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Can Flavored Briquettes Spice Up Your Cookout?

Kingsford, the most popular charcoal briquette manufacturer, now makes flavored charcoal briquettes. Do they add anything to your food?
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Published Aug. 24, 2022.

If you’ve ever grilled over charcoal, chances are you’ve used Kingsford Original Briquettes. They’re effective, affordable, and universally accessible—so common that they’re what we use here at the test kitchen to develop all of our charcoal grilling recipes.

So we were really curious about Kingsford’s new flavored briquettes, which are supposed to add the taste of different herbs and aromatics to your food.

Three options are available: garlic, onion and paprika; cumin and chili; and basil, sage, and thyme. They cost about twice what you’d pay for the original briquettes—we paid $8.99 for each 8-lb bag of the garlic and basil variants, whereas a standard 17.6-lb bag of the original briquettes cost us just $9.99.   

We put the flavors to the test, grilling chicken thighs over the garlic and the basil briquettes, with chicken cooked over the regular briquettes as a control.

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APPEARANCE

We examined the contents of the flavored charcoal bags and were intrigued by what we found. In each bag, ordinary Kingsford briquettes were supplemented with special, lighter-colored briquettes that seemed to be made of wood fibers. Was this where the flavor would come from?

The new charcoal came with special fibrous briquettes ostensibly meant to provide the additional flavors.

IN USE

We noticed an immediate difference once we lit the flavored briquettes: They threw off a ton of smoke. These generated so much more smoke than the regular briquettes that we began to brace ourselves for calls from our neighbors. (None came, thankfully, but the air was hazy for a good half hour.)

The flavored briquettes (foreground) produced a lot more smoke than the original ones (background.)

TASTE TEST

But did they contribute anything to the flavor of our food? 

Nope.

We tried chicken cooked over the garlic and the basil charcoal products and couldn’t detect a difference between any of them. They all tasted, well, grilled—but nothing more than that. Any herb or allium flavor must have gone up in all that smoke. Think about it: Would you expect to get any flavor from sprinkling paprika or garlic powder on burning briquettes? No? Well, that’s pretty much what we got here.

We tasted chicken cooked on two of the flavored charcoals (bottom) against chicken cooked on conventional briquettes (top).

THE VERDICT

If you want to add flavor to your food, save yourself the money and skip the gimmicky briquettes. You’re better off using a rub, marinade, or sauce.

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