Real Montana Maple Lump Charcoal
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Quick Stats
Date Of Review: August, 2008
Purchased From: Donated by manufacturer
Date Purchased: August, 2008
Price: $20.00
Weight: 20 pounds
Burn Time:
Ash Production:
Type of Wood: Maple
Strange Material?: None
Scrap Lumber Pieces?: None
Smell: Maple smoke, see review
Country of Origin: USA


Quick Links
Other Information: Click Here
Unusual Or Unique Statements: Click Here
Statements From The Bag: Click Here
Lighting Instructions: 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


Commentary

Update (04/02/12): We have finally heard from the owner of Real Montana Charcoal and why he appeared to disappear from the face of the earth. In August, he suffered a horrific accident and is just now getting back up to speed. Anyone who has an outstanding order should contact Real Montana to square things up. And we read a description of the accident. You don't want to know.....
In looking back at doing this review, we are reminded of the 2007 Paul Potts Pop Opera excitement. For those of you who don't know what we are talking about, go to YouTube and search on "Paul Potts First Audition." (The look on Piers Morgan's face when he hears that he is about to listen to opera is priceless.) But do us a favor and do that after you read the review, ok? We received an email from Real Montana Charcoal that sounded a bit dubious at first, but fortunately....no, we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's get on with it.

Real Montana Charcoal is a new company that makes what could best be described as varietal charcoal. They advertise charcoal made from alder, apple, birch, cherry, hickory, mahogany, maple, oak and coming soon, plum. But they don't mean all mixed up into a single charcoal blend. They mean charcoal made from each individual species. What we are reviewing in this review, then, is their charcoal made from maple.

We had read on the Real Montana website that each bag is hand packed by the owner, so we were eager to dump this bag out and see what the owner had hand packed for us. My word! The charcoal looks fantastic when you dump it out. It says on their website that the wood used to make the charcoal comes from cabinet working as well as branches and logs from tree trimming operations. Well, we found nothing but branches and logs in our bag. As you can see from the photo later in the review and the from the following table, the size distribution was, well, fantastic. Only 5% of the bag was chips and dust. Almost two-thirds of the bag was very usable and desirable medium-sized pieces. And the bag was a full pound overweight, so there was no skimping when loading the bag:

Large 1.9 pounds 9.2%
Medium 12.8 pounds 61.0%
Small 5.2 pounds 24.5%
Chips/Dust 1.1 pounds 5.3%



Total 21.0 pounds

We specifically asked the owner if all his bags were this good, and he assured us they were. More evidence of our belief that chips and dust are more a result of the manufacturer's screening than they are of handling after leaving the manufacturer. Frankly, we have never seen a better bag of charcoal. There were no rocks in the bag, and no funny stuff that doesn't belong in a bag of charcoal. The only minor observation we made was that it looked like some of the pieces of charcoal were not quite fully carbonized. You can see in the photos further on down that some of the pieces seem to have a slightly brown tint to them on one or two sides. They were definitely carbonized, but perhaps not quite fully carbonized. More on this later.

Now on to 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 maple charcoal, reminiscent of Maple Leaf charcoal for those of you who have been lucky enough to get your hands on Maple Leaf. This is a very nice smoke, but like we said it was quite strong. We'll talk more about that later.

Next comes 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 lickety split, about as fast as we have ever seen. And it burned at about 1200 degrees, a new record. More on this later. (Really, we are going to bring all these loose threads back together later on.) Oh, and while it was roaring away in the cooker, there were still no sparks and no popping.

Finally, we come to the burn time and ash production test. The burn time was right in the middle of the High category. Ash production was low.

Now, about those "more about that later" loose threads. More specifically, about carbonization and smoke. 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? But the owner will be looking into the level of carbonization of the charcoal and we suspect future batches should be a bit milder.

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'll refrain from suggesting the "G" word.)

So, having tied up all the loose ends, how does it all come together? Well, we have a charcoal that is 95% usable, has a fantastic size distribution, burns REALLY hot, is easy to light, burns a long time and produces relatively little ash. This one's a no-brainer. We have discovered the Paul Potts of the charcoal world, and Real Montana Maple charcoal gets our Highly Recommended rating.

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

None.


Unusual or Unique Statements

None.


Statements From The Bag

"Maple", "Store in dry place", "Natural Lump Charcoal", "Easy to Light", "Ready in 10-15 Minutes"


Lighting Instructions

None.


Photos Of Contents

This is the contents of the bag. Those are 1 inch squares 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.


We thought you might like to see the piles of sorted lump from an angle so you could
see how really huge the pile of medium-sized pieces was.


Other Photos

This is how the bag arrived.


Photo of UPC Code

Here is a photo of the UPC code on the bag:


Contact Information

109 Daly Ave
Hamilton, Montana
59840

406-375-9998

Randy@realmontanacharcoal.net
www.realmontanacharcoal.net


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

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