Recently, when cooking up Smoked Cornish Game Hens, I had the chance to try out a new kind of charcoal briquettes. In case you haven't read the title of this post, they were made entirely from coconut shells, and are considered a "green" alternative to standard briquettes... which are made out of all kinds of stuff.
The briquettes were not inexpensive - easily more than twice the cost of standard briquettes, even if you find them on sale. So are they worth it? Yeah, they are.
Just about every brand of charcoal briquettes or lump coals boasts "burns hotter, cleaner, longer, faster" (okay, maybe they don't say "faster," I was just on a roll there). I've frequently tried using coals that did not live up to their advertising, but the coconut briquettes did.
In the smoked hen recipe, I mention that only a small batch of coals is necessary. Like all of Sizzle Grove's recipes, this of course depends on a) the types of coals you're using, and b) the type of smoker you have... and I suppose c) your own ability to control the heat. These coconut shell briquettes stayed hot and still appeared whole, barely even beginning to ash after an hour of cooking time. Usually, coals at least become fairly ashy after this long. With items such as hens, it will usually be advantageous to use fewer coals regardless of what type, due to the drippings and consequential flare-ups from the fatty skin.
The only downside, other than their cost, was that they had a pretty unusual smell when they were being lit. However, after they were fully lit, this went away. So, it's really a non-issue.
I would urge all of you to try this product if you could find it. Even if you are not able to find coconut shell briquettes specifically, try different types of briquettes. Let yourself spend a little extra for the sake of SCIENCE! And the sake of barbecue.