Who makes their own charcoal?

Discussion in 'Woods for Smoking' started by mrmaduro, Apr 12, 2009.

  1. Does anyone make their own charcoal? I just completed building my own kiln so I can make my own charcoal. I cooked a 55 gal drum of apple wood, it yielded close to 1/2 a barrel of charcoal. This stuff lights easier, burns hotter and more even than store bought. Here are a few pics.
  2. tld

    tld Smoke Blower

    Thought about it but never did it.Thought it would be a lot of work for the return. Nice job. [​IMG]
  3. It's really pretty easy. It's worth the effort required.
  4. pinkmeat

    pinkmeat Smoking Fanatic

    Can you explain the process for me? Not sure I've ever seen anyone do this.
  5. Sure thing, the process I used was the indirect method. There are several ways to do this, I chose to do mine on a larger scale. I used a 275 gallon fuel oil tank as the kiln. I cut it in half, lower in the front than the rear (this makes loading the inner barrel easier). After adding angle iron to stiffen the tank, I added hinges, 2 large diameter stacks, and a door to each side to help control the burn. I added a grate to hold the barrel up off the bottom. I used a 55 gal. drum as the retort container. This has to have a removable/resealable lid. This barrel has to be air tight with the exception of a few vent holes, these allow the burnable gasses to escape. I drilled 9 3/8 inch holes in a line down the side of the barrel for the vents. I just guessed at the number required, (I must be lucky because that amount worked perfectly).

    To make the charcoal any hardwood will work, I found the pieces that were 4-5 inches long and 3-4 inches across worked the best. Fill the inner barrel loosely then shake to settle and fill to the top,(don't stack the wood tightly it won't all cook). Replace the lid. Fill the kiln as full as possible to where the bottom of the barrel will be. Place the retort barrel with the vent holes toward the bottom. Light the wood in the kiln keep it burning nice and hot, (the hotter the better). Keep adding wood until you see flames coming out of the vent holes. It will sound like a blast furnace inside when this starts. When this starts fill the kiln most of the way up with wood. When the vents stop emitting flame your wood will be charcoal. Let the fire go out it's done. DO NOT OPEN the barrel for any reason, the charcoal is hot enough to burst into flame if any oxygen is introduced. Allow the barrel to cool over night. That's it it's fun and I figure I'll save close to 400.00 dollars not having to buy charcoal.

    Plus it starts quicker, burns hotter, and burns more evenly. The first time I used it I was amazed, I filled my chimney starter as full as I could get it. Used 1 double sheet of newspaper, went inside to season the steaks, and pork tenderloin. Went outside and poured the coals into the grill, closed the lid waited for the temp to rise, brushed the grates. I was cooking in less than 15 minutes. After dinner I went out to check the coals, I still had cookable heat 1 hour and 10 minutes after I took off the meat.
  6. Sounds like it worked out nicely for you. I have been making lump charcoal for a few years with a retort similar to this one:
    He uses his charcoal for bladesmithing but the concept is the same as charcoal for cooking.
    I like to use oak or maple for charcoal. You lose most of your flavor in the pyrolizing process, so I use my fruit woods for my primary heat/flavor in the firebox.
  7. davenh

    davenh Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Pretty cool system!

    Can you estimate how much wood you used (both in the kiln and barrel) vs how many lbs of charcoal you yielded?

    Ok to use a soft wood like pine for the kiln fuel? Save the hardwood for the barrel (coal)?
  8. I would say that it took a little less than 1 1/2 times of burning wood to charcoal wood. The charcoal yielded almost half of the starting amount. It was close to 120-130 pounds of wood in the retort, which yielded 50-60 pounds of charcoal.

    Yes you can use your scaps to burn in the kiln, pine, cedar, OSB, plywood scraps, etc....

    Cacus, I agree with you on loosing the apple flavor in the conversion, (still has a slight apple aroma while burning). But apple was the only wood that I had enough to fill the retort. I couldn't wait, I had to see how it would work. The next load will be either oak or hickory.
  9. alx

    alx Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Nice job.I was building one with 30 gallon drum inside 55 gallon,but since i have two 55 gallons i am going to use second 55 gallon on top as gasser.Should be ready this month.In the charcoal by gary gilmore he mentions 12% moisture of wood=100% coals-80%moisture=38% charcoal per batch..I have cord of cherry(dry) and 3/4 cord red oak(cut nov.10)-i was figuring the greater heat output of wood when burned would work same with charcoal final product.Like you mentioned use what you have etc.Thanks for pictures.

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