Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

Let me start by saying that this is probably the longest, most picturesque, most in-depth, and most scientific post that I've written to date. Kingsford® has changed their "blue bag" formulation yet again, and I think it deserves a fair investigation.

As you can see by the claim on the bag in the image above (left bag), the new formulation is "ready even faster and burns longer". This is clearly good news, if it holds true.

Just for background, the new Kingsford® comes from an apparent "green" initiative by the company. In short, they sought to produce a product that yields the same amount of heat, but in a smaller package. The bag is lighter, which means more bags in a truck, which translates to less trucking miles, and therefore less emissions.

As I mentioned, this is all well and good, so long as I get the same or more bang for the bag. Let's dive in and see how this new stuff stacks up.

I wanted this review to be as fair and impartial as I could make it at home. I don't have a laboratory, but I am an engineer, so I did the best that I could. I ran side-by-side tests of two brand new off-the-shelf bags of the old and the new. As you will see, I've weighed and photographed each product so that you can see exactly what I saw.

Here goes...

Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

As you can see, the new bag is 1.4 pounds lighter than the previous formulation.

Note: From here on the old briquettes are pictured on the left, and the new are on the right.

Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

The new briquettes are about the same size, but they appear to be more tightly compressed and feature larger and deeper grooves. As you can see, the new grooves are diagonal.

Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

I weighed various quantities of the old and the new briquettes and here is how they compared:

1 briquette3/4 oz7/8 oz
5 briquettes4 1/4 oz4 3/8 oz
10 briquettes8 3/8 oz8 5/8 oz

Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

For the burn test, I punched two aluminum pie pans with an identical pattern of six holes. I wanted to use a method that would contain the ash for a final weight, as you will see later.

Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

I arranged the old and new briquettes in each pan as similarly as I could. I used 12 briquettes in each, in layers of six, four, and two (all with the grooves facing upward). I put a single Weber wax starter cube in each pile.

Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

I lit each cube and took pictures at five-minute intervals. For those interested, the temperature was 48º and the humidity was 52%.

Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

At five minutes.

Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

At 10 minutes.

Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

At 15 minutes.

Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

At 20 minutes.

Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

At 25 minutes. I started taking temperature measurements at this point. I used an infrared thermometer on the bottom of each pan at the 9 o'clock position.


Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

At 30 minutes.


Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

At 35 minutes.


Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

At 60 minutes.


Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

At 90 minutes.


I stopped taking pictures at 90 minutes, but I continued reading the temperatures out to 180 minutes.


Here is a chart that shows the old and new temperatures over time. The horizontal axis is time and the vertical shows the temperatures.

Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

What about ash? Well, as you can see below, they are very close, but the new stuff produces slightly less by weight (3 oz vs. 2 1/2 oz).

Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

Review: Old vs New Kingsford Charcoal

OK, so what does all of this really mean? The bottom line for me is that, based on my testing, the new product lives up to its claims. In fact, I think it's better than they claim.

While you could argue that it starts slower, I think the crossover temperature at roughly 500º is a good indication that they really are comparable out of the gate.

As the chart above shows, it does indeed burn longer (and even hotter) over the long haul. Combine that with less ash weight, and I think it's an all-around better product.

Note: The new formula is far less smokey starting up than the old formula. I'd estimate that the old stuff smokes four to five times as much.

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Emerilware By All-Clad

As I was shooting the pictures for this post my wife asked, "Why are you shooting pictures of a pan?" I replied, "You know, as I was washing this I was thinking about what a great pan this is." I elaborated further, but the bottom line is that I decided it was time to spread the good news.

About a year ago I bought this 8" Emerilware anodized non-stick skillet, made by All-Clad. Now, I'm not a huge fan of non-stick cookware, but there are applications where it is simply required.

I bought this pan simply because I have been very disappointed with most of the non-stick garbage that is out there. I have other All-Clad cookware and utensils and they have certainly lived up to their reputation for being some of the absolute best cooking products available. They make simply incredible stuff!

Take a close look at the picture above. Note that the pan looks almost brand new. This is a testament to how well-made this cookware is. After a year of consistent use, the inside of the pan has barely any evidence of use. The non-stick coating is almost flawless.

