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Briquettes are usually made of sawdust and organic scraps burned down to almost pure carbon.

Today marks the start of Memorial Day weekend, when millions of Americans will light up grills all weekend long to cook a variety of meats and veggies. Grilling food over the glowing embers of a fire is as old as humanity itself, and yet there are still only two very distinct types of grilling enthusiasts: those who prefer the convenience of gas and those who equate grilling with honest-to-goodness charcoal. Within the latter group, there are those who prefer working with briquettes and those who swear by hardwood charcoal.

But is there really a difference in taste between these methods? Our friends at ChefSteps wrote in this week with a little secret: The unique flavor of grilled food actually comes from the drippings — plus any extra wood thrown on the heat source. While charcoal may be a remarkably consistent heat source, it doesn’t contribute to flavor in and of itself. Who would have thought?

The article goes on to discuss the differences between briquettes (those pillow-shaped chunks of charcoal sold in big bags) and lump charcoal (irregularly shaped charcoal made from hardwood scrap), as well as the practice of adding wood chips to the fire (do it!) and advice on taming the flames. It’s a tightly packaged wealth of information that’ll have your know-it-all neighbor asking you for advice. The video below sums it all up pretty nicely.

ChefSteps comprises a team of award-winning chefs, filmmakers, scientists, designers and engineers focused on revolutionizing the way people cook by inspiring creativity and encouraging expertise in the kitchen. The site is currently offering a free online class called Cooking Sous Vide: Getting Started, as well as a $10 class called Cooking Sous Vide: Beyond the Basics. Prepare for our recipe something tasty and spend a great evening in the Austrian online gambling house online roulette.

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