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Kingsford University's School of Charcoal PDF Print E-mail
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Students are First Ever to View Charcoal Manufacturing Process

By Melanie Yunk

In early November, editors from around the U.S. gathered in Berkeley, California to experience Kingsford University’s Graduate Grilling School. Clorox invited us to learn all about their improved and environmentally-friendly charcoal manufacturing process, their charcoal release for 2010 and award-winning grilling and smoking techniques by Chris Lilly, one of America’s best-known barbeque pitmasters. Our first day included a trip to the Clorox Consumer Learning Center in Pleasanton, California.

A schematic of the charcoal manufacturing process

A schematic of the Kingsford charcoal manufacturing process

Day One:
Kingsford hosted a 3-hour session to teach us all about their charcoal process.  Our group was the first group of non-employees ever to see their impressive mini-manufacturing line, which produces a 50-lb batch of charcoal. The “real” plants, located all around the country, produce 30,000 tons of charcoal per hour.

Each batch of charcoal includes a mixture of char (burnt wood) and coal. The new charcoal being released by Kingsford in 2010 will contain more char than ever before, reducing the coal by 10%. To that mixture, a slurry of starch, sodium nitrate and borax is heated to 205 degrees F., then added to the char and coal mixture. The mixture is blended together, pressed into briquets, shaken to release the rough edges, then baked to perfect hardness.

Kingsford's Charcoal Smokes the Competition in a Side-by-Side Comparison.

Kingsford's Charcoal Smokes the Competition
in a Side-by-Side Comparison.

The Kingsford testing facilities offer a place to check charcoal samples from all their plants. The samples are burned under controlled conditions to ensure the consistency of their product across batches. One employee burns 100 batches a day, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. The lab includes about 20 fireplaces, each outfitted with an exhaust chimney, lighting, and a camera that takes constant photos during every burn. Kingsford also uses this lab to check their competitors’ charcoal.

The new charcoal for 2010 should reach stores nationwide by April, and offers many environmental benefits:

•    Smaller briquets with more surface area through their improved “grooves” offer more efficient
burning, less waste and lower emissions with the same burn time and temperature.
•    Each briquet now holds more char and less coal, resulting in more of that authentic wood flavor expected from Kingsford charcoal.
•    Each briquet is 7.5 percent smaller, resulting in less waste for the landfill.
•    Smaller bags to hold the briquets means less waste in the landfill, and more bags fit on a delivery truck—resulting in 800,000 fewer miles traveled each year.
•    The new formula uses 57 fewer tons of coal per day or 10 percent less non-renewable resources per year.

After a delicious catered lunch, we boarded the bus heading to Healdsburg, California where we spent 1-½ days learning more about Kingsford products while making our own wine blends, rubs, grilled pizzas and smoked pork butts.


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