Are Premium (Jealous Devil, FOGO, Primo, etc.) Charcoal Brands Worth Buying?

Before I delved deep into grilling or any kind of barbecue, I genuinely thought that Kingsford was the charcoal out there that everyone used. I never heard of barbecue competitions, if I’m being completely honest, and entering the world of barbecue flipped my entire paradigm upside down as I gained this new hobby that turned into a full-blown passion backed by the enjoyment of throwing down grub that will be enjoyed by those I’m feeding.

The first time I ever grilled on my own, it was on a cheap 17.5″ Backyard Grill charcoal grill that was purchased at Wal-Mart. I used Royal Oak, that was purchased by someone else — the same person who was teaching me how to grill. Up until that point, nobody had taught me how to properly grill; growing up, my mom would use an old charcoal grill and line the top with foil for easy clean-up and to avoid flare-ups. My aunt, who lived within a minute down the road, would often cook family meals and she used a gas grill, even though we all preferred the flavor that charcoal imparts onto meats.

When the person who was teaching me how to grill explained Royal Oak to me, they said, “This is a serviceable charcoal, but Kingsford is the best.”

I got into barbecuing a few months later when I received my first smoker, which was a used offset vertical Brinkmann Trailmaster stick burner. It was great — now, when I say ‘great’, I mean that it got the job done, and being a stick burner, one eating the grub from it would enjoy the best barbecue the world has to offer from the most classically done ‘Q. However, it was a pain in the ass to manage the temps, because you had to continuously babysit the fire by adding more wood periodically, and as stated, it was used… it was several years old by that point, had experienced rust from being outside in rainy and humid weather conditions, and it didn’t seal well so there was a lot of leaky smoke. It eventually rusted to the point of holes being accrued, rendering it unusable, but I miss the heck out of using it, since it was my first smoker and created the barbecue that I first knew of: flavors imparted from logs of wood via an awesome stick burner. I learned how delicious barbecue is a labor of love.

Enough of that story, however. I used Kingsford to start my fire, in a bed of briquettes, before layering it with some genuine southern cherrywood.

2017 was the year I got into the barbecue community on Instagram, and it was the same year I started using my 22.5″ Weber Smokey Mountain cooker, which is a ‘water’ smoker featuring a water pan that runs on charcoal briquettes (you can use lump, too, with no issue) and wood chunks.

During that time, I noticed a lot of people in the barbecue community on IG talking about all these ‘foreign’ charcoal brands. I say ‘foreign’ because they were all ‘foreign’ to me. Jealous Devil… FOGO… Primo… there are other brands I’m forgetting, so you will have to forgive me here. This are much smaller companies than, say, Kingsford or Royal Oak or even Stubb’s, and one can say they are ‘niche’ products because the averae griller or barbecuer is unlikely to know of such brands, unless they hang out on social media within the community and follow some of the ‘bigger’ names in the said community who often write about them.

I remember the first time I heard of one of these brands. I believe it was Jealous Devil all natural lump charcoal. One of the big names in the Instagram barbecue community posted about it, and she said she was using it for a barbecue competition, stating that she was using a Weber Smokey Mountain. I was intrigued and read the comments from other Instagrammers who wrote about how good Jealous Devil charcoal is. I remember checking out the price and my mouth dropped. I was used to finding incredible deals on Kingsford and Royal Oak around the major grilling holidays (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day…) for cheap prices (I’m talking 40 or so lbs. for around $10), and then I see Jealous Devil all natural lump charcoal’s price… $33.95 for a bag on Amazon.

It was daunting to see that price for charcoal at first. I mean, I would rather spend that type of money on a brisket, but curiosity grabbed hold of me, and I had to check to see what the fuss is about, so guess what? I ordered a bag. The shipping was super fast and I couldn’t wait to get it.

