Review: Kingsford® Competition vs Stubb's® Briquets

All-natural charcoal briquets have become increasingly popular over the past few years. That's especially true in the world of competition barbecue. This style of briquet is popular because it's essentially lump charcoal in briquet form. You get the high heat of lump with the convenience, uniformity, and predictability of a briquet.

Both the Kingsford® Competition and Stubb's® Briquets have been on the market for nearly three years now, but the Stubb's® product is new to me. I've been seeing quite a bit of banter about it on the various barbecue forums that I frequent, so I thought that it's time that I put these products to a briq-to-briq showdown.

As in my previous side-by-side charcoal reviews (the others are linked at the end of this post) I wanted this comparison to be as fair and impartial as I could make it. I don't have a laboratory, but I am an engineer, so I did the best that I could in a home setting. I ran side-by-side tests of two brand new off-the-shelf bags of each product. As you will see, I've weighed and photographed each product so that you can see exactly what I saw.

Let's see how these products compare.

I first weighed various quantities of each product. This will help quantify the bang-for-the-bag of each. It will also let us see how much of the product is left as ash, as we'll see at the end.

1 Briquet: 5/8 oz

5 Briquets: 3 3/8 oz

10 Briquets: 6 3/4 oz

1 oz

5 oz

10 oz

Review: Kingsford® Competition vs Stubb's® Briquets

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

I then arranged each of the briquets in each pan as similarly as I could. I used 12 briquets in each, in layers of six, four, and two. I put a single Weber wax starter cube in each pile.

I lit each cube and took pictures at various intervals.

From here on the Kingsford® Competition briquets are pictured on the left, and the Stubb's® on the right.

Note: If you're interested, the temperature when I started the burn was 39º and the humidity was 84%.

Review: Kingsford® Competition vs Stubb's® Briquets

Houston, we have ignition!

Review: Kingsford® Competition vs Stubb's® Briquets

5 Minutes

Review: Kingsford® Competition vs Stubb's® Briquets

10 Minutes

Review: Kingsford® Competition vs Stubb's® Briquets

15 Minutes

Review: Kingsford® Competition vs Stubb's® Briquets

20 Minutes

Review: Kingsford® Competition vs Stubb's® Briquets

30 Minutes: 633º


At 30 minutes I started taking temperature measurements. I used a TW8060 two-channel thermocouple thermometer that was provided by the great folks at ThermoWorks for the purpose of this review.

Review: Kingsford® Competition vs Stubb's® Briquets

This thermometer, like their incredible Thermapen™ is dead-accurate, and with a range of -328 to 2372°F it seriously blows the doors off of the infrared thermometer that I used in my previous reviews. The long industrial probes allowed me to measure the temperature just above the coals where your food sits.

Review: Kingsford® Competition vs Stubb's® Briquets

I stopped taking pictures at 120 minutes, but I continued reading the temperatures out to 180 minutes.

Review: Kingsford® Competition vs Stubb's® Briquets

35 Minutes: 478º


Review: Kingsford® Competition vs Stubb's® Briquets

60 Minutes: 466º


Review: Kingsford® Competition vs Stubb's® Briquets

90 Minutes: 520º


Review: Kingsford® Competition vs Stubb's® Briquets

120 Minutes: 232º

180 Minutes: 140º



Here's a chart that shows the temperature readings of each product over time. The horizontal axis is time and the vertical shows the temperatures.

Review: Kingsford® Competition vs Stubb's® Briquets

What about ash? Well, the results were surprising. The Stubb's® briquets produced nearly 250% more ash by weight than the Kingsford® Competition briquets. I was also surprised at the density of the Stubb's® ash. As you can see in the picture below, it held its shape fairly well, as opposed to the Kingsford® ash which collapsed.

1 7/8 oz

4 5/8 oz

The bottom line is that, while the Stubb's® product starts stronger, it loses its firepower more quickly and produces far more ash than the Kingsford® Competition briquets. There's more product by weight in each bag of Stubb's, but there's also much more that goes to waste.

I hope that you've found this review to be informative and helpful.

Obligatory Disclaimer: This is not a paid endorsement. It simply reflects my honest findings and opinions.

You might also be interested in my previous charcoal reviews.