Not only is this cookware very well-made, it cooks like nobody's business. It heats very quickly, evenly and produces great food every single time. My only regret is that it's only an 8-inch pan. I have a 12" anodized Calphalon pan and it seriously pales in comparison. I plan to remedy that situation very soon.

If you need or want some incredible non-stick cookware that will perform consistently without breaking the bank, you can't go wrong with Emerilware from All-Clad.


Study fails to link saturated fat to heart disease

This is certainly good news for carnivores the world 'round. A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (January 13, 2010) is turning the traditional American Heart Association wisdom on it's head. We have heard for years and years that saturated fat intake is closely associated with an increased risk of heart and cardiovascular disease.
The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that adults get no more than 7 percent of their daily calories from the fat; for someone who eats 2,000 calories a day, that translates into fewer than 16 grams of saturated fat per day.

But in the new analysis, which combined the results of 21 previous studies, researchers found no clear evidence that higher saturated fat intakes led to higher risks of heart disease or stroke.

Source: Reuters

Fine Living Network will become The Cooking Channel

Scripps Networks Interactive will replace their Fine Living Network with The Cooking Channel. The re-branded channel will reportedly launch in May of this year and will feature a line-up that will attempt to cater to more serious foodies.
The new Cooking Channel will be a 24-hour network that caters to avid food lovers by focusing on food information and instructional cooking programming. Offered in both standard and high definition, the new network will launch with a VOD offering and a fully interactive Internet and broadband platform as it delivers more content focused on baking, ethnic cuisine, wine and spirits, healthy and vegetarian cooking and kids’ foods.

Source: Scripps Networks Interactive

Italian Sausage Sandwiches

This, my carnivorous friends, is a serious meal on a bun! If you love a run-down-your-arm Italian sausage sandwich, this recipe is for you. As I told my girls, there ain't no polite way to eat this. You just get a roll of paper towels, roll up your sleeves and get it in that hole under your nose however you have to.

Of course, this would undoubtedly be better with grilled sausages, but I stayed indoors this time.

5-6 Sweet Italian sausage links
5-6 Hearty hoagie rolls
3 cups Your favorite spaghetti/marinara sauce
10-12 slices Provolone, mozzarella, or pepper jack cheese (two per sausage)
1 Green bell pepper, sliced to 1/4"
1 Red bell pepper, sliced to 1/4"
1 med Yellow onion, sliced to 1/4"
2 cloves Garlic, minced or pressed
Kosher salt

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.

When the pan is hot, add about one tablespoon of oil and let it heat a few seconds.

Italian Sausage Sandwiches

Add the peppers to the pan and cook about five minutes, tossing occasionally.

Add the onions and continue cooking about five minutes, tossing occasionally.

Season with a dash of salt and pepper during about the last minute of cooking.

Italian Sausage Sandwiches

Remove the pepper and onion mixture to a heat-safe container and set aside.

Return the pan to the heat and add a little more oil.

Italian Sausage Sandwiches

Add the sausages to the pan and cook for about three minutes.

Italian Sausage Sandwiches

Turn the sausages over, and cook for approximately three more minutes.

Italian Sausage Sandwiches

Turn the sausages over, add about 3/4 cup water to the pan.

Italian Sausage Sandwiches

Continue cooking until almost about half of the water has been evaporated.

Italian Sausage Sandwiches

Add the spaghetti sauce and garlic to the pan, and reduce the heat to medium.

Italian Sausage Sandwiches

Add the pepper and onion mixture to the pan, and stir to combine.

Italian Sausage Sandwiches

Continue cooking until the sauce is reduced by about half.

Italian Sausage Sandwiches

Slice the hoagie rolls and line each with two slices of pepper jack cheese.

Slice each sausage lengthwise, put it in the bun, and pour on the veggies and sauce.

Add a little crushed red pepper if that's your thing (it's certainly my thing).

Don a bib and enjoy!

