Published July 1, 2009. From Cook's Illustrated.
Was this small, lightweight charcoal replacement too good to be true?
Tired of lugging around bags of charcoal, we were thrilled to discover a small, lightweight charcoal replacement. Made of solid ethanol, the uGo FlameDisk is a flat, aluminum-covered, Frisbee-sized disk that sits in the bottom of any kettle grill. The manufacturer claims it releases about 90 percent fewer pollutants than charcoal. Our FlameDisk burned for 40 minutes and left no ash or mess, but it produced near-constant flare-ups instead of even, radiant heat. Flames danced frenetically, charring some of our boneless chicken breasts while others remained raw. Steaks fared better, but every time fat dripped, the flames rushed back up. Because the grill lid must stay off, the FlameDisk limited the types of foods we could cook. Another drawback: A two-level fire, with hotter and cooler sections, was obviously impossible. We’re sticking with charcoal.