Before I continue, let me mention something about Kingsford and Royal Oak. As far as Kingsford goes, I can’t believe how many detractors it has on social media. There are so many people who claim they despise the smell of it, describing it as acrid, disgusting and ‘chemical.’ I disagree with all of them, and perhaps my olfactory senses are ‘ignorant’, but I’ve never found that to be the case with trusty ol’ Kingsford blue. As far as Royal Oak goes, it is more known for its lump charcoal than its briquettes, but the knock on it is that, for one, people knock it for having small pieces in the bag, and for two, I’ve read stories of people finding weird items in there, from rocks to nails to barbed wire to concrete chunks to whatever else; I’ve heard similar stories about Cowboy lump charcoal. I have never had these issues with either Royal Oak nor Cowboy, but they are alarming to hear about.

Anywho, I received my bag of Jealous Devil all natural lump charcoal and was pleased to see the consistency with the size of the lump coals. They were pretty much all uniform in size, unlike Royal Oak or Cowboy, with next to no ‘tiny’ pieces. I fired it up for a cook in my Barrel House Cooker 14D, vents wide open, and hung a whole chicken in there. It turned out delicious. The next day, I smoked a few racks of ribs in my Weber Smokey Mountain, using the Jealous Devil all natural lump charcoal, and again, delicious… with the ribs, it held temperature perfectly, but then again, I was using my WSM, which always holds temps better than virtually anything else.

But was it worth the price?

To me? A backyard barbecue guy with business aspirations that have not come to fruition yet?

No.

I’m glad my curiosity influenced me to give it a shot, but as I’ve stated above, after several hundreds of cooks and becoming a lite barbecue veteran, I have never had any issues with Kingsford, Royal Oak, Stubb’s or Cowboy, which are much cheaper brands. As far as Royal Oak and Cowboy lump are concerned, respectively, I’ve never found any weird items in there, and I don’t really mind the small pieces, because if you really want to combat the small pieces from falling throw the cracks of the charcoal grate, you can lay it on a small bed of briquettes.

I can’t consistently afford Jealous Devil, FOGO or Primo charcoal. I mean, I guess I could, but consider how often I’m grilling and barbecuing, it would be a big time money sink for me, personally, if that would be all I use, because instead of putting that same money towards delicious meats, I’d be sinking more of it into charcoal. However, I will say this: if you have disposable income that lends itself towards justifying that kind of spending towards such brands, that is wonderful, but the taste in the food when using such premium brands vs. Kingsford, Royal Oak, Stubb’s, Cowboy, etc. is negligible to me.

I think using such premium brands are worth it if you are entering barbecue competitions, however. Reliable, big chunks of lump that will burn clean & consistently and not impart any ‘chemical’ flavors is something you want on your side in a competitive cook, but for frequent grilling and barbecuing? If you can afford it, go for it, but don’t turn into one of those types of people that wants to “keep up with the Joneses” and use it because it is popular in the niche barbecue community on social media. Use it if you like it and can consistently afford it, because while I have tried FOGO and the others, Jealous Devil is awesome, but I can’t justify using it exclusively as far as my allotted budget is concerned.

Brands like Kingsford, Royal Oak, Stubb’s and Cowboy have never once failed me up to this point, so I’ll be vanilla and stick with them, although I may return to Jealous Devil this fall when I enter another barbecue competition that is coming up.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comment section. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Secret to Making the Best Hot Dogs You Will Have Ever Had in Your Life


I grew up eating hot dogs and hamburgers like crazy during the summer. My dad was quite the chef, but he was always working as the owner of his mining parts company and never grilled. My aunt, who lived down the road from us, was always doing the grilling for the family, whether it was done so on a little charcoal grill or on her gas grill.

These hot dogs, on the Blackstone Griddle, changed my entire worldview of hot dogs. Give them a try and you’ll see. Quoting a line from the movie ‘Limitless’, “I was blind, but now I see.”

Laugh all you want, but you are getting a recipe + instruction guide for these hot dogs, whether or not you already see them as a simple cook for an otherwise throwaway dinner.

