How Jess Pryles’ Hardcore Carnivore Black Charcoal-Based Seasoning Rub Just Raised The Stakes On The Beef Seasoning Game!
In my never-ending quest for the perfect meat rub, I came across Jess Pryles’ new and very unique Hardcore Carnivore Black, charcoal-based seasoning. Yes, you read
that right. There’s actual charcoal in this rub. Food-grade activated charcoal made from coconut husks to be exact.
I think a big part of the intrigue for me as well as most people I would imagine, is that we tend not to think of charcoal as something edible. I mean, charcoal is that dark black, dusty stuff (that always seems to get all over my hands, clothes, and even face,) that we use to light our grills, right?
In this case, we are not talking about the bottom of the grill fuel, but charcoal as an actual edible ingredient. One that brings color, flavor, texture, and a touch of wow to your food. I want to make clear that the bottom of the grill barbecue charcoal, on the other hand, is loaded with toxins and chemicals, and should never be consumed.
In This Article, We’ll Explore:
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So What Is Food-Grade Activated Charcoal and Is It Safe to Eat?
I actually had to look this up but it’s a type of charcoal that has been introduced to very high levels of heat so that its surface expands and becomes incredibly porous on a microscopic level. Activated charcoal powder made from coconut husks is considered to be “GRAS” (Generally Recognized As Safe) to consume by the FDA.
Here is what Jess Pryles has to say about activated charcoal on her website:
“Activated charcoal is considered to be inert, meaning it will pass through your system without being digested or entering the bloodstream.”
I was so intrigued by all of this that I reached out to Jess for more information and she was kind enough to reply to my email with the following:
“There are many grades of activated charcoal, but the food-grade ones are made from either coconut husks or bamboo. In fact, it’s the same stuff that a “shall remain nameless” burger chain used to create their black buns for Halloween.”
Ok, great. So now we know that it is safe to eat…
but what made Jess explore the smoky, slightly bitter, and earthy notes of charcoal as an ingredient for her rub?
I asked her this as well. She said that she had seen a few charcoal-based seasonings on the market, but most were heavily laden with MSG and quite overpowering in flavor. She went on to say:
“It was important to me to ensure Hardcore Carnivore Black was MSG-free (and gluten-free, too) because a great seasoning should complement meat, not disguise it.”
I couldn’t have said it better Jess.
By this point, I was completely sold and ordered a bottle right away.
My Thoughts on Hardcore Carnivore Black
The first thing you notice is the jet-black coloring of the seasoning. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised since the name is Hardcore Carnivore Black after all. But still, I have never seen anything like this in a rub.
Upon opening the lid, I was greeted with the smell of smokey garlic and a hint of black pepper, onion, and chili powder. They all blended well without overpowering each other. Off to a good start. After putting a pinch in my mouth, the best way I could describe the flavor is it tasted like “the smell of a summer barbecue.” In case you’re unsure, that is a good thing. 🙂
Another thing I noticed was that many of the spices had settled, leaving a coating of coal ash on the top. I was prepared for this though because I had read a few previous reviews that stated the same thing. Do yourself a favor and give the bottle a good shake with the lid on before every use. This way you will ensure you get a nice blend of seasoning and coal ash without too much of one over the other.
Again, I was amazed by the look of the seasoning after rubbing it on the steak. It was just so unlike any other seasoning I have ever put on meat before. As you can see from the below video, Jess suggests applying liberally, so that is what I did.
It was time to get the meat on the fire. I normally like using the reverse sear method for my steaks, but this night I was in a bit of a rush. Instead, I set the grill up using the 2-zone cooking method where I would sear the meat hot and fast, the finish with a little indirect heat.
These Were the Results
Although at first glance it may look as if it might have been over-charred and burnt. I can assure you it wasn’t. It’s just part of the magic of this seasoning. It creates an easy-to-produce, wonderful black charred crust, without overcooking the meat. And the flavor? It was good. I mean, really, really good!
