How Charcoal is made:
Lump charcoal is wood that has been cooked in a kiln. Applying controlled heat to the wood while limiting the oxygen
supply causes the wood to become almost entirely carbon. There are different manufacturing techniques to make lump charcoal,
with varying degrees of complexity, cost and results. Generally, manufacturing lump charcoal is a labor-intensive process.
If the wood sources used to make lump charcoal are untreated, then Lump Charcoal is ORGANIC.
Charcoal briquettes are also made from wood, but in a different way than lump and with more ingredients.
The method for making any briquette is fairly standard. A base material
is combined with a binder and water, which is then molded into a briquette and sent through a dryer. The base material and
the chemical additives and fillers determine if a briquette is ORGANIC.
In order to be ORGANIC, a briquette must be made exclusively from untreated wood sources converted
to char, a small amount of water and a vegetable-based starch binder.
Most charcoal briquettes are NOT ORGANIC, especially anything manufactured by Clorox (Kingsford),
Royal Oak or any manufacturer from China. This is because different manufacturing methods are used along with different ingredients
in order to achieve a desired outcome that is NOT ORGANIC. Some of the ingredients can include anthracite coal, limestone,
borax, sand, clay, sodium nitrates, and even petroleum.
Briquettes are a more economically efficient product to manufacturer than Lump charcoal because of mechanical automation
and product density. Machined manufacturing methods are able to briquette charcoal at a faster pace than non-machined methods
allowing for production efficiencies, while the increased density of briquettes allow for transportation savings.
The capital investment required for a briquette manufacturing operation is substantial and easily ranges into multi-millions
of U.S. dollars.
The U.S. charcoal market is large with over 1.08 million tons of charcoal sold in 2003. There are over 1 billion
barbecue events annually in the United States.
Charcoal Briquettes represents 91.2% of the U.S. tonnage volume and are available in four basic
- Traditional Size (like Kingsford)
- Large Size (like Big Briq)
- Flavored (i.e. mesquite)
- Instant Light (more expensive)
Until recently, most all briquettes were made with chemicals, especially instant light briquettes that include
petroleum-based products. 100% Natural and Organic Big Briq is quickly gaining market share with the modern
consumer, who is both health conscious and environmentally aware.
Lump Charcoal constitutes the remaining 8.8% of charcoal tonnage in the U.S. Lump charcoal continues to be a fast
growing niche as more consumers become familiar with it.
Charcoal is generally considered to be a biomass industry, in that the majority of the raw wood materials used
are waste material. It is important, however, to distinguish between charcoal manufacturers who use renewable and recycled
materials versus other manufacturers that are harvesting raw materials exclusively for charcoal production.