Real Montana Apple
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Quick Stats
Date Of Review: March, 2013
Purchased From: Donated by manufacturer
Date Purchased: August, 2012
Price: $30.00 when ordered from manufacturer
Weight: 20 pounds
Type of Wood: Apple
Strange Material?: None
Scrap Lumber Pieces?: None
Smell: Pretty strong smoky apple
Country of Origin: USA

Key Performance Indicators
Chips and Dust:
Max Temperature:
Burn Time:
Ash Production:

Quick Links
Other Information: Click Here
Statements From The Bag: Click Here
Lighting Instructions: Click Here
Unusual Or Unique Statements: Click Here
Photos of Contents: Click Here
Other Photos: Click Here
Photo of UPC Code: Click Here
Contact Information: Click Here
Rate And Comment On This Charcoal: Click Here


We last reviewed a product of Real Montana Charcoal back in the summer of 2008 when we took a look at their Maple charcoal. Now we're back, or rather, they're back with Apple lump charcoal.

For those of you unfamiliar with Real Montana Charcoal, they are a company that makes what could best be described as varietal charcoal. They advertise charcoal made from alder, apple, birch, black hawthorne, cherry, hickory, lilac, maple, oak and plum. But they don't mean all mixed up into a single charcoal blend. They mean different charcoals each made from individual species. What we are reviewing in this review, then, is their charcoal made from apple wood.

The maple charcoal that we reviewed back in 2008 came in a 20-pound bag, but the charcoal now comes in a box if you order the 20-pound size. This should protect the charcoal better than a bag. The charcoal is hand-packed so you would expect to see a good distribution of sizes. Here is how our box turned out:

Large 2.6 pounds 12.0%
Medium 13.1 pounds 61.4%
Small 4.3 pounds 20.4%
Chips/Dust 1.3 pounds 6.2%

Total 21.3 pounds

The distribution of the maple charcoal was fantastic and this charcoal is just as fantastic. No monster pieces you need to break up with jack hammer, and a very large percentage of medium sized pieces. The percentage of chips and dust is low compared to other brands we've reviewed, and you get a generous 20 pounds, so you do get your money's worth in that regard. Also, we found absolutely no scrap or pieces of anything strange the didn't belong in a batch of charcoal.

Next, lighting the charcoal. The charcoal took only 2.5 sheets of newspaper to start in our chimney starter test. This is very low compared to other charcoals. While it burned in the chimney starter, there was no sparking or popping. The smell of the smoke was a pretty strong smell of apple charcoal. This is a very nice smoke, but like we said it was pretty strong. We'll talk more about that later.

As for the maximum temperature test, when we conduct this test, we let the charcoal from the chimney starter test get going in the chimney starter and then we dump it into a cooker and add more charcoal until we have a pre-determined volume of charcoal burning at full tilt. We can then tell how fast the fire spreads in addition to the maximum burn temperature. This fire spread quite rapidly, about as fast as we have ever seen. And it burned at about 1190 degrees, close to a record. Again, more on this later. Also, while it was roaring away in the cooker, there were still no sparks and no popping.

The last tests are the burn time and ash production. The burntime on this charcoal was very high compared to other charcoals while the ash production was low.

Now back to the topics of the smoke and the maximum temperature. We discussed this in our review of the maple charcoal, so let's pull up a quote from that review:

"Like we said earlier, this charcoal produces a lot of fairly strong smoke. Specifically, when it is igniting, it produces a lot of fairly strong smoke. Once you get a stable fire going, a fire that isn't growing in size, the smoke production tails off. However, the smell of the smoke is still fairly strong. We wondered about the degree of carbonization of the charcoal so we discussed it with the owner. He believes that the charcoal can be taken to a higher level of carbonization. This would reduce the strength and volume of the smoke. However, his goal, and we think this is a very worthy goal, is to produce a charcoal that provides the smoke and flavor of the wood used to make the charcoal so that the use of smoking chips and chunks is really unnecessary. Why use maple charcoal if you don't want the smell and flavor of maple wood?"
And this:
"So where does that leave us on this smoke issue? Personally, we love smoke. We cooked some chicken breasts using this charcoal and loved it. But surprising as it may seem, we constantly hear people complaining about the smokey flavor when they cook with charcoal. So, if you like a little smoke but aren't really smoke addicts, and you want the great smell of maple charcoal, you should make sure that you allow your fire to burn for a good while and stabilize. If you don't really like smoke much at all, then by all means pass on this charcoal."

We think the smoke from the apple charcoal is a little milder than the maple. Some of this might be attributed to the different species of wood used, but we observed that the maple charcoal could at times almost burn with flame like wood. The apple charcoal does less of this so we think the charcoal is probably being cooked to a slightly higher temperature. But our advice remains the same. You don't need to add smoking wood chips or chunks to this charcoal. And if you don't like smoke, you should avoid this charcoal. But if you do like smoke, you will probably be very pleased with this charcoal.

We'll make another observation about this charcoal that struck us. What struck is that this charcoal is very very similar in many ways as the maple charcoal that we reviewed nearly 5 years ago. The size distribution is very close. The ease of starting is identical. The way it burns is almost identical. The maximum temperature was within 10 degrees of the maple charcoal. The burntime is better and the ash production is similarly low. We think this speaks to the quality control that Real Montana charcoal must have in place in their production processes. So, bottom line is Real Montana Apple Charcoal performs at or near the top of every category we measure and it gets our Highly Recommended rating.

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Other Information


Statements From The Bag

"Store in a dry place", "Easy to Light", "Ready in 10-15 minutes"

Lighting Instructions


Unusual or Unique Statements


The Ruler Used In The Following Photographs

We use the following ruler in the photographs which follow. The blocks are 1 inch wide. The
upper scale is in inches, while the lower scale is in centimeters. The distance between the
centers of the two targets is precisely 9 inches.

Photos Of Contents

This is the contents of the box. Those are 1 inch squares on the measuring bar.

Here is a closer view.

Here are the larger pieces we found in the box.

Here are the contents of the box sorted into medium, small, and too small/chips/dust.

Other Photos

This is how the box arrived.

Photo of UPC Code

Contact Information

109 Daly Ave
Hamilton, Montana


About This Review

If you are unfamiliar with our testing procedures, you may wish to read How We Review Lump Charcoal before reading this review. Also, you can read How We Score Lump Charcoal to learn about our scoring system.

Prices listed in our reviews are current as of the date of the review. We do not attempt to keep these prices current.

The conclusions and final rating given any charcoal are based upon the opinion of the author. We recommend that you use our rating only as a guide. You should read the entire review and decide what is important to you in making any buying decision.

Performance ratings are designated with stars, 1 star being the worst and 5 stars being the best:

= Performance is Far Below Average
= Performance is Below Average
= Performance is Average
= Performance is Above Average
= Performance is Far Above Average

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon at the bottom right corner. Click on the icon to display the image in a new larger window. If you wish to ensure that you are seeing photographs the same way that we are seeing them, we recommend that you calibrate your monitor to a PC-normal gamma of 2.2. You should be able to see the difference between blocks A, B and C below, as well as the difference between blocks 3, 4 and 5.


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