Just as Jess promised, it was a great “compliment” to the meat, the spices did not overpower the natural flavor. But what it did add was almost perfect. Oh, and the activated coal ash adds a nice smoky-burn flavor that was a great addition. The whole family agreed. Hardcore Carnivore Black was a winner.
I have since used it on Tri-Tip and again, it was really, really good. Tri-Tip is one of my favorite meats to cook because I love the charred and crusty exterior you can easily produce while still keeping the interior moist and juicy. Hardcore Carnivore Black only made the charring and flavor all that much better. The food-grade activated charcoal provided a great foundation for the crust to form.
Some of the other meats I have used it with are burgers, pork loin, and shrimp. I have yet to be disappointed.
Another thing I want to point out is that I tried the seasoning on shrimp and a steak in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop. I did this specifically to see if the activated charcoal made a difference not only with the color but with the flavor. Was the smokey flavor really coming from the coals they are cooked on? Or did the seasoning truly help with that?
To my delight, Hardcore Carnivore Black made both taste as if they had just been cooked right on a charcoal grill! It worked great for flavoring both types of meat with that wonderful charcoal aroma without needing to start up the coals on a grill. (If that is your thing.)
Hardcore Carnivore Black PROs & CONs
- Hardcore Carnivore is a gluten and MSG-free rub.
- It is designed to complement meats of all kinds.
- Since the product darkens the exterior of the meat prior to cooking, you won’t be tempted to overcook it.
- The striking black color creates an amazing contrast against the interior of the meat, making it incredibly visually appealing.
- It compliments the flavor of the meat, it does not disguise it.
- If you forget to shake it well before each use, you may get more coal ash than spices causing the flavor to be lacking.
- When opening the lid and seasoning meats, a light coating of ash dust can and will get on your hands and the immediate surrounding area.
While the cons were minimal, the pros make this an excellent choice for every steak lover.
My Final Thoughts on Our Hardcore Carnivore Black Seasoning & Rub Review
In my opinion, what was great about adding charred ingredients to this rub is the unique taste it added. It is different from wood smoke flavor, but still just as familiar. And best of all, the charred ingredients take searing to the next level! That is important because the “char” is what accounts for a lot of the flavor.
Even though Jess Pryles was not the first to include food-grade activated charcoal in a meat rub, she is the first to do it right as far as I’m concerned.
If this rub does not bring out the Carnivore in you, I’m afraid nothing will!
One last thing Jess told me in her email to sum it up.
“Many folks probably view HCB as a gimmick. I believe if you judge it on nothing but flavor, it’s still stand-alone, mainly because it’s subtle. I haven’t seen too many other seasonings that are prepared not to be ‘in your face”. The black is a bonus. A meat cosmetic, if you will. And we eat with our eyes, so it made sense to me that it should work well to make the finished product appealing and attractive. I also think it’s great for folks who are just starting out grilling or smoking. An easy way to start achieving the look of perfect bark!”
I’m buying what you’re selling Jess. You have me convinced. You definitely have a fan in me!
For more on Jess Pryles, you can check out her website here.
I hope you have enjoyed my review of Jess Pryles’ Hardcore Carnivore Black and it proves helpful to you. If you have had the chance to use this seasoning, I would love to hear about your results. I also hope that you are one step closer to joining me in “The Grilling Life”!
Disclosure – At The Grilling Life, I am committed to researching and writing thoughtful, informative and editorially independent reviews of the best products for your outdoor cooking needs. If you like what I do, you can support me through my chosen links, which earn me a commission. This allows me to continue sharing with you my love for all things barbecue. Your support is truly appreciated.
I love meat specially grill and I always looking for new stuff to increase the natural flavor in the meat and I´ve never heard about this but I think it is worth to try it thank you for sharing this
It’s definitely worth trying Felix. It is a great compliment to beef and I highly recommend it. If you do end up using HCB, let us know of your experience. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Grilling!
I do all of the cooking in my home, so I am always on the lookout for new spice ideas. We love meat in our home and the Hardcore Carnivore sounds like ti would make a great addition to any family chef kitchen. The price is really good/. It is only $9.99. Thank you for the great article.
