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real charcoal Seattle N End?

I am now the proud owner of a new-to-me Kamado ceramic smoker BBQ. I understand these (and Big Green Eggs) work best with real charcoal, not briquettes. So, never having used the real stuff, I don't know where to get it. I live in Ballard, so the closer to Ballard, the better.

Thanks for your help and any other resources you can share about cooking in one of these things!!!

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  1. There is like a big green egg specialty shop type thing on ballard ave? I'm not even making this up. I am having very vague hazy memories of wondering why it is there...but I suspect they have what you need...

    2 Replies
    1. re: dagoose

      Is that store still there? I just assumed it had been changed into another tony bar or shoe store like everything else useful about Ballard.

      1. re: allisonw

        Oh, I suppose it might have...I saw it a few months ago...That is like years in ballard time, right?

    2. Sutter Home and Hearth on Ballard Ave has two kinds of real charcoal. One with mesquite and one with S American hardwoods. I like the one from SA hardwoods then add some wood blocks that you can also buy at Sutter. They probably have six different types of wood.

      1. I've owned a BGE (actually two now) for almost 10 years now. I'd like to offer a couple tips.

        1.) The newer BGE's, Kamado's and other ceramics are the 'space age' ceramic that can withstand 1,000+ degree cooks. The one you have almost certainly is the older ceramic and can crack if you get up above 500 I believe.
        2.) Stick with Sutter if you can for your lump. You'll occasionally see Kingford Lump charcoal in grocery stores. It's absolute crap. Sparks like a sparkler and you will get soot all over what you're cooking.
        3.) The BGE forum is a great resource and for the most part very helpful and friendly.
        4.) If you start getting into your Kamado and consider purchasing a BGE there will be an 'Eggfest' in September at Lk Samm State Park where you can pick up demo BGE's at a good discount.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Seattle Todd

          "If you start getting into your Kamado and consider purchasing a BGE there will be an 'Eggfest' in September at Lk Samm State Park where you can pick up demo BGE's at a good discount."

          oooooo. Might there be a mailing list/website where I could find out more? Discount is a happy word =)

          1. re: jaydeflix

            Sure. Last year's was the first annual and this was the official site. Not sure if it will be the site this year as well:

            http://www.pnweggfest.com

            This year it's going to be on September 6th. I attended and cooked last year and had a blast I must say. A couple BBQ celebs were there as well. Jim Minion and Ray Lampe a.k.a. Dr. BBQ. Here's a link to some pics from the event:

            http://www.flickr.com/photos/seanalex...

            Todd

        2. I'm not a BGE owner, but surprised the recommendation is to use lump instead of briquettes. I thought lump burned hotter, but doesn't have the longevity of briquettes.

          In regards to lump, avoid Cowboy brand. A couple years ago, I purchased a bag at Lowe's. It was pretty much construction scrap about the size of a C and D-cell battery. Some bits weren't even fully converted into charcoal. I've also seen Cowboy brand at Trader Joe's.

          1 Reply
          1. re: dave_c

            Cowboy is bad, surprisingly not the worst. Lump burns hotter for sure. In a ceramic cooker, using a good brand, it lasts quite a while. Also a lot less ash to clean out regardless of the grill or smoker you use.

          2. Congrats on the Kamado. During the summer I cook every day on mine. Go to Cash and Carry and get the 40lb bag of Lazzarri mesquite. It's the same stuff we use in the restuarant and its great, also imparting a great mesquitt-y (that is so not a word) flavor to your food. It will set you back about 14 bucks and will last you a year (seriously). If you do it right, the charcoal can be cooled by shutting the airvents and you can relight it next time. Don't get briquettes. Fillers, sawdust, and glue do not taste good and leave a tremendous amount of ash. And on the subject of marketing, the Big Green Egg brand of mesquite charcoal is the SAME EXACT STUFF as the Lazzari brand...just 20 bucks more a bag. So then that happened...

            5 Replies
            1. re: gdog

              BGE lump is not the same as Lazzari. I've used and continue to use both. BGE is oak as opposed to mesquite. I buy Lazzari when I'm too lazy to drive to get some 'better' lump. The quality of lump charcoal varies drastically from brand to brand even though it's just burnt wood deprived of oxygen.

              I grill and smoke year round and there's NO WAY I could get by on one 40 lb bag.

              I do agree on not using briquettes. I also agree on using the propane torch as a fast lighter for any type of grill/smoker. Second only to a weed burner to light charcoal.

              1. re: Seattle Todd

                Yeah, there's no way one 40 lb bag would last me a year!

                I'm intrigued by the lump charcoal. I use it all the time with my Cajun Grill but use briquettes on my Kamado because they burn slower. How do you use the lump when doing a 12 hour smoke? I certainly don't want to lift the lid to add more to it - can I somehow make the lump burn slower so it lasts the whole time?

                1. re: Lauren

                  I've never used the 'old' ceramics personally. When I do low n' slows I never have a problem with the lump running out and I often go as long as 20 hours without adding any. When I do a 12-16 at 200 - 250 there's enough lump left at the end of the cook that I can fire the temp up and grill sausages, chicken breasts, etc.

                  I don't use much of a special technique. I just add lots of lump light in a few places with a MAPP torch, close the top and bottom vents until they're open just a crack. Once it evens out at my desired temp I add wood chunks and let them burn until most of the smoke is no longer coming out of the top vent and then throw on the meat.

                  If you're having problems with the lump running out I would venture to guess that you're either not using enough, burning at a higher temp than mid 200's or possibly the newer ceramics are just more efficient due to the improved ceramic itself.

                  If you get good briquettes without the additives and chemicals they work fine. The only thing I dislike about them compared to lump is that they don't burn as hot or get hot as fast and they tend to generate a lot more ash.

                  It's not cheap (~$24 for 20 lbs) but Sutter's in Woodinville, and probably Ballard, has started carrying a brand of lump called Wicked Good. I'd heard about this stuff on the BGE board for years and picked some up last weekend. Two cooks in and I was converted. It's really dense and harder to light than other brands but it burns much longer and produces much less ash than any other brand I've tried. Might want to give that a shot if you'd prefer lump but don't use it because of the need to add more during the cook.

                  1. re: Seattle Todd

                    Thanks! I'll give it a try!

              2. re: gdog

                I picked up a bag of the Lazzarri today, thanks for the tip. I'm off and running. Cleaning with heat tomorrow, cooking tomorrow night!

              3. I only use charcoal usually sourced at Costco. I have tried the lumps from Cash & Carry, but they are tough to break up into usable sizes. I use an electric starter sourced from Home Depot. Leave it on for ten minutes and pull it off. The starters seem to last about two years prior to replacement. A Harbor Freight store opened on NE 20th just west of the Fred Meyers store. They have an electric starting propane torch that might work quite well using gdog's approach.Don't forget to put a bunch of wood chips into one of those free buckets you get when you purchase dishwasher soap. If you rinse the bucket out first and keep the yellow plastic top on it after putting water and chips into it, it won't dry out. A handful of chips goes a long way towards making the food tasty.

                1. Sorry for the interruption, but we ask everyone to help keep our discussion local to the PacNW region. Local sources for food and cooking supplies like charcoal help keep this board useful for you and your neighbors, while non-regional tips for how to start a charcoal fire are useful for any Chowhound, anywhere.

                  So we've split off your tips about igniting charcoal in a chimney starter to the Home Cooking board, here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/506664

                  A tangent about Big Green Egg cookers versus a Kamado brand cooker has been split to the Cookware board: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/506667

                  Sorry for the break, please do share local tips here.