Last Updated on July 9, 2023
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When I purchased the Range Master Kettle Charcoal Grill for review purposes, I knew I was going to need some supplies. First and foremost, I was going to need some charcoal, along with a means to light it. I’d heard far and wide that Kingsford charcoal was the best, but I also noticed that Aldi was carrying charcoal of its own. So I decided to pick up the Aldi charcoal, and then later picked up a bag of Kingsford to do some comparison.
Cooks Charcoal Briquets are an Aldi Seasonal Favorite. Seasonal Favorites are in stores for longer than Aldi Finds, and they typically get restocked for a while. Cooks charcoal comes in an 8-pound bag and, at post time, costs $2.99. That comes out to about 37 cents a pound. For comparison, I bought a 16-pound bag of Kingsford for $11.99, or about 75 cents a pound. So the Cooks is about half the price.
Cooks is not an Aldi house brand. It’s a trademark for Cooks BBQ Products, a company founded in 2016 out of New York City. According to a company press release, Cooks is “a provider of eco-friendly premium natural coconut, hardwood, lump charcoals, flavored smoking chips, wood chunks, and pellets.” That means Cooks charcoal can be found in other stores, although I wasn’t immediately able to find any examples online. (I also went to the company’s website to learn more about its products, but at the time of this post it is down.)
The bag comes with instructions on the two primary methods of lighting charcoal: lighter fluid or the chimney method. Neither of these will be news to veteran charcoal users, but it’s still worth mentioning. It goes without saying that you’ll need either lighter fluid or a chimney (and some newspaper) to light the charcoal.
I had both methods on hand, having purchased both lighter fluid and a chimney at another store. That gave me a couple of options for getting the charcoal started.
I decided to go ahead and try the chimney method first, figuring that I could fall back on the lighter fluid if the chimney failed. That wasn’t a problem with Kingsford charcoal, which I was able to light up with the chimney each time.
I put loosely rolled newspaper in the bottom of the chimney, filled it with Cooks briquets, and lit the newspaper, just as I had several times with the Kingsford. After hearing some initial crackling in the Cooks, I left it to go make some other preparations. Twenty or so minutes later, I came back to check on the chimney.
It was dead.
As I said already, this wasn’t a problem with the Kingsford. Unfortunately, it was a problem with the Cooks. So I went on to Plan B, soaking the charcoal for a good 10 seconds in (Kingsford) lighter fluid. That did the trick: when I came back 20 minutes later, the charcoals were hot and ready for grilling, with a heat level and smell similar to the Kingsford.
Once hot, the Cooks charcoal did the job. I was able to build a hot bed, and the chicken breasts I grilled came out well. The charcoal sustained the heat for about as long as the Kingsford did, which was plenty of time for me to get my cooking done.
Cooks Charcoal Briquets are a budget-priced option for charcoal grilling, coming in at about half the price of Kingsford. I had more trouble getting Cooks going, though: my attempt to light them with a chimney failed, and I had to fall back on a generous dose of lighter fluid to get them working. Once heated up, they performed as well as Kingsford did in the heat department, but getting there was more of an adventure. If you can put up with that, these might be worth a look as a cheaper option, at least part of the time.