the tripod.

5)   Lightweight Stoves

Lightweight stoves are most often carried by backpackers and hikers who venture further into the wilderness and are more concerned with excessive weight.  These stoves burn liquid fuels, in the form of white gas, gasoline, diesel, kerosene, etc… or pressurized fuels such as isobutane,  butane, and propane.  Liquid fuel stoves can weigh in the 400-gram range while pressurized fuel stoves can weigh in the 70 to 80-gram range.  250 grams of pressurized fuel can have a burning time of 1 .5 hours.  However, these burning times vary with elevation above sea level.

6)   Satellite Phones

Satellite phones are simply telephones with more range.  On a recent deep-wilderness adventure my partner was unable to make contact with his satellite phone, but by pairing an In-Reach to a regular cell phone we were able to send and receive messages.  Murphy’s Law will sometimes follow you into the wilderness to make your day more interesting.  No matter which type of technology you bring into the outdoors it will sometimes refuse to work.  Hence, the need to bring a few expletives with you in your backpack!

7)   Water Filters

Treating your drinking water in the wilderness is an issue that should be of great concern to you.  There are many types of water filtration systems on the market and just because the water is fast flowing and glacier-fed does not mean that it is safe to drink.  This is why water filters have become a necessity.  Hydration is one of the most important concerns facing you in all of your outdoor activities, and even though boiling is the best way to disinfect your water supply, it is very time consuming and will burn up a great deal of your fuel supply.  A water filtration system is one of the most important pieces of outdoor tech that you should have with you.

8)   Solar-Panel Battery Chargers

One of the most frustrating feelings to have when you are two or three days away from your vehicle is grabbing any electronic piece of equipment, only to find that its batteries are dead.  This equipment is often heavy and important to your comfort and security.  One model that I own, will charge my cellular phone, that can be paired to an In-Reach devise, (which can send and receive text and messages anywhere on the planet ). This solar charger can also charge AA and AAA batteries. These two battery types are very popular in headlamps and GPS units.  The model that I carry weighs only 500+ grams and has served me well.  Be sure to purchase a charger that works for the equipment that YOU carry.

9)  Personal 

For me, on most occasions, I venture as far from my vehicle as I can.  This mindset has therefore required the lightest and most functional outdoor tech I could find and afford.  However, on some short weekend trips I do enjoy staying close to my vehicle, lounging in a camp chair by a dancing campfire.  A cold beverage, the the aromas of grilling meat or fish and a full moon to light it all up, sure seems a lot easier than lugging a heavy pack up a steep incline.

10)  Compass

Just an old fashioned compass for when all else fails.  Be sure to check the needle’s behavior.  Once I walked around a mountain, coming back to the same area only to learn that I was on top of iron ore deposits.  Ironically, it was one of the first times that I brought my son there and I was showing him how to use a compass.  He did learn a very important lesson that day,  but so did I.  We did get back safely, but only when I put my compass away.  As you’re walking into a new area, always look BACK to study the picture of how things will look when you come back out.

What are your thoughts?  Tell us what you think.  Please leave a comment below.

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How to cook a steak in a cast iron skillet

How to cook a steak using cast iron cookware.

How to cook a steak in a cast iron skillet.

Cast iron skillets are great to use while camping or simply cooking outdoors.  Cast iron skillets make everything taste better.

Follow the steps below to learn how to cook steak in a cast iron skillet.

Before Cooking Your Steak

Choose a pan that is the same size as your burner.

Know the temperature you would like to cook your steak.

Hot Spots in a Cast Iron Pan?

Although cast iron heats quickly, undersized burners that cannot accommodate an entire skillet will not be able to heat the edges of the pan. Be sure to always choose a skillet that is the same size as the burner you are using to cook the steak, as this helps eliminate hot spots.

Temperature To Cook Your Steak.

While the length of time necessary to cook a steak varies upon the cut and thickness of the meat, there are a few basic temperature guidelines to keep in mind.