Recipe
Nathan’s skinless beef franks (you can use the cheapest hot dogs out there, and they’ll still be serviceable, but use quality ‘dogs for a mindblowing flavorgasm for your tastebuds).
— Olive oil
— Granulated garlic
— Black pepper
— Buns
— Your favorite toppings

Instructions
I used my 17″ Tabletop Blackstone Griddle for this cook, setting the heat to medium/medium-low.
— Once the flat top griddle surface was hot with a thin coating of olive oil, I added the hot dogs
— Using a little squirt bottle full of olive oil, I coated the top of the hot dogs with olive oil and sprinkled the granulated garlic and black pepper on top of them
— Moments later, I rolled the hot dogs over and added another layer of granulated garlic and black pepper to them
— Keep turning your hot dogs every 35-40 seconds
— Finish them to the doneness of your liking. I like for my hot dogs to be browned up, but some people like them lightly cooked or even burned. Cook them how you like them.
— Remove and enjoy in a bun with your favorite toppings

Toasted buns are a must

Please give this a try. It’s simple: olive oil, granulated garlic and black pepper. Just a couple of changes transforms a hot dog from being an ordinary ‘dog to being the best damn hot dog you will have ever eaten in your entire life.

The first time I made hot dogs like this, I made my personal homemade chili recipe, which I will share in the near future. It blew my mind as to how good they were. I had never eaten such a delicious hot dog before in my entire life. Before, they were just hot dogs; now, they are “hot damn!” dogs.

If you give hot dogs a shot this way, let me know what you think. I guess you could do the same on a charcoal, gas or pellet grill, but remember: olive oil, granulated garlic and black pepper. Shout out to America’s Griddler, Todd Toven, for this exceptional idea. I doubt I will ever make hot dogs any other way for the rest of my life, but then again, I’m always down to try new things when it comes to going on a flavor journey.

How to Make Thin and Crispy Pizza on the Blackstone Griddle

This was after I finished all the pizzas I made. Yeah, the photo is a little messy, but I will be making these again in the near future and I’ll recapture some better shots.

This, much like anything you can think of (asides from candy bars), can be made on any model of the Blackstone Griddle. It’s easy, simple and delicious. I love pizza any way I can get it. While my all-time favorite is an ultra-cheesy, Chicago deep dish pizza, thin’n’crispy is always a hit, too.

Recipe
— A pack of flour tortillas (8-10 inch ones)
— Pizza sauce (I use Classico pizza sauce, but you can use whatever you want; if using marinara sauce, I recommend adding a pinch of sugar to it for a little sweetness.)
— Cheese (I used shredded mozzarella, but you can use virtually any blend of cheese)
— Toppings (much like cheese, you can use virtually anything you want; I made a barrage of different pizzas, from pepperoni only to pepperoni and sliced’n’sauteed white button mushrooms to cooked’n’crumbled Jimmy Dean hot pork sausage.
— Basting cover (I used the 12″ basting cover from Blackstone Products, but you can use any kind of basting cover… even a cheap aluminum pan!)
Optional: Italian seasoning (I love the McCormick Organic Italian seasoning, which features a blend of marjoran, oregano, thyme, rosemary and basil). Adding this adds an extra punch of flavor to pizza. I like to add a little garlic powder to this mix as well.
— Optional: Fresh, chopped basil

Instructions
I used my 17″ Tabletop Blackstone Griddle for this cook, but you can use any model, including the 22″, the 28″ or the 36″.
— Fire up the griddle to medium/medium-low heat
— Once hot, add a tortilla onto the flat top cooking surface
— Using a spoon, add your sauce all around the pizza — have the freedom of using how much sauce you want… a little or a lot!
— Optional: sprinkle the Italian seasoning all around the surface as it will sit into pockets of sauce
— Top with cheese
— Add your toppings onto the cheese; this is where I added the fresh, chopped basil.
— Cover with the basting cover for a minute or so; when I watched Todd Toven make pizzas on the griddle at the Blackstone Griddle More Tour demos, he added a couple of ice cubes to the surface when he covered the pizzas with the basting cover in order to promote steam and quicker melting, but I didn’t use any.
— Remove the basting cover; once the bottom side of the tortilla is browned the way you like it, carefully remove it from the flat top cooking surface (I used a couple of Blackstone spatulas).

It’s a really easy, simple recipe that makes for a delicious meal, and it’s fun to cook, because you can do virtually anything you want with these pizzas.