Hi from one fellow cook to another Steph. This seasoning would definitely look great on your spice rack, not to mention steaks, brisket, tri-tip etc. You can’t beat the price. One bottle goes a long way. I have used it many times and still have more than two-thirds of a bottle left. Let us know how things turn out if you decide to give it a try. Happy Grilling!
I am going to have to try that!! I am thinking that you have an awesome life being able to try out all these meats on the grill like you do. Thank you for that awesome post. And Not-thanks for making me hungry again.
Haha Brent. I know one way to fix the hunger, and that is to go get yourself a bottle of this awesome rub and grill some meat! 🙂 If you do happen to give it a try, be sure to let us know how you liked it. Thanks again for stopping by and Happy Grilling!
Love it dude! It was only a matter of time before someone came up with this idea. I mean, why do we all love BBQ’s? It’s the charcoal effect for me! I must admit that I’ve never heard of activated charcoal so this was a first for me.
Interesting that it’s made from coconut husks. I think everyone knows the health benefits of coconuts and they are proving their versatility once again!
The photos of the steaks look good, I can’t wait to give this a try. I’m assuming you just cooked the meat in the usual fashion and you didn’t do anything different?
I agree Craig and the added flavor of the activated charcoal was a big reason that attracted me to this seasoning in the first place. I have to say, it lived up to its billing and then some. There is no need to do anything different when using this rub. Just make sure you sear both sides with a hot fire and you are good to go. If you do end up giving it a try, don’t forget to let us know the outcome. Happy Grilling my friend!
Oh man, I would love to give this a try! I have always dabbled in experimental rubs for my BBQ feasts and this sounds like it would be right up my alley!
Would you add anything else to this rub to make it taste any better? Or is the flavor enough as-is? Do you think it would be good to use on chicken also? I always love to have BBQ’s with steak and chicken.
If you love a good meat rub, then this will be right up your alley! I wouldn’t add a thing. Anything else would take away from the natural goodness of the meat. I have not tried it on chicken yet, but I have read several comments from people who have. They were all positive by the way. If you get the chance to try either, I would love to hear back from you. In the meantime, Happy Grilling!
I’ll be sure to let you know when I give this a try!
I look forward to hearing all about it. Thanks again for stopping by.
This post made me hungry and crave for the that seasoning. The steak was cooked well too. Will definitely try it out to see for myself. I bet my friends will wonder what I put on my steak this summer.. Woohoo!
Your friends will be begging you to share your new seasoning! They will be amazed by the look and taste. Don’t forget to let us know how it goes. Happy Grilling!
I don’t have a grill, but love the taste of a good charcoal grilled burger. It sounds like this might be just the ticket to give me that flavor without grilling. Your description is great and I can almost taste it just from reading what you’ve written. I may have to check this seasoning out.
You won’t be disappointed, Carol. The great thing about this seasoning is that the char-grilled flavor is built in. Thanks for the kind words. Be sure to let us know how you like it if you decide to give it a try. Until next time.
This is very interesting. I never knew it was possible to eat charcoal in any way. Isn’t charcoal just ashes from burnt wood? I’m happy to hear that it’s FDA approved though. I guess it really ads a barbeque taste to your meat when you think about it.
Understand that this is Food Grade Charcoal and can be digested without harm. You NEVER want to eat standard charcoal as you can become very sick or worse. The great thing about it being added to this meat rub is that you get a wonderful grilled flavor built in and is good to use on the stove as well. It is also very visually appealing. Thanks Ben and Happy Grilling!
Interesting rub! I the name alone really grabbed my attention. I have a quick question, though. In the photographs, it seems that there is a hefty amount of the rub applied to the meat. I don’t use rubs at all to tell you the truth and I guess that’s why I question this.
When you use rubs do you lightly sprinkle it on or is it customary to lay the stuff on pretty thick?
I would take a guess that this is the grillers discretion but is there a specific method for applying the rub? Like putting it in a bag and shaking it up?
Thanks for sharing this product! I can’t wait to experience the flavor!