For recommended cooking times and temperatures, check out this chart:

Doneness Temp Turning Point 1/2″ 3/4″ 1″ 1 1/4″ 1 1/2″ 1 3/4″ 2″
Rare 125°F First Side 4 min 5 min 6 min 7 min 7 min 8 min 10 min
Second Side 3 min 4 min 5 min 5 min 6 min 7 min 8 min
Medium Rare 135°F First Side 5 min 6 min 7 min 8 min 8 min 9 min 11 min
Second Side 4 min 5 min 6 min 6 min 7 min 7 min 9 min
Medium / Medium Well 150°F First Side 6 min 7 min 8 min 8 min 9 min 9 min 12 min
Second Side 4 min 5 min 6 min 7 min 7 min 8 min 10 min
Well Done 160°F First Side 9 min 10 min 11 min 12 min 13 min 14 min 15 min
Second Side 7 min 8 min 9 min 10 min 11 min 12 min 13 min

 

Prepare Your Steak for Cooking

Properly preparing your meat is an important aspect of serving up a delicious steak. Season your steak liberally well in advance with salt and pepper. Begin by adding oil to your skillet and heating it on high until it shimmers and begins to smoke slightly. Allow your pan to get good and hot, as this is key to keeping the meat from sticking to the skillet.

Directions

With the oil hot, it’s time to introduce your favorite steak to the inviting hot oil and cast iron pan.  Hello, heat.

 

 

 

 

 

1.Pick the steak up by the bone.

2.Flip your steak using tongs every few minutes. Make sure to also cook the sides. You can do this by pressing each of the steak’s edges down against the skillet for a few minutes.

3.Use a spoon to baste your steak in the oil and its own juices as it continues to cook.

4.Use an internal meat thermometer to check the temperature of your steak.  This will help you cook your steak to the desired degree of doneness.

5.Spoon your aromatics and generous amounts of butter over the meat. Continue turning the steak as you season it.

6.Remove your steak from the pan and allow it to rest on a plate or cutting board for 10 minutes.

7.If you need to cut the steak into smaller pieces, use a fork to hold it and a sharp chef’s knife to slice from the meat’s center out to its edges.

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Is Lump Charcoal good for smoking?

Is lump charcoal good for smoking?

Looking for the best lump charcoal for smoking?

Which fuel will set your smoked products apart from the others?


Self-lighting charcoal briquettes leave an acrid flavor to your favorite meats.

This, of course, is due to the fact that self-lighting briquettes contain lighter fluid which is a petroleum product. Petroleum products can cause your food to have a toxic flavor.  Toxic flavors are bad and not what we want in our prime meat.

There are many benefits to smoking with natural lump charcoal (also known as charwood) It is a very clean burning fuel. It has few if any additives, and it burns hotter than briquettes if the grill allows for unrestricted access to oxygen.

Smokers always allow for good control of airflow, and with restricted air, lump charcoal can be controlled so that it burns cooler and longer. As an added bonus, lump charcoal produces little ash, making clean-up much easier.


The most important thing that home smokers can do to boost the smokiness in their food is to add small amounts of hardwood chips on top of the charcoal. This will impart a subtle flavor to the meat.

The technique of smoking food is that the heat is consistent, low, and slow. The function of the charcoal is to provide that heat. There are some grillers who cook with logs instead of charcoal, but it is very difficult to regulate the temperature of burning logs.

Wood gives off all kinds of chemicals in the form of gas when it burns. Many of these volatile chemicals are what give smoked food its nuanced flavor. All of these chemicals are burned off in the production of natural lump charcoal.

This is why smoking with charcoal exclusively will give a smoky flavor to the food. Conversely, smoking with hardwood exclusively can overwhelm the flavor of the food, especially if you are smoking fish.

A mix of charcoal and wood chips is the sweet spot. Lots of smoke, and some nuanced flavor.

The smoke becomes part of the food – the flavor – so you better use the BEST fuel you can find if you want to have the best meat out of the smoker.

Briquettes Vs Lump Charcoal

Charcoal briquettes are made primarily from sawdust and contain fillers and petroleum products. Added ingredients include coal, limestone, borax, and cornstarch.

  • Briquettes are more consistent due to a standard size.
  • Briquettes produce more ash.
  • Briquettes burn cooler, and normally longer.
  • Briquettes have additives and binders.

