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Grill o'Bois

All about charcoal

Charcoal is as old as humanity! It was prepared and used since the highest antiquity and even prehistory.

Steps

  1. Small history of charcoal
  2. The manufacture of charcoal

Small history of charcoal

The primary function of charcoal is to store energy more efficiently and sustainably than with raw wood. By-products such as wood tars were also used from prehistory, antiquity and up to modern times (as long as there were wooden ships) to caulk the hulls of ships or to ensure tightness of the barrels.
Subsequently, the charcoal was used in iron metallurgy, in the cementation of steels, for the production of foundry black, as a source of pure carbon for the chemical industry. Its porosity gives it uses of purifier (filters, water purification, etc.), and of course, fuel for the barbecue!

All about charcoal: used

The ecology of wood and charcoal, a renewable material

Charcoal is produced from an eternally renewable material: wood. In France and Europe, the wood used to produce charcoal is small thinning wood or by-products of the forest industry. No adult tree is cut to make charcoal.

In its period of plant growth, the tree absorbs more CO² than it produces and therefore constitutes a reserve of CO². The rest of the year, because of the process of degradation, the plants can not abosor the whole emitted CO². The concentration of atmospheric CO² therefore follows an annual cycle.

All about charcoal: charcoal

Temperate forests managed sustainably, afforestation and forest maintenance can accumulate significant amounts of carbon.
The production of charcoal in Europe is part of the sustainable management of forests, recycling by-products of the forest industry.

How to produce charcoal

Charcoal is obtained by the imperfect combustion of wood in a closed environment, without the addition of air or oxygen. No other products are added.

The theoretical yield of wood carbonization is 30% for dry wood, 15% for wet wood. The use of dry wood doubles the productivity of an oven. The wood used comes from forest clearings: real logs of wood, like firewood. The wood is allowed to dry for 12 to 18 months in the open air. This high-quality wood makes it possible to have an exceptional charcoal, unlike that obtained with by-products of sawmills.
This is often small pieces or wood with a lot of bark and sapwood producing a more friable charcoal and small pieces.

All about charcoal: charcoal

All about charcoal: wood

Charcoal charring process GRILL O'BOIS
By retorts
It is a continuous process: the wood is continuously introduced into the retorts, alternately, to maintain a constant supply of gas to burn.
The production units used in general today are retort batteries, most often 8.

All about charcoal: used

A retort is a kind of metal tube with a length of 3 m and a diameter of up to 1.80 m, in which the wood is placed. A tight cover comes close the tube.

The manufacture of charcoal

The manufacture of charcoal

1 - The set of retorts enters an oven built of refractory bricks.

All about charcoal: charcoal

2 - In the center, there is a fireplace that is first fed with wood. The combustion of this wood heats the retorts.

All about charcoal: charcoal

3 - By a valve device, the retorts first let out steam (white smoke).
As soon as the fumes change color, it is time to close all the air inlets, and to reinject all the fumes into the firebox to burn them and maintain the heat in the furnace.

All about charcoal: wood

4 - At the stage of carbonization, the mass of wood is incandescent. The fumes become in brown steps (tars of wood), blue, then more and more clear, and finally transparent (ethanol). Little by little, the combustion stops, the temperature decreases, the mass cools.

All about charcoal: wood

5 - When the carbonization is finished in a retort, remove it and put it on the cooling tank so that it cools down alone. The removed retort is immediately replaced by a retort filled with dry wood. The heat retained by the entire oven is thus used. Energy losses are reduced to a minimum.

All about charcoal: wood

6 - After about 24 hours of cooling, the full retorts of charcoal are emptied.

All about charcoal: used

7 - The charcoal is then normally screened according to the uses: the big pieces (> 60 mm) will be mainly reserved for the restaurants, the standard quality (20 to 60 mm) will be intended for your barbecue, the smaller pieces (fine and braisettes) will be crushed and agglomerated into briquettes.
The quality of this type of charcoal is really superior:

  • still a little moisture, for 3 to 5%,
  • volatile materials *, for about 12 to 14%,
  • ash for 1%.
  • high fixed carbon: about 80%, with a large majority of chunks, ensuring long burning time and easy ignition.

* volatile materials, including hydrogen and oxygen.

(photos / visuals: © Grill o'Bois, except special mention)

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