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Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

Hard-boiling eggs is certainly not all that interesting, but it is an essential skill that is simple to master. If you are sick of eggs with that nasty greenish-grayish halo around a yolk that is so hard that it's nearly eligible for use in the PGA, look no further.

I found this method in the excellent Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook, and it's never done me wrong. It's so simple that you'll have it memorized after you try it a couple times.


Put the eggs in a pot large enough so that they will fit in a single layer on the bottom.

Add enough cold tap water to cover the eggs by two inches.

Bring the water to a rapid boil, uncovered.

As soon as the water boils shut off the heat and cover the pan.

Let it sit, on the burner, exactly ten minutes.

While the eggs are sitting, prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl.

At ten minutes, dip out the eggs and move them to the ice water bath.

Let the eggs cool completely.

Peel and use!

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Woo hoo! You can now leave comments here on the blog. A little over a year ago I explained why I had decided to disable comments, and that I would re-evaluate things as the blog matured. Well, I have done just that, and I've decided to turn them on. I just think it's time.

My primary motivation for turning them on is to get your feedback. I really do appreciate and value your thoughts, opinions and constructive criticism. In short, it's a way for me to be more "connected" to my readers. With no commentary it often feels like I'm just spewing bits into the intergalactic bit bucket. I want it to be more personal.

Fire away!

Spaghetti & Meatballs Pizza

This is one of those off-the-wall recipes that just leaves you scratching your head and asking yourself, "But... why?" I don't know how original it is, but I had a brainstorm the other day and just went with it. When it was all said and done, I found myself thinking that this would be a great dinner dish for a kid's party or sleepover (if you're a dad who has girls, make a motel reservation first). It's basically just a funky version of spaghetti and meatballs, and kids generally dig funky.

The meatballs in this recipe aren't really "meatballs" in the traditional sense. I was shooting for quick and relatively easy, so I just went with straight Italian sausage. Hey, that's all they put on pizza anyhow.

3/4 lb Dry spaghetti
1 lb Sweet Italian sausage links (I used Johnsonville® - 19.76 oz)
2 cups Spaghetti sauce (I used Prego® Traditional)
1 1/2 cups Mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 Green bell pepper, diced
1/2 Red bell pepper, diced
1/2 med Yellow onion, diced
5 leaves Fresh basil, cut into a chiffonade
Olive oil

Note: You will also need a large metal pizza pan and some parchment paper.

Cook the spaghetti per the package directions until it is just overdone (not al dente), drain in a colander and let cool 20 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Important: Do not rinse or add oil to the pasta. You need the starch to help it set.

Cut a piece of parchment paper to cover the pizza pan completely.

Spaghetti & Meatballs Pizza

Place the spaghetti on the parchment-covered pizza pan and arrange it in an even layer as shown.

Refrigerate the pan for an hour or two to let the pasta set.

To make the "meatballs", squeeze the sausage out of each link from each end, 1/4 at a time and roll gently in your hands to form small balls (the casing does most of the work). Each link should make four balls. Set the balls aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat then add a little oil.

Saute the meatballs until they are just browned on all sides, remove to a plate and set aside.

Return the pan to the heat and add a little more oil.

Season the peppers and onions with a little salt and pepper then saute them until they are just tender. Set the pan aside.

Preheat your oven to 350º.

Slide the parchment off of the pizza pan and oil the pan lightly.

Flip the spaghetti over onto the pizza pan and discard the parchment paper.

Spaghetti & Meatballs Pizza

Spread the spaghetti sauce evenly over the top of the spaghetti as shown.

Spaghetti & Meatballs Pizza

Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the sauce.

Spaghetti & Meatballs Pizza

Slice about 10 of the meatballs in half and distribute the halves evenly over the cheese as shown. You will have some meatballs leftover.

Spaghetti & Meatballs Pizza

Distribute the sauteed vegetables evenly over the cheese as shown.

Sprinkle the basil over the top.

Spaghetti & Meatballs Pizza

Bake the pizza for 30 minutes.

Spaghetti & Meatballs Pizza

Let the pizza cool for about 10 minutes.

Slice into wedges, serve and enjoy!

