Do Flavored Charcoal Briquettes Actually Work?

There's just something about grilling over charcoal that has a different feel to it. Maybe because many charcoal grills are portable, allowing one to fire up some herby flat iron steak and fresh vegetables in the great outdoors. Or perhaps it's the smoky essence that slowly infuses throughout whatever you're grilling that day; something a gas grill can't compete with, per BBQ Guys.

While both are true, it's the magic of charcoal briquettes that really enhances the overall grilling experience. Made How states that charcoal briquettes are mostly made up of traditional charcoal and coal, as well as a binding agent, an accelerant, and an ash-whitening agent. When lit, the briquettes immediately start to burn and keep their 700-800 degrees F temperatures throughout the grilling process. This may mean less waiting around to grill up those tahini-marinated chicken pieces, via Fine Cooking and Smoked BBQ Source.

And just when we thought charcoal briquettes couldn't get any better, the Kingsford brand has taken us by surprise with a creative innovation: Flavored briquettes. Varieties like cumin chili, garlic onion paprika, and basil sage thyme are currently on the market, according to the official Kingsford website, but do they actually make grilled foods taste better?

An experiment has been conducted

Ram Gopalakrishnan, a marketing director for Kingsford, expressed enthusiasm to Food & Wine for the spiced briquettes with the following statement: "Whether you're a beginner or pro, Signature Flavors charcoal briquets, pellets, and flavor boosters will level up any barbecue." Such words certainly sound promising. After all, the three flavors of briquettes contain 100% real spices and a unique type of wood paired to each flavor profile, per the official Kingsford website. For example, the basil sage thyme flavor utilizes oak wood while the garlic onion paprika option uses hickory wood. These are the two flavors that America's Test Kitchen used to cook chicken with and compared to grilling with regular briquettes.

So what do you think happens when you add seasoning to a bunch of charcoal? Does it actually infuse the flavor throughout what you're grilling? This was the question that America's Test Kitchen asked. Sadly, whatever you throw on the grill will not absorb the flavors of spiced briquettes. Furthermore, the site stated that the result tasted like regular grilled chicken, sans any hints of garlic or basil, as these likely got carried away with the smoke from the grill. 

While we appreciate Kingsford's efforts in putting a creative new spin on charcoal briquettes, and despite mostly good reviews on the Home Depot website, these sadly don't seem to work to flavor foods. Perhaps shortly we'll get a new batch of flavored briquettes that gets the job done.