Kingsford (charcoal)

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The Kingsford logo
Product typeCharcoal
OwnerThe Clorox Company
Introduced1920; 100 years ago (1920)
Tagline"Start Something"

Kingsford is a brand of charcoal briquette used for grilling, along with related products. The brand is owned by The Clorox Company. Currently, the Kingsford Products Company remains the leading manufacturer of charcoal in the United States, with 80% market share. More than 1 million tons of wood scraps are converted into charcoal briquettes annually.[1]


Ford Motor Company sold more than one million Ford Model Ts in 1919. Each one used 100 board feet of wood for parts such as frame, dashboard, steering wheel and wheels. Because of the amount of wood used, Henry Ford decided to produce his own supply. He enlisted the help of Edward G. Kingsford, a real estate agent in Michigan, to locate a supply of wood. Kingsford’s wife was a cousin of Ford's.[2] In the early 1920s, Ford acquired large timberland in Iron Mountain, Michigan, and built a sawmill and parts plant in a neighboring area which became Kingsford, Michigan. The mill and plants produced sufficient parts for the car, but generated waste such as stumps, branches and sawdust. Ford suggested that all wood scraps be processed into charcoal.[3]

A University of Oregon chemist, Orin Stafford, had invented a method for making pillow-shaped lumps of fuel from sawdust and mill waste combined with tar and bound together with cornstarch. He called the lumps “charcoal briquettes.”[4] Thomas Edison designed the briquette factory adjacent to the sawmill, and Kingsford ran it. It was a model of efficiency, producing 610 lb (280 kg) of briquettes for every ton of scrap wood. The product was sold only through Ford dealerships. Ford named the new business Ford Charcoal and dubbed the charcoal blocks “briquets”. At the beginning, the charcoal was sold to meat and fish smokehouses, but supply exceeded demand.[5]

By the mid-1930s, Ford was marketing “Picnic Kits” containing charcoal and portable grills at Ford dealerships, capitalizing on the link between motoring and outdoor adventure that his own Vagabond travels popularized. “Enjoy a modern picnic,” the package suggested. “Sizzling broiled meats, steaming coffee, toasted sandwiches.” It wasn’t until after World War II that backyard barbecuing took off, thanks to suburban migration, the invention of the Weber grill and the marketing efforts. An investment group bought Ford Charcoal in 1951 and renamed it to Kingsford Charcoal in honor of Edward G. Kingsford (and the factory's home-base name) and took over the operations. The plant was later acquired by Clorox in 1973.[6]


Kingsford Charcoal is made from charred soft and hardwoods such as pine, spruce, hickory, oak and others depending on which regional manufacturing plant it comes from. That char is then mixed with ground coal and other ingredients to make a charcoal briquette. As of January 2016, Kingsford Charcoal contains the following ingredients:[7][8]

  • Wood char - Fuel for heating
  • Mineral char - Fuel for heating
  • Mineral carbon - Fuel for heating
  • Limestone - Binding agent
  • Starch - Binding agent
  • Borax - Release agent
  • Sawdust - Accelerate ignition

The raw materials, primarily wood waste from regional sawmills, are delivered to the factory. The wood waste is fed into pits to undergo magnetic filtration to remove any metallic parts. The wood waste is then ground into fine particles and whisked with hot air to remove any moisture.[9] The wood particles are later processed through a large furnace with multiple hearths (called a retort) in a controlled-oxygen atmosphere. The particles are stacked in batches in a kiln that chars the wood without burning in a controlled-oxygen atmosphere. The wood is progressively charred as it drops from one hearth to the next. The charred wood particles are combined with the other ingredients, press formed into pillow-shaped briquettes and dried before being packaged for sale.[10]

Plant Locations[edit]

Charcoal Facilities

  • Burnside, Kentucky
  • Summer Shade, Kentucky
  • Springfield, Oregon
  • Belle, Missouri
  • Parsons, West Virginia

Retort Facilities

  • Glen, Mississippi
  • Beryl, West Virginia


  1. ^ Kingsford : : Our Heritage
  2. ^ "Henry Ford's Connection to Charcoal". Knowledge Stew. September 26, 2014. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  3. ^ "Ford Iron Mountain plant". Daily News. Iron Mountain, MI. Archived from the original on August 22, 2016.[full citation needed]
  4. ^ United States Grant US1609097 A, Stafford Orin F, "Process of making charcoal briquettes and product derived therefrom", published November 30, 1926 
  5. ^ Slater, Dashka (September 26, 2014). "Who Made that Charcoal Briquette?". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  6. ^ "Kingsford Charcoal". Prezi. July 5, 2016. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  7. ^ Kingsford Brand Charcoal ingredients
  8. ^ "Home Depot Safety Data Sheet" (PDF).
  9. ^ "Oregon's Kingsford plant is king". Billings Gazette. June 30, 2001. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  10. ^ "Kingsford Brand Charcoal ingredients". California BBQ Association. August 2000. Retrieved December 7, 2016.

External links[edit]