Sunday, July 29, 2012

Indigenous New York Lump Charcoal (Mali's, East Amherst)

It seems that I don't have much to post about lately, not sure why. The summer is zipping merrily by and as always I feel that I have not made enough of the season... At least I have been sporadically firing up the charcoal grill for some meats and veg.

I had been hearing about Mali's lump charcoal (they don't have a website that I could find, here is Shoprite's description) for some time. Mali's is based out of East Amherst (a suburb of Buffalo) and their "Gourmet Lump Charcoal" is to be found fairly widely sprinkled among local grocers. I have seen it at P-Chops and Shoprite, don't know who else carries the product. It is peddled for the reasonable sum of 6 bucks and change and comes in ten pound bags. As always, I would love to make a habit of supporting an instate business so I thought I would test drive the stuff to see if I should adopt it as my go-to charcoal.

Dumping about half of a bag into my grill I found that the Mali's charcoal is pretty irregularly sized. Everything from fist sized lumps to pebble sized chunks. Not necessarily a huge issue, but an observation none the less.

I wasn't in the mood to frig about lighting the stuff so I liberally doused with lighter fluid and lit it ablaze in an eyebrow singing poof of glory. Pro-tip: let the lighter fluid soak into the charcoal for a minute or two or you might not get the stuff good and blazing.

Something you will notice as the Mali's charcoal is that soothing ting-ting sound peculiar to lump charcoal. I tried to capture a bit of that in the below video. I like to stand there dumbly and stare into the flames while listening to this charcoal music. I appreciate small moments of zen.

After a fair bit longer than you would expect (certainly much longer than with normal briquettes) you will achieve a blazing inferno of glowing red charcoal. Be forewarned, this stuff burns very hot.  Like, stand 6 feet away from you grill, sunburned feeling face hot. The Mali's seemed to burn even hotter than other lump charcoals that I have tried. You have to account for this in your cooking times and you probably need a couple runs with the stuff to get the feel of it. I think it is especially suited to quick cooking skewered thingies and veg.

Anyhow, I bought a few bags and I will use the stuff again. It is fairly inexpensive and imparts a good smokey char to your summer meats.


  1. I've used it twice, both times I bought it at Price Chopper. The first time everything was fine. The second time, the bag was mostly charcoal dust. Very disappointing.

  2. If you're going to make a habit of using Mali's (which is, BTW the best damn lump charcoal there is) I advise you to get a charcoal chimney. One chimney holds more than enough charcoal for a grill full of meat, and it will have the coals ready in 15 minutes with nothing more than a couple of sheets of newspaper in the bottom to light it. They're great - no crappy petrochemical fumes to burn off, and the coals light faster than in a pile in the grill.

  3. Lighter fluid? YUCK!! What the hell?

    Like Dave said, thats good if you want everything tasting like, well....lighter fluid.

  4. Yes, yes, I am well aware of the process to light charcoal without lighter fluid... I also agree with the fact that lighter fluid brings some chemical flavor to the party. I have a charcoal chimney thingy but I was pretty hammered when I was lighting the grill, I kind of like 'splosions when I have had a couple oat sodas...

    But if you must use lighter fluid (in a pinch), let it soak in for a minute or two like I said. Also, if you don't get it on the grill, use only just enough, let it soak in, and then let the coals get completely hot, I would bet money I could side by side a burger or a steak with chimney lit coals and you would not be able to detect the lighter fluid flavor. I think the "lighter fluid indignation" thing is a bit of an affected attitude by some backyard-bbq-rangers.

    1. I'm just glad you reviewed Mali's. I've gotten sick of the Cowboy brand at my go-to stores. I'll be making a trip to get this stuff soon.


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