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Valentine's Day Sundae

It's Valentine's Day, it's Sunday, and I live with four chocolate-loving females. Oh, and I also wanted to give them a gift that was better than the usual. Given all that, here is what I came up with -- a Valentine's Day Sundae.

It's a rich heart-shaped brownie with a heart-shaped layer of double-vanilla ice cream, which is then topped with dark chocolate mouse and white chocolate shavings.

This isn't a recipe post; I'm just sharing the finished product. Sorry.

Tasty Kitchen
I'd like to introduce you to what I feel is the best "real-world" recipe site on the internet -- Tasty Kitchen. I say real-world because, as the site tagline states, it features favorite recipes from real kitchens.

Tasty Kitchen is an offshoot of the incredibly popular blog site, Confessions of a Pioneer Woman. For those of you holed up under your sprawling placial (yet comfy) internet rock, I'm referring to the 2009 Weblog of the Year which is authored by Ree Drummond, the #22 Forbes web celeb and recent cookbook author. There! Stick that in yer Google!

In all seriousness, Ree's blog is a very funny, interesting and heart-warming glimpse into life with four kids and a cowboy husband on a real working cattle ranch in Oklahoma. Her writing takes you on a vicarious ride that always leaves you very glad that you stopped by. You can think of Ree as your friendly internet neighbor who lives down the road a'piece.

OK, enough about her, let's get on to the food!

Tasty Kitchen is essentially a recipe posting site that includes some social networking capabilities. However, what really makes it stand out to me is the very clean and friendly design, its ease-of-use, and the obvious passion of the real cooks that contribute. It's really everything that a recipe site should be. Oh, and the food photos are great, too.

Another thing that really separates this site from other recipe sites is that it very clearly appreciates and recognizes its members. There is a member prominently featured each week, and there are five featured recipes each day. All of this makes the members really feel appreciated.

The care for the members goes beyond just the functioning of the site. The folks behind the scenes go out of their way to respond to your needs in a timely and very friendly manner. I have had nothing but outstanding interactions with them (Nanci and Erika). The TK chicks are all that, and a side salad!

If you appreciate great recipes from passionate cooks, head on over to Tasty Kitchen, become a member (free), and thank me later.

Pompeian OlivExtra Plus
I was at the store last night and needed some olive oil. I was reaching for my usual olive oil when I spied Pompeian OlivExtra Plus. As you can see, the label is pretty distinctive and it caused me to investigate further. What I immediately noticed was that it's a canola and extra virgin olive oil blend. I thought to myself, "Dude! It's about time that someone offered that!"

I love olive oil, but I usually use canola for sauteing because it has a higher smoke point. Also, there are times when you don't want the fruitiness of olive oil. This oil gives you the best of both worlds. What's more is that it's infused with 32mg per serving of Omega-3 DHA (20% of the recommended daily value), so it's even healthier than straight-up oil.

I tasted it straight and it was quite nice. It has an overall neutral flavor with just a hint of olive oil fruitiness and no off-flavors. I then used it to saute some onions and I was very pleased. I cranked the heat and added it to a rocket hot cast iron griddle. I found that it does indeed stand up very well to high-heat cooking. I don't know how it will hold up for grilling, but it seems like it might work well.

If you are looking for an all-around good oil that will work well in a variety of applications, I'd recommend that you give this a try.


Tri-Tip Fajitas

Just a few days ago I asked what a guy does when he has a mess of leftover pulled pork. Well, this time out the leftovers are in the form of a tri-tip that I didn't have room to cook for our church's Super Bowl gathering. I marinated five, but only had room to cook four. I grilled the remaining roast for dinner last night, but there was some left. What follows is my method for handling second-generation leftovers.

In my book, one of the stand-out traits of a cook is knowing how to creatively deal with leftovers. I mentioned in my Tasty Kitchen profile last week that my mother is a master of "doctoring up". Well, I think I must have picked up on some of those good genes because I actually love crafting meals from leftovers. I've found that most people hate it, but it's a fact of life that must be dealt with.

Here's how I handled the tri-tip.

