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  • Charcoal woes

    Post #1 - July 5th, 2004, 3:02 pm
    Post #1 - July 5th, 2004, 3:02 pm Post #1 - July 5th, 2004, 3:02 pm
    I like to use wood-chunk charcoal [not briquettes], and grilled for the first time last night with a bag I had purchased at Trader Joe's. It was a near-disaster. The stuff burned too fast and too hot, and it took a lot of tap dancing and grill manipulating to get dinner on the table for my guests. [And while I managed to make dinner quite edible, it fell far short of where it could have been :roll: ]

    And, so, my query: what is a good brand of lump charcoal, and where in the general vicinity of the far NW side can it be purchased? Produce World in Norridge carries a couple of brands, but I don't really want to invest in a 40 lb. bag and not like it.

    Of course, I could just follow an older Greek gentleman out of the store with the whole lamb slung over his shoulder and see what kind of charcoal HE buys....

    Giovanna
    =o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=

    "Enjoy every sandwich."

    -Warren Zevon
  • Post #2 - July 5th, 2004, 3:45 pm
    Post #2 - July 5th, 2004, 3:45 pm Post #2 - July 5th, 2004, 3:45 pm
    Giovanna wrote:And, so, my query: what is a good brand of lump charcoal, and where in the general vicinity of the far NW side can it be

    Giovanna,

    I am a fan of Berger Brother's Charcoal, they are distributors, who also sell to the public. Berger's lump charcoal is handled less so the pieces are larger and there is less dust. Also, they use one, maybe two, manufactures so the btu's are more consistent. Berger's lump charcoal is typically labeled Patio Chef, Royal Oak, Chicago Charcoal or just a plain brown wrapper, but I think it's actually all the same product or, at the most, two manufacturers.

    In addition to being the best source for quality lump charcoal, Berger is the least expensive I have found, 20-lb bags of good consistent quality lump in the $8 range. (I don't remember the exact price.)

    Berger is set up a bit like an old prohibition booze store, small foyer with a pass through window to place your order, then outside where a guy brings you your charcoal. Don't be off-put, they are friendly.

    Couple of Berger tips. For the smokers in the bunch Berger sells wood chunks, last time there I bought a nice box of apple chunks for $30 and 6-bags of hickory chunks for......hummm, I forgot the price, but the hickory and apple are perfect size for my WSMs.

    I'd suggest tipping the guy who carries out the charcoal. You might even get a BBQ tip or two, they are always WAY off the mark, but he'll put the charcoal in your car and make you chuckle.

    For further info on Lump Charcoal check out the Naked Whiz's Kamado site. Naked Whiz's Lump charcoal database is required reading for Smoking 101.
    http://www.nakedwhiz.com/lump.htm

    Here's a bag of Royal Oak ready to go.
    Image

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Berger Brother's Charcoal
    1176 N Cherry Ave
    Chicago, IL 6062
    312-642-4238
    Lump Charcoal
  • Post #3 - July 5th, 2004, 4:09 pm
    Post #3 - July 5th, 2004, 4:09 pm Post #3 - July 5th, 2004, 4:09 pm
    G Wiv wrote:I'd suggest tipping the guy who carries out the charcoal. You might even get a BBQ tip or two, they are always WAY off the mark, but he'll put the charcoal in your car and make you chuckle.


    The Berger Bros. guy who carried charcoal to my car looked a lot like Bowser from Sha Na Na (only covered in a patina of coal dust), and he was super friendly; his advice to me: "Make sure you soak the wood chips in water before you use them. Get your money's worth." :lol:

    Hammond
    Last edited by David Hammond on July 5th, 2004, 4:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #4 - July 5th, 2004, 4:49 pm
    Post #4 - July 5th, 2004, 4:49 pm Post #4 - July 5th, 2004, 4:49 pm
    Giovanna,

    I should add that on the far Northwest side, I am assuming you mean Chicago proper or as close as possible, both MarketPlace on Oakton and Lincolnwood Produce sell lump charcoal.

    I prefer Berger Bros, for reasons mentioned, but in a pinch you will get better quality lump at either of these places rather than the rough handled and inflated priced lump of Whole Foods.

    Speaking of MarketPlace on Oakton, it's one of my favorite stores in the area. Excellent produce, good range of international items, quality meats, fish and full service. Lincolnwood Produce is good as well, but I prefer MarketPlace.