Original vs Competition Kingsford® Charcoal
Old vs New Kingsford® Charcoal

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Blogger Michael Ultra said...
It's funny seeing Stubb's stuff evolve with such proliferation. C.B. Stubblefield was a friend of mine and died penniless. He would have been proud. ps- for a great Hot Wing sauce, mix 1 bottle of Stubb's BBQ sauce with one bottle Trappies hot sauce. MMMMM...great!!
Blogger Chris said...
I like your reviews like this, John. A lot of people have their subjective preferences for this coal or that. Few go to the trouble of side by side comparisons to develop objective facts like this.
Blogger Unknown said...
Thanks Chris, I appreciate that.
Anonymous MaxJargon said...
I like the approach you've taken towards this review.
I'd say this was a good test for these two specific bags of charcoal. But having been a lab assistant in grad school I have to say here that you don't get definitive results by making a one-time comparison. You get your best results and can come to a more reliable conclusion by repeating the test and compiling the results of the multiple tests. I may just do a test of the same charcoals and model it after yours but with multiple runs from multiple bags. Thanks for blogging this and BTW you have an awesome blog!
Blogger CraigGoldwyn said...
Nice work! Very informative!
Blogger Big Dude said...
Great info. I've been using Stubb's but will have to look at the Kingsford.
Blogger EasyPeasy said...
Great analysis John. I would be interested to see the test again in different weather conditions. I am sure that it wouldn't make THAT much of a difference but just to make sure you're results are tried and true. Great photos and I love the Thermoworks of the best out there

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Ditto Big Dude will try comp this weekend
Anonymous Anonymous said...
How about this test using stubbs versus regular blue/white bag of kingsford. Unfair using a competition charcoal versus an off the shelf regular consumer charcoal
Blogger Unknown said...
Anonymous - You are misinformed. The Kingsford Competition product is a standard consumer product. It's Kingsford's 100% natural offering that competes directly with the Stubb's product, thus my review is indeed an apples-to-apples comparison.
Blogger Doug said...
Great test! I would love to see how the standard blue bag vs royal oak.
Anonymous Anonymous said...
This is a great review. I switched to Stubbs abour a year ago to see how it compares to lump and loved that it was very consistant. The one thing that shows clearly in your test and I have personally noticed is the loss of heat much faster.

I am on a new cooker this year (purchased a Lang Hybrid a little over a month ago), so I have been trying different fuels on the Char-Griller side. After reading this review, I am gonna have to give the Kingsford Comp a try!

Great write up! Thanks!

Chris in Nashville
Blogger Unknown said...
Thanks, Chris! I'm really glad that you found it helpful. I love the Kingsford Competition product.
Anonymous Anonymous said...
I wonder how the burn test results might change if you had used equal amounts of charcoal by weight, instead of by number of briquets. By weight, you had almost twice as much charcoal in the stubbs pile. That would account for a lot of the difference in ash at the end.
Blogger Unknown said...
Anonymous - Consumers use charcoal by volume, not weight.
Anonymous Anonymous said...
I smoke more than I grill. I pefer the predictability of the stubbs temp-wise when smoking. I do use the comp for grilling though.
Blogger Unknown said...
dejomatic - I don't know how you've determined that Stubb's is somehow more predictable, but to each his own. Use what works for you.
Anonymous Anonymous said...
thanks for doing this comparison.. i have been using stubbs for about 3yrs and i noticed the fast temp burnout and always add more dont care about ash as the adjacent lot has no problem with it. everyone loves the flavor never tried the kingsford "competition" but will try now to compare the flavor difference see if anyone notices
Blogger Unknown said...
Anonymous - Thanks for the feedback. Try Kingsford Competition and thank me later. ;-)
Blogger Unknown said...
Any feedback on the taste when cooking with these? I use a green egg and my kids don't like the smokey flavor in the food. Looking for something that will produce a natural taste. I guess like propane:)
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Very good comparison Sir. I used Kingsford for most of my adult life until I purchased a bag of Stubb's . The smell that the Stubb's produces is the best by far . The flavor of the food cooked is in my opinion better than any I have used.Stubb's may not be the best choice for smoking because of heat loss although for chicken , it's perdy darn good !
Blogger Louisianaman said...
Stubbs was a good friend of mine and I at at his joint 2 or 3 times a week. Too bad he didn't live to reap the harvest of his products.
Blogger Unknown said...

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