Sunday, December 05, 2010

Making hardwood lump charcoal

I got a Big Green Egg off of Craig's List recently. It's a kind of ceramic oven/grill that uses lump hardwood A smallish bag of the stuff costs $7 and fills the egg four or five times. Not terribly expensive, but not cheap, either. (You can probably use briquettes in the BGE, but hardwood lump is much better: It burns very hot and very clean with no smoky flavor imparted. My friend Bill makes cookies on the BGE--no smoky taste! If I want smoke, I can add chips or chunks of hardwood.) 

So yesterday I tried my hand at making some natural, hardwood lump charcoalI used windfall and old bits of lumber leftover from projects to feed the the fire that heated the inner kiln, a thirty-gallon drum propped up inside the fifty-gallon barrel you see above.  I filled the inside drum with lumps of well-aged, mill ends of Live Oak and Black Cherry that I bought from a local saw mill that gets all of its lumber from domestic tree jobs. So, while making charcoal is never a green endeavor, this was pretty good. All waste wood. 

A total success. It took about four hours to dry the wood completely, then another hour of firing it until the off-gassing started. That was pretty impressive--flames shot out hole I drilled in the bottom of the drum like the afterburners on a rocket. This morning I opened the kiln and found perfect lump charcoal. I used maybe two dollars worth of hardwood in the drum, and got probably $25 worth of lump charcoal. I'll need to do this several times before I pay off the $60 I spend for the barrel and the drum...


Leon said...

Very interesting. We saw the BGE at a store in Tampa and really liked it but the big turn off was that they told us you can only use charcoal there, what's worse - only charcoal you buy from them. With all the fallen oak trees we have here, I'm not buying no imported charcoal, that's for sure.

Did you have a chance to try your homemade charcoal in the BGE yet?

Michael said...

leon, it worked GREAT. burned very hot, very efficiently. we cooked a big fat pain au levain (sourdough french bread) a chicken, two pizzas and a bunch of pitas--all on one load of charcoal, maybe 2.5 gallons. the bge is great, though it's going to take a while to perfect bread baking. (my wife is a master baker.)