    Another store I like is Fresh Farm's/North Water Market on Devon, excellent, far ranging produce, International items and a good deli counter. A few days ago I went into both Ted's Fruit Market, also on Devon, and North Water Market one after the other. While Ted's is an ok market, when you go to both Ted's and North Water one after another the quality difference is quite noticeable, with Fresh Farm's/North Water Market the clear winner.

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Lincolnwood Produce
    7175 N Lincoln Ave
    Lincolnwood, IL 60712

    MarketPlace on Oakton
    4817 W Oakton
    Skokie, IL 60077
    847-677-9330

    North Water Market/Fresh Farms
    2626 W Devon
    Chicago, IL
    773-764-3557

    Ted's Fruit Market
    2840 W Devon
    Chicago, IL 60659
    773-743-6739
  • Post #5 - July 5th, 2004, 5:29 pm
    Post #5 - July 5th, 2004, 5:29 pm Post #5 - July 5th, 2004, 5:29 pm
    I prefer Berger Bros, for reasons mentioned, but in a pinch you will get better quality lump at either of these places rather than the rough handled and inflated priced lump of Whole Foods.


    Another good reason to check out Berger Bros. is the variety of seasoning woods and charcoal. I usually buy several bags of lump for BBQ, and grilling chickent and pork. I also buy a couple bags of mesquite lump which is excellent for grilling steaks.
    Bruce
    Plenipotentiary
    bruce@bdbbq.com

    Raw meat should NOT have an ingredients list!!
  • Post #6 - July 5th, 2004, 7:27 pm
    Post #6 - July 5th, 2004, 7:27 pm Post #6 - July 5th, 2004, 7:27 pm
    Hi,

    I borrowed a bag of Berger Brothers finest this weekend, because their hours of operation make it challenging for me to get there:

    Berger Brother's Charcoal
    1176 N Cherry Ave
    Chicago, IL 6062
    312-642-4238
    Lump Charcoal (Mon-Fri: 7:30 - 4)

    I did use their coal, using the official Weber Charcoal Chimney starter to fire it up, and as a novice BBQ person found it reliable and easy to use.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #7 - July 5th, 2004, 9:06 pm
    Post #7 - July 5th, 2004, 9:06 pm Post #7 - July 5th, 2004, 9:06 pm
    Giovana

    Lump charcoal does indeed burn a lot hotter than briquetts and will require an adjustment of your cooking techniques,but once you master this fuel you'll never go back to briquets.As far as brands forget about it,other than hardwood or mesquite their all the same. I like hardwood for beef and pork. Mesquite for chicken.

    Ribeye's love this stuff
    Image

    As for a source on the far northwest side go to Paterno's liquors at Central and Milwaukee (just a few doors south of the wonderful little Ham Tree Inn).I was there just yesterday and copped a 20lb.bag of Royal Oak for a bit over $9.00.

    Paterno's BTW has a bar attached to the liquor store(ala Marie's).Cheap drinks and very decent food.Try the "Incredible Beef", Italian beef on garlic bread smothered in mozzarella and finished off under the broiler.
    Killlller!

    John
  • Post #8 - July 7th, 2004, 8:03 pm
    Post #8 - July 7th, 2004, 8:03 pm Post #8 - July 7th, 2004, 8:03 pm
    Ive had a really difficult time using the gourmet wood chunks. It is too difficult to light and takes way too long. I also end up using charcoal fluid which I dont like to use. (I am using your traditional Weber kettle)

    I prefer using the match light charcoal briquettes for ease of use and I dont mind the flavor - especially the mesquite. You just cant beat how easy it is to light! Altho the drawback is that these coals dont emit much flame - especially when the cover is closed...and some may complain of a chemical residue flavor but I havent noticed it much as long as you let the coals ash over...
    Last edited by Snark on July 7th, 2004, 8:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #9 - July 7th, 2004, 8:27 pm
    Post #9 - July 7th, 2004, 8:27 pm Post #9 - July 7th, 2004, 8:27 pm
    Snark wrote:Ive had a really difficult time using the gourmet wood chunks. It is too difficult to light and takes way too lomg. I also end up using charcoal fluid which I dont like to use. (I am using your traditional Weber kettle)

    I prefer using the match light charcoal briquettes for ease of use and I dont mind the flavor - especially the mesquite. You just cant beat how easy it is to light! Altho the drawback is that these coals dont emit much flame - especially when the cover is closed...and some may complain of a chemical residue flavor but I havent noticed it much as long as you let the coals ash over...


