Heat Beads- Review by Christine Dale

Heat Beads are the number one best seller in Australia. One of our supporters Heat Beads UK offered the team a bag of briquettes to try out and review, as I had never used them before I said I would do it. I have seen a lot of people saying that Heat Beads are their favourite briquette. I live in Northern Ireland and haven’t seen anywhere that stocks them locally, this could well be an opportunity for someone.

The bag is 4kg in weight and the briquettes when I opened them were smaller than the Weber ones I usually use (see picture below), they did however seem much denser and were heavier. Briquettes are my fuel of choice if doing low and slow as they provide a more consistent heat than lump wood. The exception to this is in a Ceramic BBQ where I always use lump wood.

I decided to use our baby Bristol Drum Smoker and the minion method to see how long they would last. I set up the fire basket and only used half a bag. I had heard that they were hard to light so I put a bit of lump wood in the mini chimney and a few heat beads on top. I used a wood wool starter to light. In about 15 mins they were well lit and I tipped them into the drum. I put in the deflector plate and set up the IGrill to monitor the temperature (Our kitchen is on the first floor so this saves a lot of running up and down to check the temperature) After about 15 mins the bbq was coming up to temp, this is slightly quicker than the weber ones, that can take 20-30 mins, I closed the two side bottom vents and left the middle one fully open, and the top vents to half closed and on went the pork shoulder. The bbq sat quite happily between 220°F and 250°F  with a few tweaks now and then on the vents, this is very similar to the Weber briquettes but the Weber ones need a bit more babysitting. You can see this on the graph in the picture below, the top line is the drum temperature.  At around the 7 hr mark the temp started to drop and as the pork was ready to wrap, I wrapped the pork and added a few more briquettes as the fire basket was down to a handful of unburned briquettes, this brought the temp back to the desired range and after another 2 hours the pork was ready. The Weber briquettes would last a similar length of time in the Baby drum although in the slightly bigger fire-basket in the Weber Smoky Mountain I have got 13 ½ hours but obviously this was using more briquettes. I have no doubt the Heat Beads would do the same.  I need to try Heat Beads in the Weber Smoky Mountain.

I still have some left and I plan to do a Rotisserie cook with them, I am sure they will work equally well at the hotter end of the temperature spectrum and their density will make them long lasting too.

The briquettes give off much less ash than others I have used and this is great as this means there is less chance of them snuffing out. I will try and source these briquettes although delivery charges may be a killer. That’s one of the joys of living in Northern Ireland some people think we are in Outer Mongolia.

In summary, 7 hours on half a bag in our baby drum is an excellent result, much longer than the 4 hours they claim to last and I can certainly recommend these briquettes. Good consistency and heat throughout the cook.

Heat Beads are distributed in the UK by

http://www.hiltonbanks.com/5_heatbeads.htm

Basic BBQ Tips: The Chimney Starter

Chimney Starter
Strangely in life the harder the things you learn to do the easier it to forget how you did it, remember riding a bike?

BBQ is just the same!

The hardest thing I found was lighting the BBQ. Open the bag of charcoal put directly into the BBQ then squirt with lighting fluid, BOOM big ball of flames and two minutes later it goes out, add more fluid and fan the flames, moving charcoal about and burning your fingers whilst having helpful comments like “people are arriving in 15 minutes”.

If this sounds familiar read on …..

Enter the game changer, the humble chimney starter. My preferred method is fill the chimney starter with charcoal (lump or briquettes) but never instant light charcoal.

Light two eco firelighters and pop the chimney starter on top. Twenty minutes later you have perfect lit charcoal ready for instant use….that easy

Wow they must be pricey? Cant be that easy? Well most cost between £8 – £20 and last for ages, and it really is that simple, like riding a bike….

Chimney Starter: An Essential Accessory

Lit Chimney Starter with Charcoal

An Essential

For anyone with a ‘natural’ BBQ where you need to light either charcoal or briquettes a Chimney Starter is an essential item to own.

What is a Chimney Starter and How to they work?

A chimney starter is by far one of the easiest ways to light the charcoal for your BBQ.

The old method of placing a few fire lighters under a stack of charcoal then dousing it with lighter fuel not only adds a bad flavour to your food, but it can take a long time before your coals are ready to cook on. Add to that the fact that not all the charcoal will light at the same rate and it can easily stress you out before the first piece of meat hits the grill!

A chimney starter takes away all that annoyance as it will light all your charcoal evenly and quickly. It becomes especially useful when lighting briquettes as they are notoriously harder to light that standard lumpwood charcoal.

So how do they work?

You simply fill your desired amount of charcoal into the chimney starter. Then place some form of lighter on the charcoal grate of your BBQ and set the chimney starter on top of it.

The starter is designed to draw air through the bottom, up through your charcoal and out the top (like a chimney). The rush of air flowing through the coals lights them up quickly and as they are all held together in the cylinder, they are evenly lit all the way through.

You will know your coals are ready when the top layer of charcoal has turned white and the flames are dancing at the top.

Using a BBQ Glove, simply pour the lit coals into the BBQ and add your cooking grate. After a few minutes with the lid on to pre-heat your cooking grate, you are ready to cook.

A full chimney starter of lumpwood charcoal should light in around 10-15 minutes. Briquettes can take up to 20-25 minutes to get a full chimney going.

A lot of people moved away from charcoal BBQ’s as they were such a pain to light but this simply isn’t an issue any more. It is recommended that you pre-heat your Gas BBQ for around 15 minutes before cooking so the time difference between the two is negligible.

Adding the right amount of fuel

Another great benefit of a chimney starter is that they allow you to measure the amount of charcoal you are adding to your BBQ so you will quickly learn how much fuel is needed to achieve a desired temperature.

By keeping track of the level the chimney was filled to and the resulting grill temperature, it can make it easier to hit your target temperature i.e. ½ chimney starter of briquettes = 160-180C….. Ideal for roasting when setup for indirect cooking.

I’ve never talked to someone who has purchased a chimney starter and didn’t think it was one of the best investments they had ever made. They make getting a fire going really easy and hassle free allowing you to concentrate on the things that matter, cooking your food!

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