By Mike Thayer
Make no mistake, I am a charcoal enthusiast. In my humble opinion, for a grilled meal, you can't beat charcoal and a Weber Kettle.
I do like to throw some added flavor through wood in combination with the charcoal, chunks of pecan wood to do up some brats, chunks of a fruit wood for pork or chunks of oak for beef. It all depends on what you're grilling or smoking. The key is creating layers of flavor, so when my girlfriend texted me a pic of Kingsford's lineup of flavored charcoal with a caption of "Flavored Smoke?" I was intrigued.
I have to admit, I've never used the stuff before and my initial reaction to flavored smoke was "Isn't that what spices are for? Talk about lazy grilling...."
But I have to try it!
The Kingsford lineup comes in three "Flavors," a combination of traditional Kingsford charcoal and the flavored briquettes. Here are the descriptions pulled from the Kingsford website:
Garlic Onion Paprika: "Savory, caramelized flavor featuring an earthy base of garlic paired with the mildly sweet notes of onion and warmth of paprika." The flavored briquettes are hickory based.
Basil Sage Thyme: "Smooth, balanced flavor that channels a peppery blend of basil harmonized with mellow hits of herbaceous sage and earthy thyme." These flavored briquettes have an oak infused base.
Cumin Chili: "Bold, smoky flavor built on a warm and hearty foundation of cumin with a spicy pick-me-up pop of chili heat." These briquettes have a mesquite wood base.
So, inspired by my girlfriend I went to my local grocery store and picked up a bag of the Cumin Chili flavored charcoal and some chicken thighs to test it out with.
As I previously stated, I questioned whether 'spices' could be infused through smoke into whatever I might be grilling and after all, isn't that what marinades and dry rubs are for?
But, being open minded, boy is this adding another layer of flavor!
I marinaded a little less than two pounds of boneless/skinless chicken thighs as follows:
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons smoked salt
- juice from half a lime
After bagging and letting the chicken get all happy in the fridge for three hours, it was time to fire up the grill.
I lost all skepticism I had for 'flavored smoke' when I dumped the chimney. You can smell all those spice notes, it's like I was already grilling something and I hadn't even put any food on the grill yet! The aroma of the cumin and chili was enticing!
So with the marinaded chicken in mind, as a control measure to see if this smoke can infuse spice flavor in food, I included baked potatoes in this meal. Potatoes are great for taking on flavor. On the grill they went, simply prepped with olive oil, salt and pepper. They went on the grate over indirect heat, no foil. Rotating those taters every 15 minutes (for a total cook time of one hour), I put the chicken on over the coals in a lid off preparation to avoid any flare ups. Once I got the grill marks I wanted, I transferred the chicken over to indirect heat to finish cooking, lid on.
Let me tell you, I am a FAN of this spice infused charcoal! The marinaded chicken was outstanding, but the potatoes were actually the star of the show! They really picked up the spice notes. I served them up "loaded" with butter, cheese, sour cream, bacon and green onion. But that was all complimented by the cumin, chili and mesquite notes in that flavored charcoal. PHENOMENAL!
Costing me $10.99 for an 8 pound bag, I'm giving Kingsford Cumin Chili Flavored Charcoal 5 out of 5 stars. It's reasonably priced and most definitely delivers another layer of flavor on whatever you're grilling!
Marinade and/or dry rub + Kingsford Flavored Charcoal = Another Dose of YUM!
This charcoal is certainly a repeat buy and I can't wait to try the other flavors!
I take great pleasure in grilling good eats!
~ Mike Thayer