    You should invest in a Weber Chimney Charcoal Starter and you can kiss your lighter fluid and/or pre soaked briquettes goodbye forever. Just wad up two or three sheets of newspaper, put them in the bottom and fill the chimney with your charcoal (chunk or briquettes work equally well). Put a match or lighter to the newspaper and in 20 - 30 minutes your coals are ready to go. Just as easy as using that matchlight stuff without the bad taste and poison. Plus, the thing will pay for itself in no time since you don't have to buy any more lighter fluid or pay extra for the Match Light stuff. :)
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #10 - July 7th, 2004, 8:34 pm
    Post #10 - July 7th, 2004, 8:34 pm Post #10 - July 7th, 2004, 8:34 pm
    Speaking of burning newspapers...I have noticed that when I have used my newspaper (The Wall Street Journal) to burn is that is doesnt do that. It doesnt burn. The edges may blacken and get red but all it does is ash and make a huge mess.

    Whats the best newspaper to burn?
  • Post #11 - July 7th, 2004, 9:08 pm
    Post #11 - July 7th, 2004, 9:08 pm Post #11 - July 7th, 2004, 9:08 pm
    Snark wrote:Whats the best newspaper to burn?


    I use whatever I've got on hand--Trib, Reader, or any thing else. I strongly second the Weber charcoal chimney starter. I, too, was a Matchlight fan for convenience before discovering the chimney, and now I'll never go back. Any type of newspaper will work.
  • Post #12 - July 7th, 2004, 9:25 pm
    Post #12 - July 7th, 2004, 9:25 pm Post #12 - July 7th, 2004, 9:25 pm
    To use the chimney starter, I do need to buy another kettle grill w that attachment built in, correct? You cant use it with my current kettle grill - its not an attachment you buy but rather a kettle grill with it built in the structure is that correct?
  • Post #13 - July 7th, 2004, 9:37 pm
    Post #13 - July 7th, 2004, 9:37 pm Post #13 - July 7th, 2004, 9:37 pm
    No. The chimney starter is a stand alone item you can buy at the Home Depot or another hardware store for arount $20. You'll find a complete description on the Weber Accessory page around 1/2 way down the page. http://www.weber.com/bbq/pub/grill/accessory/chargear.aspx
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #14 - July 7th, 2004, 9:45 pm
    Post #14 - July 7th, 2004, 9:45 pm Post #14 - July 7th, 2004, 9:45 pm
    stevez wrote:No. The chimney starter is a stand alone item you can buy at the Home Depot or another hardware store for arount $20.


    Actually, at the link you gave it's $10.99 at Amazon.com. And not much more than that at Sears where I bought mine a year or two ago.
  • Post #15 - July 7th, 2004, 9:47 pm
    Post #15 - July 7th, 2004, 9:47 pm Post #15 - July 7th, 2004, 9:47 pm
    Thank You! Will get this this weekend and hopefully be a convert!
  • Post #16 - July 7th, 2004, 9:53 pm
    Post #16 - July 7th, 2004, 9:53 pm Post #16 - July 7th, 2004, 9:53 pm
    We bought two chimneys for under $20 each at target, but were completely unable to find any at home depot. The people at the local home depot had a completely blank look on their face as we asked for charcoal chimneys, grill chimneys, fire chimneys. Finally one of them perked up and realized "oh, you mean those funny looking grill things". They didn't have any, anyway.

    -ed
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #17 - July 7th, 2004, 9:56 pm
    Post #17 - July 7th, 2004, 9:56 pm Post #17 - July 7th, 2004, 9:56 pm
    now are you guys buying the "Weber" chimneys or are these just basic generic versions...And if so do you know if there is a difference...I have a Weber grill and so far have trusted their products and would prefer to stick with the Weber brand - even for accessories...

    Thanx
  • Post #18 - July 7th, 2004, 10:18 pm
    Post #18 - July 7th, 2004, 10:18 pm Post #18 - July 7th, 2004, 10:18 pm
    Well, I'm really not a fan of weber grills. These chimneys are not weber chimneys (at least not the ones I'm mentioning).

    My parents have a classic weber kettle grill, full size, and I'll take my char-broil santa fe over it any day. Same price, adjustable charcoal pan, far greater surface area, and much easier coal access.

    Home Depot carries them, $100 each.