Natural Lump Charcoal is made from pieces of hardwood that have been burned with very little Oxygen to render a product that is almost pure carbon.

  • Lump can have huge chunks of coal and near-dust-like coal.
  • Lump produces less ash.
  • Lump charcoal burns hotter.
  • Lump has no additives, at least it shouldn’t.

What to consider when choosing lump charcoal

Here are some things to consider

  • What brands are available in your region?
  • Are there any additives?
  • Are there any foreign bodies in the bag with the charcoal?
  • How easy is it to light?
  • Is there a chemical smell upon ignition?
  • Does it burn hot?
  • How long will it burn?
  • Does it burn consistently?
  • How much ash does it produce?
  • How much does it cost?

How to choose fuel for your smoker—the don’ts

While almost all hardwoods that work well with “stick burning” smokers,  lump charcoal works, too, and is easier than ever to source. Lump charcoal is a more natural form of coal as well, so it burns cleaner.

Charcoal briquettes can provide a consistent low heat for the amateur smoker, and offers the advantage of lasting for a longer time than its less carbonized counterparts. Natural lump charcoal burns hotter, but if the airflow to the smoker is properly controlled, it too can burn at the relatively cooler temperatures needed for smoking food. Remember, low and slow is the key to really good smoked foods!

  • Purchase briquettes without chemicals

When it comes to charcoal, avoid buying brands that have self-starting lighter fluid additives at all costs. The reason should be pretty apparent. These chemicals are smelly and may make your food taste bad: chemical-like. Companies that produce these products claim that if you let all the flammables burn off, you won’t get any bad flavors. This may be true, but ALL petroleum products produce sticky smoke that will adhere to the inside of your smoker including the food grates.

  • Avoid Flavored Charcoal

Charcoal, by its very nature, soaks up everything it comes in contact with. It’s best to leave well enough alone and let it produce nothing more than heat and smoke. Don’t be tempted into buying charcoal “enriched” with additives. This includes wood flavorings that may promise a “maple flavor.” Charcoal should be just that—charcoal—and does not need to come in a variety of colors or flavors. And remember that if you are a serious smoker, that you will want to add some hardwood shavings on top of your coals. Gives great flavor to your best meats.

How to choose fuel for your smoker—the dos

The only type of additives you don’t need to worry about in a lump coal for your smoker are sugar-based binding ingredients or anthracite, as these do not impart any flavor to the meat. They do, however, allow for a hotter, longer burn.

True lump charcoal is made from whole pieces of wood, which are as close to wood smoking as possible without actually using wood chips. Lump charcoal does cost a little more than briquettes, but it burns hotter than its cheaper sawdust briquette cousins. Lump charcoal really excels if you are grilling and want a really nice char on your steaks!

As a result of burning hotter, lump charcoal burns faster. You may need more lump charcoal than briquettes if you’re grilling, but not if you’re smoking. Smoking involves a relatively low temperature of 225ºF to 275ºF, give or take. When you restrict airflow to your smoker, it lowers the temperature. As a result, the charcoal burns longer.

When you’re smoking, you will also have wood chunks or logs in the smoker, so your fuel cost may be about the same for lump charcoal or briquettes. Not to muddy the waters, but there are a number of smoking gurus who advocate mixing charcoal briquettes (ones with as few additives as possible) with natural lump charcoal and wood chips. This mitigates the extra cost of the natural lump charcoal and also helps keep a stable temperature.

Remember that lump charcoal only burns hotter and faster if the air flow is unlimited. When you’re using a smoker you’ll have great control over the air flow – you will use the vents and keep them in a mostly-closed position. If you restrict the air flow, then the burn rate will be consistent with the temperature. Hot burns faster, cooler burns slower.

Best Lump Charcoal for Smoking

There are many brands of natural lump charcoal available for sale.

Below are examples of good charcoal that are perfect for the home smoker.  I want to stress the importance of using the best lump charcoal on the market.  It is so easy to purchase the cheapest and think all lump charcoal is the same, don’t be fooled.  The ones mentioned below may not be the only ones that are good, just the ones I recommend to use.

