Bill had asked in a comment on one of my grilling rants what my opinion of classic Kingsford briquettes is, compared to natural hardwood lump charcoal. One day I will go so far as starting with wood (not hardwood charcoal) and going all the way to cooking, but that’s another experiment.
Advantages to Kingsford:
- Super-easy to use/fill/pour/light. Briquettes are uniform size, so they all light up at roughly the same rate, and are easy to distributed in the starter, and onto the grill once lit.
- Don’t tend to explode on you, throwing white-hot burning embers all over the place.
- Add very little in terms of flavor to the cooking process, good or otherwise.
- Briquettes burn down to a uniform fine powder.
Advantages to lump hardwood:
- Adds a taste and smell while cooking that is pleasant.
- Burns a LOT hotter per charcoal volume (I can use 1/2 to 3/4 the amount of lump hardwood for a comparable briquette temperature).
- Varying size of pieces allows finer control over how much/little airflow one wants through the coals themselves.
So, you can figure out some of the negatives already. With lump charcoal, I’ve got to watch the thing like a hawk, but at the same time fear for my life in terms of getting burned. Further, getting the lump charcoal into the starter/to stay on the grill is tough, because many of the small pieces just fall through, which makes stacking nontrivial until a good pile gets going.
Overall, I love the ease and convenience of the Kingsford briquettes, but I like the temperature and additional flavor from the lump hardwood