    -ed
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #19 - July 7th, 2004, 10:37 pm
    Post #19 - July 7th, 2004, 10:37 pm Post #19 - July 7th, 2004, 10:37 pm
    I've got the Weber Charcoal Chimney, which has been particularly recommended by various barbecue savants. I've not personally tried any other for comparison, but had a friend who bought a non-Weber and had to switch because it didn't work as well as he'd hoped.
  • Post #20 - July 7th, 2004, 10:46 pm
    Post #20 - July 7th, 2004, 10:46 pm Post #20 - July 7th, 2004, 10:46 pm
    Aaron Deacon wrote:I've got the Weber Charcoal Chimney, which has been particularly recommended by various barbecue savants. I've not personally tried any other for comparison, but had a friend who bought a non-Weber and had to switch because it didn't work as well as he'd hoped.


    Aaron,

    The Weber Charcoal Chimney has a bottom grate that's shaped in an inverted cone, which increases the surface area of the charcoal mass that's exposed to the newspaper fire and the air, which seems to allow for somewhat faster ignition of the whole. I've had several other chimneys, and their bottom grates were not so imaginatively engineered (i.e., they were flat).

    Hammond
  • Post #21 - July 8th, 2004, 5:10 am
    Post #21 - July 8th, 2004, 5:10 am Post #21 - July 8th, 2004, 5:10 am
    Snark wrote:now are you guys buying the "Weber" chimneys or are these just basic generic versions...And if so do you know if there is a difference...I have a Weber grill and so far have trusted their products and would prefer to stick with the Weber brand - even for accessories...

    Thanx


    I would strongly recommend the Weber over the other units. They are better engineered (as Mr. Hammond has pointed out) and more heavy duty so they will last longer. I've got two of them, my oldest being nearly 15 years old and still going strong.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #22 - July 8th, 2004, 7:47 am
    Post #22 - July 8th, 2004, 7:47 am Post #22 - July 8th, 2004, 7:47 am
    Snark

    Don't buy the generic charcoal chimneys. I've found the newspaper chamber to be too small. Two sheets of newspaper don't burn well and one sheet is not enough to start your coals.

    The last one I had (Ace Hardware) lasted about a year before falling apart. Latley I've been shoving paper under the charcoal grill of my smoker,pile on the lump and fire up. Seems to work just fine.

    John
  • Post #23 - July 8th, 2004, 8:39 am
    Post #23 - July 8th, 2004, 8:39 am Post #23 - July 8th, 2004, 8:39 am
    As someone who's grilling with charcoal on a porch, I can think of at least one reason not to use a charcoal chimney. ; )

    Since all I've got is a tiny hibachi-style grill, I had tremendous luck with the "Just Light The Bag"-style hardwood charcoal I bought early in the season. The two times I used those, though, I had company; when I'm just cooking for myself, it's easier, alas, to go with the lighter fluid and around 10 pieces of charcoal. Trick to avoiding chemical flavor: Try to wet the tops of the coals, turn over with tongs, and light, so that dry sides are facing the meat (and, as Snark mentioned, waiting for good ash).
  • Post #24 - July 8th, 2004, 4:53 pm
    Post #24 - July 8th, 2004, 4:53 pm Post #24 - July 8th, 2004, 4:53 pm
    Snark's problems with poor combustion of Wall Street Journal paper fits my experience. There is something in their printing process with soy based ink that leaves the paper slightly damp. Just use WSJs that have been sitting around for a week or so. Other newspapers use the water and soy based inks while remaining readily burnable.
  • Post #25 - July 8th, 2004, 9:24 pm
    Post #25 - July 8th, 2004, 9:24 pm Post #25 - July 8th, 2004, 9:24 pm
    Snark wrote:
    Whats the best newspaper to burn?


    Well Dick Cheney insists on burning The Onion, even if he's not grilling. :lol:

    I'm usually using old Trib's with good results. I second (third, fourth?) the suggestions on the Weber chimney starter. The Berger charcoal is great stuff; burns hot and consistent, pretty easy to light. I'm curious if anyone here has tried the Kamado stuff. I'm thinking for those longer cooktimes it would be nice to have that option. I've read the various reviews of it elsewhere but would be most interested in LTH feedback.
    Objects in mirror appear to be losing.
  • Post #26 - July 9th, 2004, 6:32 am
    Post #26 - July 9th, 2004, 6:32 am Post #26 - July 9th, 2004, 6:32 am
    Bob S. wrote:As someone who's grilling with charcoal on a porch, I can think of at least one reason not to use a charcoal chimney. ; )

    Since all I've got is a tiny hibachi-style grill, I had tremendous luck with the "Just Light The Bag"-style hardwood charcoal I bought early in the season. The two times I used those, though, I had company; when I'm just cooking for myself, it's easier, alas, to go with the lighter fluid and around 10 pieces of charcoal. Trick to avoiding chemical flavor: Try to wet the tops of the coals, turn over with tongs, and light, so that dry sides are facing the meat (and, as Snark mentioned, waiting for good ash).


