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Prime 6 Charcoal Review/Test

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    Prime 6 Charcoal Review/Test

    I was trolling the "Woohoo!" section at the local Ralphs a few weeks ago, where I came upon a closeout of Prime 6 charcoal. Not knowing anything about it, I picked up a 9lb box for $5.69 per box, marked down from $18.99.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	woohoo.jpg Views:	0 Size:	73.8 KB ID:	1119092
    The packaging promised that this 9 lb’s was equivalent to 30 lbs of lump charcoal. I would never believe that, but at $0.63 per pound, I figured it was worth a try.

    I did some research when I got home, and the marketing of it seemed pretty slick. I posted a question on the Fuels and Fire channel, and read a pretty comprehensive review. Not all glowing praise, but for the price, it seemed to be a reasonable choice. I went back that day and bought 4 more boxes.

    Fast forward 2 weeks, and it was time to try it out. First cook was a reverse sear tri tip. The coal was (as mentioned in reviews) difficult to light. The charcoal comes in a mix of lengths, from about 4 inches to nearly the length of the box, about 15 inches. I lit my fire with a mix of 4 inch blocks. It took a while for it to be ready to cook (1/2 hour+), but held 240 degrees nicely for 2 hours, until I was done. Most of the blocks remained unburned.

    I had already decided to go back and get more, just based on how much of it was left unburned after two hours.
    The price had actually dropped:
    Click image for larger version  Name:	WoohooII.jpg Views:	0 Size:	75.8 KB ID:	1119093
    I bought all they had left- 6 boxes. I now had 99 lbs of the stuff (11 boxes)

    The next day, I had two separate cooks prepared- a 2.5 pound pastrami, and a 9.5 pound pork butt. I set two kettles up in a slightly different manner – The pastrami would go in the SNS kettle (with SNS insert)with a few small pieces of Prime 6 on top of 10 briq’s of some pre lit KBB. Then layered under the small blocks, I put in some long blocks (10”+), I was hoping that the long blocks would burn from the lit end, creating a sort of snake method like burn.
    The Weber (with SNS insert) for the pork butt would get more of a "traditional" SNS build- lit KBB, with smaller chunks in the SNS nearest the lit coals, and some medium length chunks (4-6”) next to that.
    Click image for larger version  Name:	both.jpg Views:	0 Size:	190.6 KB ID:	1119094
    The SNS results:
    I run the SNS with the top vent fully open, and the bottom vent fully closed. The smoke hole is where I control the temp, and start it out with it wide open. Once up to temperature, the charcoal held around 240 beautifully for about 2.5 hours. Then the temperature started to decay fairly rapidly. Opening the lower vent to a ¼ open didn’t produce much in results after 20 minutes. Down to 215, I looked inside. The KBB had burned off, and most of the Prime 6 was unlit. The 3 logs that I had set up lengthwise for my "snake" were in fact burning from end to end, but the main clump of logs hadn’t really become engulfed. I added some lit KBB on top, and continued on. This was the story of the cook. Hold temperature for a good while, then decay rapidly, add lit KBB. My conclusion: not enough fully lit Prime 6 in both the main clump in the corner, and not enough (3) long sticks to create enough heat for the "snake" portion.
    About ½ of the charcoal remained unburned.

    The pastrami (my first) needs work. I wish I had cut some up and eaten it after a 2hr rest, but I wrapped it up for the next day. Flavor was good, but texture was a bit rubbery.

    The Weber results:
    Again, set up in a more "traditional" SNS build- 10 lit KBB with random small- medium chunks packed in. I had also placed a few lit Prime 6 2” blocks on top of the lit KBB. Good temp results, but also similar to the SNS cook. The Prime 6 doesn’t respond very quickly to airflow management (if at all). Once the temperature decayed, it didn’t seem to be possible to get back up to temperature by managing the vents. I write this off to two things: me being impatient with the temperature, and too small of a fully lit fire to begin with. I occasionally added a handful of lit KBB in an effort to get more of the Prime to light. Again, about ½ of the charcoal was used.

    Cooks number 4 & 5:

    Two 3.25 lb chunks of pork belly for pastrami bacon.
    Click image for larger version  Name:	Weber.jpg Views:	0 Size:	638.7 KB ID:	1119095
    Click image for larger version  Name:	SNS.jpg Views:	0 Size:	505.1 KB ID:	1119096
    One in the SNS, and one in the Weber. I separated them deliberately, because I wanted to set up the fires in slightly different ways. The SNS would get a 1/2 basket of small chunks (2”) with 3 hickory chunks , and the Weber would get 1/2 basket small and medium chunks (2-4”), with a few apple chunks.

    The results were similar to the previous cooks, but with less need to add KBB. The SNS kettle took the bacon to 160 in about 3.5 hours, while the Weber took about a half hour longer. The Weber belly stalled at 150, and took nearly an hour to reach 160. The SNS didn’t noticeably stall, it kept s pretty linear progression from 130-160.

    Overall impressions:
    It is in fact, difficult to light. In a chimney, easily over 20 minutes to get ½ of a 2” block lit. Plan accordingly.

    Claims to be hotter burning, I have no way to verify this. I doubt it, and it doesn’t really matter to me. I am going to use this for low and slow exclusively.