That is a great question, Gary. Some rubs are very overpowering and meant to be used sparingly. Otherwise, they can take away from the natural goodness of the meat’s flavor. Others are more subtle and can be used much more heavily without compromising the flavor. Hardcore Carnivore is in the latter category. In fact, if you watch the video in the link from the article, the creator demonstrates just that, while talking about how it works. Part of this rubs genius is that the charcoal not only adds to the smokey flavor but makes the meat very visually appealing as well. As far as application goes, the bottle has a convenient shaker application and is meant to be applied directly from it. Other times, especially when I mix my own rubs I will put them in a small bowl and use a pinch between my fingers to sprinkle on high above the meat to make sure it is applied evenly. I hope this helps. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Happy Grilling!
Looks amazing – I love charcoal flavouring, and haven’t found anything to use at home that compares to a good grill house. Unfortunately I’ll be grilling inside anyway for the next few months thanks to the ‘lovely’ British climate! Looking at the stockist guide, they have made it as far as Northern Ireland, I’m hoping they ship into the UK. Do you know of anyone else that would ship it over here?
Mike, read my article on Winter Grilling. Maybe that will motivate you to get out and join the Extreme grillers club. 🙂 I hear what you are saying though and that is why this rub is a good choice. It will add the grilled flavor even if you are cooking indoors. I’m not sure about the shipping bu I will make a few inquiries and see if I can find anything that will help. I will let you know if I hear anything. Thanks for stopping by and happy grilling!
Hi, thank you for this great idea! The combination of black pepper, onion and chili powder, together with smoky flavor definitely got me interested. I love smoking meat, so I assume that this will give some of the same flavor, but with less hassle. I wonder if it would work with chicken or duck as well? Those are some of my favorite smoky meats.
I’m glad I could help out Xena. The spices do work well together and add the perfect smoked flavor to your meat, and yes, it can be done with less hassle. 🙂 I have not tried it on chicken or duck yet myself but I have read that many people have enjoyed it. The good news is, Jess Pryles just released a new rub called Hardcore Carnivore Red which is made specifically for pork and chicken. You may want to take a look at that too as it is already a hit. I will be buying my own soon and will let everyone know how it turns out. Thanks for stopping by and happy grilling my friend!
Wow. It’s amazing what people come up with. Who would have thought? It does look burnt, but I trust you when you say it’s not. It’s a good thing you pointed out that the coals at the bottom of the grill are not edible. Someone might actually try to eat them (ha ha). Anyway, I really enjoyed this review, and I’ll be back soon to buy some. I can’t wait to try it. I think I’ll try it on chicken. What do you think about that?
It really is a unique concept but one that really works well. Hardcore Carnivore Black’s coloring was made to be visually appealing and I can’t argue with the results. I have not tried it on chicken yet myself but I have read that many people have enjoyed it. The good news is, Jess Pryles just released a new rub called Hardcore Carnivore Red which is made specifically for pork and chicken. You may want to take a look at that too as it is already a hit. I will be buying my own soon and will let everyone know how it turns out. Thanks for stopping by Gary and happy grilling my friend!
Hello! Just read through this and immediately thought of my mom. She loves cooking and grilling is her favored method. The concept of using activated charcoal as a food enhancer was so strange to me yet as I kept reading it made more and more sense. The fact that this particular one is health conscious makes it more appealing to me. Not to mention those pictures of that steak made me so hungry. I am super glad to have found this, as my mother’s birthday is not so far away and I finally found something that isn’t a candle or pair of ear rings to get her. I noticed in one of your other comment replies you mentioned a Hardcore Carnivore Red and I look forward to your findings on that since my mother has a preference for pork and it would be super cool to get her both the black and red as a gift.
Hi Alex. It is nice to know your mother is another griller. Cheers to her! I would think that this would be the perfect present and one that not only she would enjoy, but the whole family can reap the benefits! I will be purchasing the HCR soon and will let everyone know how I liked it. Don’t forget to stop back by to see the results. Happy Grilling!
Hi Patrick, do you think I could use the rub on the steak a few hours prior to bbq ing?