    Not sure I follow you here, Bob. If you have a place you can put the hibachi, you have a place you can put the chimney, and in a pinch you can perch it on the hibachi. Particularly with such a small amount of charcoal, it is quite difficult to burn off the starter or chemicals, so even if you do not taste them, there is likely to be more nasty stuff than just char on your grilled food.

    Almost 20 years since I used any starter or treated charcoal, and I can't think of any reason to go back to that.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #27 - July 12th, 2004, 5:45 pm
    Post #27 - July 12th, 2004, 5:45 pm Post #27 - July 12th, 2004, 5:45 pm
    Uh, guys...

    My dad used to use a 3# coffee can, or one of the big jumbo food service cans fruit & vegetables come in.

    He'd use a churchkey to punch holes around the bottom rim & punch a few more holes in the sides so there'd be air feeding the fire; then he'd use crumpled newspaper & top that with briquettes & set fire to it. Sometimes he'd need a very minimal amount of starter, but usually not.

    Maybe a piece of metal air ducting would work, too.
  • Post #28 - July 12th, 2004, 6:08 pm
    Post #28 - July 12th, 2004, 6:08 pm Post #28 - July 12th, 2004, 6:08 pm
    dorty wrote:
    Maybe a piece of metal air ducting would work, too.


    Absolutely not. Metal air duct pipe is galvanized. Heating the metal will release poisonous gases. DO NOT DO THIS!
    Bruce
    Plenipotentiary
    bruce@bdbbq.com

    Raw meat should NOT have an ingredients list!!
  • Post #29 - July 12th, 2004, 6:11 pm
    Post #29 - July 12th, 2004, 6:11 pm Post #29 - July 12th, 2004, 6:11 pm
    In any case, Dorty, the Weber has a nice big handle, which is worth the price alone-- I sprinkle hot coals exactly where I want them to go. I agree with whoever said the key virtue of the Weber is just that it's a big honking one, with the others you light a few coals to later light other coals, but with the Weber you get a good half of what you're going to use red hot before you dump them in the grill. Essential equipment.

    Image

    Image
  • Post #30 - July 12th, 2004, 8:01 pm
    Post #30 - July 12th, 2004, 8:01 pm Post #30 - July 12th, 2004, 8:01 pm
    JSM wrote:As far as brands forget about it,other than hardwood or mesquite their all the same. I like hardwood for beef and pork. Mesquite for chicken.

    <snip of delicious looking ribeye cooking on lump>

    As for a source on the far northwest side go to Paterno's liquors at Central and Milwaukee (just a few doors south of the wonderful little Ham Tree Inn).I was there just yesterday and copped a 20lb.bag of Royal Oak for a bit over $9.00.

    Paterno's BTW has a bar attached to the liquor store(ala Marie's).Cheap drinks and very decent food.Try the "Incredible Beef", Italian beef on garlic bread smothered in mozzarella and finished off under the broiler.
    Killlller!

    John

    John,

    I've found quite a difference in lump charcoal brand to brand, especially with the lump imported from Mexico, with the exception of Lazzari. For example, some of the lump I've used has not only burned at wildly different temps, even when marked the same, but also, on the rare occasion, explosively popped. I think the popping is due to the charcoal not being fired/dried completely and the remaining pockets of moisture cause a mini-explosion.

    I've also found nails, rocks, pieces of palletized wood, which is not good as pallets are treated with a mildew/rod inhibiting chemical. Once I even found part of a squirrel in my lump, at least I hope it was squirrel. <smile>

    I'd also, slightly, disagree about Royal Oak being the same at Paterno's as Berger Brothers. Absolutely Royal Oak at Paterno's is the same brand, package, as buying Royal Oak at Berger, but the more lump charcoal is handled, the more it starts to break apart. I've bought lump at grocery and/or liquor stores where the 1/8 of the package was unusable charcoal dust. I'm not saying that this is the case at Paterno, they might handle the lump carefully, but in general buying lump directly from Berger Brothers insures it will handled properly.

    As far as Paterno's itself goes, I like the bar for what it is, but have never had much luck with the food. I've never tried the Italian Beef on garlic bread, but the pizza, is so so at best, even when 3-sheets to the wind. Marie's, which you recommend, has great pizza, quite reminiscent of my favorite thin crust in Chicago Vito and Nick's.

    Enjoy,
    Gary

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