 

Rockwood Lump Charcoal is made from the highest-quality Missouri hickory, maple, and oak. Free of binders, chemicals, and fillers, this brand has a very slight wood flavor that will not overpower your food. It’s easy to light, is ready to go within 15 to 20 minutes, and burns relatively slowly to ensure an even cooking temperature. Moreover, it’s sourced from sustainable forests. Not sold on this website.

 

Fogo Superpremium Lump Charcoal is made from premium quality products that help you cook better-tasting food.  They seem to have the right charcoal for every cooker and every occasion, from the smallest grill to the largest, whether you cook low and slow or sizzling hot.  Brace yourself, this is a bit pricey but sometimes you get what you pay for.

 

Royal Oak Harwood Lump Charcoal is pure, 100% all natural charcoal that burns hot for that great seared-in wood smoke flavor. Royal Oak is 100% all natural hardwood lump charcoal and works great for all grills and smokers. In its natural lump shape, this pure charcoal comes from renewable oak, hickory, maple and walnut hardwoods with no chemicals or additives. It burns hotter and sears meat beautifully, locking in those juicy flavors while producing a great smoky taste. Ready to cook in about 15 minutes.  Cost is about average across the board.

 

Care of natural wood charcoal

Charcoal absorbs anything in close contact with it, it is easily contaminated.  Lump charcoal must always be kept dry.  Wet charcoal does not burn properly and can become moldy which will produce a bad flavor on your food.

Conclusion

Lump charcoal has huge benefits and should be a tool used by all smokers to gain that great taste to your favorite meats.  Briquettes are an added benefit when used in union with the lump charcoal.  Just remember to use a briquette without additives and don’t use lighter fluid to light them.

Enjoy your grilling and smoking experience.

Drop me a line anytime.

What are your thoughts on cooking with either of these?  We love to hear from you and try out some of your ideas and perhaps post them here on our site.  Let us know?

 

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Lump Charcoal and briquettes-BTU’s

BTU’s in Lump Charcoal and Charcoal Briquettes.  WOW, What a Difference!

I found this comment to one of my pages so interesting that I thought it would be a great idea to publish the following about lump charcoal and charcoal briquettes and the amount of energy or heat given off by each.  Take this into consideration next time you purchase lump charcoal and briquettes.  It just might surprise you.

One other thing to note that you will not find referenced often on the internet is BTU per pound. While lump is usually more expensive, you’re getting more BTU’s in the bag.

Nowadays “charcoal briquettes” contain less and less charcoal in them. They’re a lot of anthracites, sawdust, and other cheaper sources of BTU’s. Worst of all, most briquettes contain limestone–even the ones marked “professional”, “competition”, “all-natural”, etc. Between that, the starch, borax, sawdust, a higher moisture content, and everything that is NOT charcoal, it drives down the BTU/# usually to somewhere around 7000-9000 BTU/#.

Lump charcoal that is kilned to 80%+ carbonization, is anywhere from 10000-12000 BTU/#. For a good indication of what you paid for, look for the white smoke and the ash. When the ash weighs 40-50% of what you started with vs. lump which is less than 5-10%, you can see how much of what you bought truly burned. Carbon burns clear and leaves no ash. A 20# bag of good charcoal usually cooks down to less than 1# of ash or less than 1-qt by volume.

So don’t flinch at the higher price of lump, you’re using less of it in long run and cooking over 100% wood vs. a bunch of anthracite coal!!

U.S. made lump is the way to go!!

Conclusion.  Lump Charcoal gives you more heat and a better, cleaner burn than you will get from most briquettes.

This brings us to my recommendation when purchasing charcoal for your next grilling event.  After considering the facts on the differences between Lump Charcoal and Charcoal Briquettes, I don’t think there is much to decide.  Below are my recommendations.

Fogo Lump Charcoal

Royal Oak Charcoal

If you have any other recommendations or different experiences with lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes, please share with us.  I would love to check out what you have found out or what you might recommend.  Please let us know your thoughts.

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Barrel Smoker Review

I have seen these smokers in action and now finally got the chance to try one for myself.  The smoker is a barrel smoker, that’s right, a barrel, a 55-gallon drum.  Who would have thought that this would work at all?  We used these drums for trash barrels when I was young.  Let me tell you more about what I found out.