Cut a few 1/2" slices of the roast then cut them into 1/2" strips.

Slice some onions and bell peppers and saute them over medium-high heat until the peppers are soft and the onions are translucent. Start with just the peppers and add the onions after a couple of minutes.

Remove the mixture to a plate and set aside.

Tri-Tip Fajitas

Return the skillet to the stove (again, over medium-high heat), add a splash of canola oil, and heat it for about a minute.

Tri-Tip Fajitas

Add the meat to the pan and saute, tossing frequently, until the strips start to brown.

Tri-Tip Fajitas

Return the onions and peppers to the pan, toss and cook another minute or so.

Tri-Tip Fajitas

Add a splash or two of beer to the pan.

Toss to combine and continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated.

Serve the whole mess in some warm flour tortillas with some cheese, salsa and whatever else you like.



East of Santa Maria Tri-Tip

This is my version of Santa Maria (SoCal) tri-tip. The real deal requires cooking over red oak, which is hard to come by here in Idaho. I settle for a mix of standard briquets and mesquite lump charcoal. It gives just enough smoke and the mesquite burns very hot, which helps keep the cooking temperature up.

Tri-tip is a triangular cut that comes from the bottom of the sirloin primal. Since it's sirloin, it lends itself very well to grilling. It's a little leaner than a sirloin steak, but its size makes it somewhat forgiving to cook. It has a great beefy flavor and is tender if you cook it no further than medium (145º). It's sometimes hard to find in the eastern part of the country, but try it if you can find one.

Enough already, let's get on with it!

Note: I cooked several roasts for a large party. The measurements listed below are for one roast.

East of Santa Maria Tri-Tip

First, I mixed the schmear.

East of Santa Maria Tri-Tip

1 Tri-tip roast (2-3 pounds)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins, of course)
2 Tbsp Montreal steak seasoning (I recommend McCormick's)
1 Tbsp Plain yellow mustard (I use French's)
2 tsp Chili powder (I recommend Gebhardt's)
2 tsp Beef base (I recommend Better Than Bouillon)
1/2 tsp Garlic salt

Combine all of the ingredients, except the Montreal steak seasoning, in a small mixing bowl. Mix well and set aside.

East of Santa Maria Tri-Tip

Peel and trim the roast. I say "peel" because it may have a layer of loose fat on one side. Peel that away with a sharp knife then trim off any large chunks of fat.

You want to leave some fat on the outside if you can. All too often supermarket roasts are over-trimmed. If that's the case, just press on.

East of Santa Maria Tri-Tip

The next step is to give the roast its mud bath with the schmear. There
ain't no pretty way to do this. You've just gotta dive in and get your hands
very dirty. Make sure you get it completely covered as evenly as possible.

Put it in a zip-top bag and put it in the fridge to get happy for at least six hours, or preferably overnight.

East of Santa Maria Tri-Tip

Take it out of the bag and let it set out for about an hour before you are ready to cook.

East of Santa Maria Tri-Tip

Start a good sized fire with a 50/50 mix of mesquite lump charcoal and whatever briquets you use and prepare for indirect cooking. You are shooting for a cooking temp of 350*. If you're using a gas grill, make a smoker pouch with some mesquite chips.

East of Santa Maria Tri-Tip

Just before they are about to go on, hit both sides of the roast with a decent
coating of Montreal Steak seasoning. Press it in to make sure it sticks.

East of Santa Maria Tri-Tip

Once your grill or cooker is hot, commence cookage! You want to cook it indirect, starting with the fattier side down.

East of Santa Maria Tri-Tip

When the internal temperature in center of the thickest part of the roast reaches 120º (about 30-45 minutes at 350-375º) flip it over.

East of Santa Maria Tri-Tip

Continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 130º (about 20-30 more minutes).

Move the roast to a platter, tent it with foil and let it rest 15-20 minutes.

East of Santa Maria Tri-Tip

Cut across the grain into 1/4" slices, serve with some nice salsa and some warm flour tortillas.

You've got yourself a crowd-pleasin' spread o' cow.


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