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Jul 1, 2011 12:04 AM

Lump Charcoal in OC

There seems to be a certain progression to reach the grilling Tao of Charcoal.

As a newbie, you start off using lighter fluid before you move onto a chimney starter to replace the lighter fluid. Then, you progress from using charcoal briquettes to using lump charcoal.

But, where do you buy the good lump charcoal in Orange County?

I just discovered this wonderful webiste, , that's kind of like a Cook's Illustrated for lump charcoal. But, I can't seem to find their top rated charoals in the OC- Ozark Oak,
Dragon Breath, Nature-Glo Natural Wood, Nature's Mesquite Charcoal, or Real Montana Maple. Has anybody seen any one of those being sold in Orange County?

The only one I"ve found so far has been Royal Oak at Wal-Mart but I don't know if its American Royal Oak or one of the South American Royal Oaks.

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  1. Royal Oak - yes. Not the other brands. You can buy the Big Green Egg brand at Barbecues Galore, Ace Hardware and other Big Green Egg dealers. I believe it's made by Royal Oak, and I don't know what Naked Whiz rates that, so not sure if it's even worth it.

    Lazzari is a brand from San Francisco, and I've seen smallish (8 pounds?) bags of their mesquite lump at The Meat House in Costa Mesa. Personally, I'm not a fan of mesquite lump, so can't really say how well-sorted the lump pieces are (size-wise). I suppose if you ask, Meat House can bring in the oak lump from Lazzari, but I don't know how open they are to that.

    21 Replies
    1. re: Professor Salt

      The Whole Foods brand I find is the most consistent in quality and uniform size. The big 40lbs bags that you can buy at Smart and Final are garbage, Huge chunks and dust.

      1. re: trojans

        I grabbed one of those at Smart and Final. Hilarious. There was literally a tree trunk in it. I had to take an axe to it to get it to fit in my 21 inch Weber kettle.

      2. re: Professor Salt

        I try new lump charcoal brands whenever I can and I can say that so far Big Green Egg brand is my favorite. Great fragrance, burns nicely, etc. It's also expensive. The Royal Oak brand has a similar fragrance, though not as strong. Chunks tend to be relatively uniform -- not too many huge pieces and not too much dust and shards. Royal Oak runs about half the price of BGE, so I wouldn't hesitate to buy a bag or two next time you're at Walmart and start your own lump exploration.

        Royal Oak
        PO Box 373, Blue Jay, CA 92317

        1. re: Riska

          Does Walmart reliably have the Royal Oak Lump sourced from the US in SoCal? The closest to me is the Walmart in Baldwin Hills, then It's to Long Beach. I've been tempted by the Big Green Egg 20# bags at Barbecues Galore but the $30 price tag is a bit much.

          1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

            I was pleasantly suprised.

            No, I was shocked that the Royal Oak sold in Wal-Mart appears to be really the American Royal Oak, and not the Paraguay, Argententian, or Brazilian one. With the way Wal-Mart operates where they always try to cut down costs, I was sure they'd try to pull a fast one and stock foreign Royal Oak. But, I looked at the side of the bag and it really does seem that they are really made from American wood.

            The cost for a 10 pound bag was a little bit under $6.50. Although, I believe that Wal-Mart stocks Royal Oak seasonally so you should be able to find it now but not necessairly in winter months.

            1. re: hobbess

              "I believe that Wal-Mart stocks Royal Oak seasonally so you should be able to find it now but not necessairly in winter months."

              Which means keep an eye out for the Labor Day blowout sale, and stock up! I buy charcoal in quantity twice a year for Memorial Day sale, and Labor Day sale.

              1. re: Professor Salt

                Do you know when the RO will go on sale at Wal-Mart? Has it gone on sale yet?

                1. re: hobbess

                  I haven't checked the stores as I've still got a big pile of charcoal in the garage. You might try their website. Also look at CVS and OSH, which also carry RO briquettes (depending on the location).

                  1. re: Professor Salt

                    Professor Salt, any specific CVS or OSH's your recommend in the search for RO?

                    1. re: troublemaker

                      Remember I'm talking about briquettes not lump, because that's what I prefer for smoking. Sorry for hijacking the thread.

                      In the past, I've bought RO briqs at the OSH in Fountain Valley and the CVS in Irvine on Alton and Jeffrey. Call ahead before you make the trip.

                      riska and hobbess reported that Walmart carries RO lump, so if that's what you want, don't go to CVS or OSH.