Note: I cooked up both the mushrooms and the Jimmy Dean hot pork sausage prior to cooking. As for why I cooked the mushrooms first, it is due to how how water they lose when they are cooked (nobody wants a watered down, soggy pizza), not to mention mushrooms are much more digestible when cooked.

Simple Homemade Flour Tortillas (Recipe!)

Homemade flour tortillas

As a big fan of soft tortillas, I had to give these a shot.

Ingredients
— 4 cups of all-purpose flour
— 6 tablespoons of lard (or vegetable shortening if you are opposed to lard for whatever reason)
— 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt (I used kosher salt)
— 2 teaspoons of baking powder
— 1 1/2 cups of hot water

Tools needed
— Board of some kind, as in a big cutting board or a rolling board, dusted with a smidgen of flour
— Rolling pin dusted with a smidgen of flour
— If you have a tortilla press, use it! I didn’t, as I don’t have one, but it’s on my personal wishlist.

Recipe
— Start with your dry ingredients: whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt
— Add in the lard and use your hand to mix together
— Use your other hand to pour in some of the hot water, mixing it along the way
— Knead it! It took me about 25 minutes of kneading before it finally came together and formed a nice supple ball. No idea why it took so long. I watched a video where it only took the person making tortillas around ten minutes of kneading. Then again, I’m a newbie at making homemade flour tortillas, so maybe I’ll get better in due time.
— Separate into little balls. I made around 24-26 of them.
— Let rest for 10 minutes under a damp paper towel
— Add the dough balls to your board and start rolling them thin, rotating them 90 degrees after every roll.
— Heat up a skillet (I used a Lodge cast iron skillet) to medium to medium-high heat
— Cook your tortillas one by one. Takes about a minute or so on each side. You know it’s ready to flip when they start bubbling, and after the flip you can check the bottom side to see if it is golden brown

Enjoy with whatever you want. They are delicious even with some Kerrygold butter spread onto them fresh out of the skillet!

Lamb Chops on the Barrel House Cooker (Recipe!)

Freshly smoked lamb chops right out of the Barrel House Cooker 14D.

I never tried lamb until last April. I’m from rural southwest Virginia, and it just isn’t very popular here! This is an agricultural haven in the United States, yet beef and pork reign supreme, and lamb? Good luck finding it unless you find a small business to buy from (shout out to Victoria and Brandon Gent from Appalachian Meats in Lebanon, VA for selling lamb!)

You just need three things
— Lamb chops
The Killer Cook Mediterranean Spice Blend seasoning
— A smoker (I used my Barrel House Cooker 14D)

Instructions
— Optional: I sprayed the lamb chops with duck fat spray as a binder before applying the Mediterranean Spice rub.
— You can use charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal; I’ve used both when smoking lamb. For this cook, I just used trusty ol’ Kingsford blue along with a small chunk of cherrywood.
— Fire up the charcoal in a chimney starter (if you don’t have one, I recommend that you purchase one).
— After 20-25 minutes, once the charcoal has turned white hot at the top, dump into the charcoal base of your smoker (if you are using a grill, just cook on indirect heat)
— Allow 15-20 minutes for your smoker to heat up.
— I just had the intake vents on the Barrel House Cooker barely cracked open, although you can leave ’em wide open if you’d like.
— Add the lamb chops to the smoker

This only takes me 25-30 minutes for medium rare lamb. That’s it. Nothing fancy. Just remove, let the meat rest about five minutes and dig in!

The Mediterranean Spice Blend seasoning by The Killer Cook is so good because it is a perfect pairing with lamb. It is a match made in heaven. Of course, I guess that is an obvious statement given the name of the seasoning, but still. You can tell me I’m narrow minded, but it is the only seasoning I trust in using when it comes to lamb because it works so perfectly well with it.

If you can’t get ahold of The Killer Cook’s Mediterranean Spice Blend seasoning for lamb, I highly recommend you try this combo:

— Kosher salt
— Black pepper
— Garlic powder
— Dried rosemary
— Dried oregano
— A dash of paprika

The Mediterranean Spice Blend I keep bragging about features mint, too, so if you can get your hands on some dried mint, add a little bit of it to your lamb seasoning mix.