No matter what side of the charcoal vs. gas debate you land, many on the pro-charcoal camp will argue the overall flavor of meat grilled over charcoal tastes better. If you happen to be a charcoal until the day you die tailgater you are probably looking for that charcoal taste but without all the hassles inherently associated with charcoal. The long wait time for coals to get hot and the disposal of coals is the main factor preventing more from using charcoal while tailgating. I recently discovered a charcoal alternative that cuts down on the starting time and the time you need to wait for charcoal to cool off for safe handling. It’s called the BBQ Brick. (Click images to see greater detail)
When I first received the BBQ Brick, I was curious on how it was supposed to be better than traditional charcoal. Their claim was that it lights faster, gets hotter quicker, provides two hours of cooking time and is easier to clean up. Sounds like a winner all the way around but I had to test it out for myself.
The directions say to light the brick in the middle where one of the crosses is located and to allow air ventilation to flow from the bottom. I used all four of the bricks and placed them in a square formation. I lit one of the bricks in the middle cross area and it ignited across the top of the brick. As I moved the flame to another brick I noticed that the first brick would then catch the adjoining brick on fire as well. Although I was prepared to light each individual brick, I found I did not need to. As long as the other bricks were touching the original brick, one match will light the whole batch.
Now with all four bricks lit, I left them alone for about 15 minutes to heat up per the manufacturer’s instructions. After 15 minutes I found the tops of the bricks to be gray and the holes to be a glowing reddish color. I held my hand over the grill to test the heat coming off and it felt hot enough to start cooking. I threw on some brats and started grilling. The BBQ Brick behaved just like charcoal and even the normal flame ups you get when meat juices drip down occurred with the BBQ Brick. The main difference was that I was cooking 15 minutes after I had lit them whereas with normal charcoal I would probably have been still waiting for them to heat up.
After the brats were done the BBQ Bricks were still hot so I cooked three 1/4 pound hamburger patties as well. The BBQ Brick was still pumping out the heat after the burgers were done and although I considered grilling up more meat to have for lunches or whatever for the coming week, I decided against it. I wanted to see how long it would take the BBQ Brick to cool off and ash away.
After about two hours of constant heat, the BBQ Bricks started to cool down and ash chunks started falling off. The heat they were giving off was not hot enough to cook on but still too hot to handle safely without pouring water on them. I came back after about 30 minutes and the bricks were almost completely burned out and had turned to ash. A few taps on the old grill and the bricks fell to pieces and I was able to scoop out the ashes and dispose of them properly.
My experience with the BBQ Brick was just as the manufacturer said it would be. They lit quickly and became hot in about 15 minutes. They remained hot for about two hours and while cooking, they behaved exactly like regular charcoal. They cooled down quickly after the two hours of cooking and the ashes were easy to dispose of too. Overall, if you are a die-hard charcoal tailgater, the BBQ Brick is worth a try. You do not lose any of that charcoal flavor while still getting the benefits of quicker ignition and faster burnout time. The portability of the BBQ Brick makes it ideal for tailgating as well.