                    2. re: Professor Salt

                      I'm wondering if that RO blow out sale was a one time fluke only thing because I checked Wal-Mart and they weren't on sale. They were listed as clearance, but the price was exactly the same as it was before it went on clearance.

                      So, when Wal-Mart puts their Royal Oak charcoal on sale, it means that they won't carry any more until grilling season next year.

                      Royal Oak
                      PO Box 373, Blue Jay, CA 92317

            2. re: Riska

              Big green egg is at least twice what the house brand costs at BBQ's Galore. That's ridiculous...even the staff agrees.

              It usually takes me almost 2 bags of charcoal to keep the smoker going for the 18-20 hours that my pork butts take to cook. I'm not dropping $50 in charcoal to cook $20 worth of meat.

              1. re: meadandale

                BBQ's Galore mostly pulled out of my area, but their house brand was a close runner up to BGE for me -- and yeah, much better price. I had forgotten about it since they're not really around me anymore.

                I'm cooking on an Egg too, so when I do splurge the $23 for a bag of BGE I can get at least 3 of those 18 hour pork butt cooks out of one bag of charcoal.

              2. re: Riska

                BGE = Royal Oak


                "We have heard rumors that Royal Oak saves their best lump for BGE. We have reviewed Royal Oak's own brand and found it to be as good as the BGE lump."

                1. re: Joe Blowe

                  If you look carefully at the Naked Whiz database, it is important to differentiate RO by origin. USA and Argentina origin are good, Brazilian and Paraguayan origin have inferior performance. The comment you quote is referring to RO USA origin. Another good brand is Frontier (again check the bag for USA origin), available at most ACE Hardware. I have found that BBQ Galore brand doesn't compare to RO, BGE, or Frontier (all USA origin). I cook on a medium BGE, so cost is also less of a factor since they go so easy on fuel.

                  1. re: stuffed

                    Um, yeah, that all went without saying.

                    I was merely pointing out that BGE charcoal is manufactured by RO. Origin was not an issue -- the issue is that one can save a lot of money *not buying* BGE charcoal!

                    1. re: Joe Blowe

                      The Naked Whiz quote you used is referring to the RO USA origin, which they say is as good as BGE. It does not mean that all RO is comparable to BGE, which could be inferred from your use of the quote. I was providing context for anyone who really wants to know about good charcoal to purchase in OC, which was the point of the OP.

              3. re: Professor Salt

                have you found any Wicked Good lump out here? I used to get it when I was on the East Coast... I haven't really tried to source it here yet. But it was amazing lump.

                1. re: adamclyde

                  No, haven't seen any Wicked Good out here.

                  1. re: Professor Salt

                    According to their Website it only seems to be distributed to Northern California.

                2. re: Professor Salt

                  Since I last wrote about Lazzari lump, I've discovered that Beverages and More carries Lazzari mesquite lump in two sizes, plus their almond firewood. I've seen it at BevMos in Orange and Ladera Ranch, but call ahead and make sure your local store does.

                3. I kind of like the mesquite coal from Mexico myself. Yes, it's uneven in size, but a little effort with any number of garden tools can cure that if it's a problem. I do love the fireworks show the stuff puts on while it's in the ignition phase.

                  Stay away from the "Cowboy" branded stuff for anything beyond quick grilling. It has no lasting power, burns up really fast. Too much surface-to-volume.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Akitist

                    Seems like nobody ever has anything good to say about Cowboy, yet its one of the more widely distributed lump charcoals out there whereas there doesn't seem to be many sources carrying the good lump charcoal. Who would have thought, that of all the possible choices, it would be Wal-Mart that would carry the best available lump charcoal in OC?

                    I just find it curious how come none of those independent family-owned grocery stores or those stores that specialize in grilling equipment have never tried to fill that void and carry one of the better lump charcoal brands. Instead, they'll foolishly carry the ubiquitous commodity charcoals that the big chains carry even though they'll never beat the chains on price.

                    1. re: hobbess

                      I've been talking to The Woodshed in Orange since last year, trying to convince him to bring in Royal Oak's commercial grade of briquettes. (It's a larger briq whose performance I rather like). I suppose if he hears the request for quality charcoal from other people, he might realize that he's in a good position to fill a business void.

                    2. re: Akitist

                      If you look at other parts of the country or even the world, they'll use the local hardwood as the basis for their lump charcoal or sometimes just use the wood itself. So, why don't we do the same thing here instead of importing misquite charcoal from Mexico?

                      Is white oak, a la Santa Maria, the closest thing we have for something local that we could use?

                    3. It's not the best by any means but, FYI if you're ever in the need, Home Depot carries a lump charcoal.