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Jess Pryles’ Hardcore Carnivore Black Charcoal Based Seasoning and Rub Review

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.

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.

Hardcore Carnivore Black 8oz Shaker

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.

Hardcore Carnivore Seasoned Steak

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!

Hardcore Carnivore Black Seasoning On a Ribeye Steak
Hardcore Carnivore Black Seasoned Ribeye Steak

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.

Hardcore Carnivore Black Seasoned Tri Tip on the Big Green Egg
Hardcore Carnivore Black Seasoned and Carved Tri Tip Made on the Big Green Egg

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”!


Pat G.

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.

Patrick Ginise

A backyard warrior, certified carnivore, lover of good whiskey, grill master and I’m Living The Grilling Life!

I have a passion for cooking with live fire and smoke, no matter the weather. I’m a real person just like you, who loves outdoor cooking and BBQ. Food, fun, and time spent with family and friends are what it’s all about! It is my mission to take my passion and knowledge for outdoor cooking and all things BBQ and share this expertise in techniques and grilling equipment with you. In other words, Living The Grilling Life!

I have personally tested over 150+ Grills and Smokers and hundreds of grilling thermometers, temperature controllers, grill brushes, grilling tools, fire starters, and other BBQ products.