Cowboy Lump Charcoal (2013)       Home       Lump Review Index      

Quick Stats
Date Of Review: August, 2013
Purchased From: Ace Hardware
Date Purchased: July, 2013
Price: 15.99
Weight: 20 pounds
Type of Wood: Unknown
Strange Material?: Plastic
Scrap Lumber Pieces?: None
Smell: Moderate and smokey
Country of Origin: Mexico

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


So, it's been about 6 years since we last reviewed Cowboy Charcoal. That was back in the day when Cowboy Charcoal was made from millwork scraps such as molding and flooring cutoffs. We had a sort of fondness for that charcoal because it was good for some things that just made it convenient to have a bag of Cowboy around. Low ash, low smoke, easy to light and uniformity of size were all useful characteristics. However in the past several years, (allegedly due to the lack of millwork scrap caused by the downturn in the housing market) they switched to using regular wood for their feedstock. So, here we are ready to review this latest incarnation. We have no clue as to what type of wood this is made from, but it comes from Mexico.

When we dumped the charcoal on the ground for sorting, we immediately could tell that much of the charcoal was not completely carbonized. You can see photos down below that look as if they were carbonized very little. Little of the charcoal had the normal clinking sound of wood that's been converted to charcoal. We'll have more to say about this in a bit. You can see from the following table that there was a reasonably good distribution of sizes. The 10.6% chips and dust was average compared to other brands. We did find a few strips of plastic in the charcoal, and you can see a photo of that down below, also.

Large 3.6 pounds 15.8%
Medium 8.4 pounds 40.7%
Small 6.8 pounds 32.9%
Chips/Dust 2.2 pounds 10.6%

Total 21.0 pounds

When it came to starting the charcoal, it took 3.5 sheets of newspaper in our chimney starter test which is better than average compared to other brands we have tested. While the charcoal was starting there was some mild sparking, but nothing to be concerned about. The smoke was very woodsy and relatively strong. Again more on this later.

The maximum temperature test was the high point of our testing of this charcoal. It burned at around 1050°F which is very high compared to other brands. There was very little sparking and no popping while the charcoal was coming up to temperature or while it was roaring away.

Next was the burn time test. The bag says that this charcoal is now longer burning. Of course, this begs the question, "Longer than what?". If we use the obvious comparison which is to their previous charcoal, well, it missed the mark. The old charcoal burned an hour longer than this version, and this version's burn time was low compared to other brands. We use a MAP-Pro torch to start the fire and there was very little sparking and no popping while we were applying the torch.

Our last test is of course the ash that is produced and Cowboy Charcoal produced an appalling amount of ash. This brand produced the highest amount of ash of any brand of lump charcoal we have ever tested. It could actually be an issue for an overnight cook.

Back to the smoke. Cowboy Charcoal appears to be not fully carbonized, a fair amount of it appearing almost like wood. Well, this shows up in the low burn time and it REALLY showed up in the quantity of smoke it produces. It actually behaves somewhat like a wood fire as much as a charcoal fire. When doing the burn time test, we use a BBQ Guru device to bring the fire up to 400°F and the cooker was smoking like a chimney while the fire spread. The fire was very slow to spread and come up to temperature. When it did get to 400°F, the smoke was somewhat reduced, but the smoke did not dissipate until the fire had been burning for hours. Even then, the smell of the smoke was quite pervasive around the cooker. There's no two ways about it, this charcoal is smokey!

So, Cowboy charcoal does burn hot and is easy to light, but its burn time is below average, the ash produced is enormous and the distribution of sizes is only average. And then you have the smoke. We can see the smoke being a real turn off for many cooks. We can only give this charcoal our Average rating.

Note that there is an intriguing section on the Cowboy web site listing a product called "Cowboy Gold Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal". The description sounds like this is similar if not the same as the original Cowboy Charcoal from long ago. We will try to find some and do a review when we do.

To the left is the rating that our readers have given this charcoal. If you have used this charcoal and would like to rate it and leave your comments, Click Here

To view reader ratings of all brands, Click Here.

Other Information


Statements From The Bag

"100% All Natural Hardwood Lump Charcoal", "Now Longer Lasting", "For grilling tips, barbecue recipes and comments write to:....", "We would like to hear from you about your barbecue ideas and experiences."

"Why We Are Different!
Compare "Cowboy Charcoal" to "Briquets"
1. All natural, 100% charcoal, no coal, fillers or chemicals!
2. Quicker, hotter fire, with heat in excess of briquets!
3. Easy lighting, starts in half the time of briquets!
4. Great taste! no starch or petroleum off-taste and flavor!
5. Charcoal can be added to fire without smelly fumes!
6. All charcoal means less ash, clean up is minimal!"

"The Cowboy Way...
Grilling over an open fire is the oldest method of cooking known to man. On the western frontier it was the only way to feed hungry cowhands. Frontier food was prepared over glowing wood embers and was characterized by its hearty flavor and inviting arome. It was over those traditional fires that "Cowboy Cuisine" was born!"

Lighting Instructions

"Lighting Instructions
Cowboy Charcoal is an all natural charocal product, it burns cleaner, lights easier and cooks hotter than briquets. This allows you to use less charcoal and cook quicker.

Charcoal Tips
Cowboy Charcoal is sensitive to air and will light and burn quite readily! NOTE: Make adjustments in your air vents and grill lid to control the rate of burning.

Using a Charcoal Chimney
We highly recommend starting your fire with a charcoal chimney. It uses newpaper (sic) as a starter, is easy to use and does not give food an after-taste.

Suggested Starters
We suggest using starters such as a charcoal chimney, an electric starter or paraffin coated sticks. They are economical, ecological, and easy to use!

Using A Starter Fluid
In a clean grill close air vents and pour approximately two pounds of charcoal into a pile. We suggest building the fire on one side to allow for better cooking control.

Follow directions on starter fluid package for amount to use. Add starter fluid to charcoal, light immediately, keep grill uncovered until ready to cook.

Allow 10-15 minutes for the fluid to burn off and the charcoal to begin to glow orange, spread out charcoal, replace food grid and begin cooking. For extended cooking time add charcoal."

Unusual or Unique Statements


The Ruler Used In The Following Photographs

We use the following ruler in the photographs which follow. The black and white segments are
1 inch long. 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 bag. Those are 1 inch segments on the measuring bar.

Here is a closer view.

Here are the larger pieces we found in the bag.

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

Other Photos

Here you can see how much of the contents of the bag have not been completely
converted to charcoal.

The next 2 photos are closeups of large pieces of bark that have only been slightly charred.

Pieces of plastic string found in the bag.

Photo of UPC Code

Contact Information

Cowboy Charcoal, LLC.
P.O. Box 3770
Brentwood, TN 37024

PH: 1-800-775-4060
FAX: 615-661-9938

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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