I wanted to find a smoker that was rather simple and easy to use that had good quality and was affordable so that a beginner might enjoy using.  As a beginner, getting into smoking meats can be a bit intimidating and confusing with so many choices on the market today.  I wanted a smoker that anyone could get the hang of quickly and not be scared of ruining that really expensive piece of meat, brisket.

Smoking meat is one of the most satisfying hobbies a person can get into.  It’s relatively easy to pick up and the result is delicious food the whole family and friends can enjoy. One of the keys to making sure your food is consistently delicious is to not get in over your head with an expensive cooker geared towards experienced pit masters. Another pitfall many make with their first smoker is grabbing a $75 offset smoker special from their local big box store. Most of these have poor build quality and even worse air flow control. This can make managing your target temperature a chore resulting in a bad time and ruining that expensive meat, the brisket.

When looking for the best smoker for beginners, here is what I believe is important.

  • Quality:  One of the most important things to consider with a smoker at any price range and skill level is its build quality.  If the unit leaks air or has super thin walls, regulating the temperature can be a huge chore.  Obviously, for charcoal powered units your heating element is as good as the charcoal you buy.  That’s why I only recommend using lump charcoal instead of charcoal briquettes.  See here for additional information.  Also see here for the amount of heat produced by charcoal and the best type to use.
  • Efficiency:  A smokers efficiency is directly related to how much fuel the smoker must use to hold a good solid smoking temperature.  This all goes back to the quality of the smoker.  If a smoker is leaking heat and smoke in places that it shouldn’t be, then it will have to burn more fuel to maintain the temperatures you want to stay at.  This is especially frustrating when using a charcoal unit that requires pulling the food out just to add fuel.  No fun.
  • Value:  As with everything else, we want the best value for the dollar.  It may hurt to spend more than $150.00 for that first smoker but what really hurts is buying that cheap big box smoker special and finding out that it is cheaper than you thought.  It will remain almost unused and end up being sold or finding it’s way to the landfill.
  • Support:  It’s much easier starting with a unit that has a solid community built around it.  Most smokers on the lists have multiple youtube videos and forum write-ups on how to cook certain cuts of meat, how to light and heat up properly and how usually some fun DIY improvements.  This is rarely an issue with charcoal based units because there’s nothing to break.
  • Fuel Source:  Perhaps second only to the quality in importance is the fuel source.  Choosing the correct fuel source can make a huge impact on your food and more importantly, how often you use your smoker.  I personally believe the best flavors come from lump charcoal.  The downside to using charcoal is it is generally messier and it has a slightly higher learning curve along with slightly higher preparation time.

So What is the Best Charcoal Smoker for Beginners?

I’ll make this easy for you. If you are a beginner and want the easiest to use charcoal smoker then go no further than the Pit Barrel Cooker. I was absolutely blown away with how easy it was to use.  What makes the Pit Barrel special is there is no temperature regulation, they have it all set up for you already.  The venting is perfectly set, no bother, no worries.  One other thing I like so much about this unit is most all the meat is hung inside by supplied hooks.  Not long ago the makers of this little unit changed from a powder coat finish to a porcelain enamel finish somewhat like the Weber grills.

When getting ready to cook on this unit, simply remove the charcoal basket and fill it up to the top.  Then remove about a quarter of the charcoal and place them into a charcoal chimney such as the char-griller chimney starter

and light them.  Place the unlit charcoal basket back in the unit and pour the lit charcoal from the chimney on top.  After doing this you can add a couple chunks of wood for smokey flavor if desired.

Depending on the weather outside and the type of charcoal used, this smoker should last up to 10 hours on one load of good lump charcoal.

What Customers are Saying:

  • Super easy to use, even for a beginner
  • Incredible and easy to use
  • Gold standard smoker
  • Worth every penny

I am not saying this is the only smoker for a beginner but it is a great smoker for a beginner.  In my opinion, if you are a beginner in smoking meats, you won’t be disappointed at all in this unit and will be a great unit to start learning all the other things you need to learn about smoking.  This is a great one to start with.  Good luck and don’t worry much about ruining that expensive meat.