    Claims to burn longer. True! A 14” stick in the SNS burned less than ½ of it over a 7 hour cook.

    I used parts of two boxes, reusing some from previous cooks. Upon completion of 5 cooks, and 27 hours of actual cooking burn time, I put all of the unused/partially burned blocks back into the partially filled 2nd opened box. There was one long block on top of the box, and I weighed it: 9.1lbs. There was still about a pound of unburnt coal in the kettles, so I am going to call it 10.1 lbs of Prime left (out of 18lbs) after 27 hours of cooking. So about 8 lbs used over the 4 days, 5 cooks, and 27 hours. I did use about 3.5 lbs of KBB to get the fire started, and help maintain temps, but this usage seems impressive. This stuff is going last very long.

    Claims to be low smoke- I agree. It does not billow white smoke when starting, but after your KBB gets set, it doesn’t either. A wash for me.

    Claims to have no ash: Hmm. How could any solid wood product burning have no ash? I don’t burn lump, but this does produce less ash than KBB for sure. More investigation required here. Next cook, I will use no KBB, then I can determine.

    Sustainable? Meh. Marketing gimmick.

    What I learned:
    Light it early! It takes forever to get going. Their lighting instructions suggest laying the blocks in a parallel stack, waiting until fully ashed-over to start cooking. I don’t think this is practical for a low and slow application, as I think you would have a tough time slowing the burn rate with that much coal burning.

    Use more of the small blocks at the beginning. I think I am going to split the small chunks in half, and use more of them, and let the pile get ashed over before adding the rest of the chunks and stabilizing the temp. This is going to add significant time to the front side of the cook, but hopefully will create a longer lasting stabilized temp.

    The chunks don’t do that well in lighting the block next to it. The blocks seem to burn from end to end if lit at the end, and spread out slowly if lit in the middle. It’s going to take a more systematic approach to laying in the logs to get them to ignite each other in a proper SNS like fashion.

    Is it worth it? Hmm. At full price of $18.99 ($2.11/lb), I’d say no (for me). I do like the re-useablity. I’ve re-used KBB as filler, but not as a primary fuel source. You can re-use this as a primary source, and it will work quite well. And it did last a long time- 5 separate cooks at 27 hours, with a little leftover. I don’t know how long a 20lb bag of KBB will last, I never monitored that.
    At a composite price of $5.30 per box ($0.58/LB) I’d have to say hell yeah! KBB at the regular price of around $20.00 for 40 lbs is around $0.50 per pound, so at my price its comparable. It takes up less space, and can be re used more easily.

    It may take a while longer to dial it in, but I’ve got 90 more pounds to go to figure it out.

    Oh, and here are the results:
    Click image for larger version  Name:	pulled.jpg Views:	0 Size:	3.53 MB ID:	1119097
    Click image for larger version  Name:	Pastr.jpg Views:	0 Size:	3.33 MB ID:	1119098 Click image for larger version  Name:	bacon.jpg Views:	0 Size:	4.04 MB ID:	1119099
    Last edited by McFlyfi; November 3, 2021, 09:17 PM.

    Thanks for doing this.


      Thanks for the review! I have been curious about those, maybe I’ll pick some up if I can find a sale!




          Excellent review! Thank you for sharing!


            Thanks for the excellent write up & sharing your findings. I have never seen or heard of this product. I can't help bu wonder if the closeout pricing is indicative of poor sales and if that is true locally or nationwide? If you have an chance could you post some pictures of the actual product in a future cook?


            • GolfGeezer
              GolfGeezer commented
              Editing a comment
              efincoop I remember this product from Shark Tank. They got an investment from Kevin O'Leary. Last report (April 2021) I can find says they are doing very well with huge retail distribution. Shark Tank update: "In terms of a Prime 6 update, in the first three months after airing the company did $1.3 million in sales. Further, they’ve managed to launch in over 5,000 new stores, including Kroger and SafeWay. The influx of sales has also allowed Oron and Riki to plant 20,000 trees. "

            • McFlyfi
              McFlyfi commented
              Editing a comment
              The local Ralphs (Kroger) has a section in the back where they offload stuff that doesn't sell. Bread, cookies, wine, whatever. I think this is more of a hyper local (one store) thing than any indication that it is struggling nationwide. The other Ralphs nearby never carried it.

            thanks for the detailed review / follow-up. I think you already answered this but I was curious if you found that there was excess dirty smoke production from some of the charcoal not fully igniting. Sounds like htat wasn't the case in which case


            • McFlyfi
              McFlyfi commented
              Editing a comment
              It lights so slowly that there isn't much of that "start up" smoke you get with the KBB .When lit, it ashes over and burns really clean.
              Last edited by McFlyfi; November 4, 2021, 08:47 AM.

            Here's what it looks like at the end of the pastrami cook. The longer pieces not only burn from end to end, but from the top down (in). You can see that the long pieces burn into a "spear" like shape as it burns along.
            Click image for larger version  Name:	CoalII.jpg Views:	0 Size:	354.4 KB ID:	1119716
            What I was shooting for was to have the burn progress from left to right. I got that, but I think I would need another piece or two (stacked) to get the right temperature.
            Last edited by McFlyfi; November 4, 2021, 09:19 AM.


            • efincoop
              efincoop commented
              Editing a comment
              Awesome. Thank you for the photo!


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