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Charcoal Briquette Manufacturing Is Environmentally Friendly

Feb 3, 2008
It's interesting to note that before Henry Ford made the BBQ grill popular by link selling it to his cars with the vision of day trips and pic-nics, charcoal was nothing but a waste product left over from the recovery of acetic acid and methanol. In the early 1900's after more efficient and less expensive methods were developed for synthesizing acetic acid and methanol, charcoal production declined only to be revitalized by the development of the briquette for recreational cooking.

Converted to mass production by Ford in the 1920's charcoal briquettes are made of two primary ingredients, one of which is basically traditional lump wood charcoal referred to a char. It is added to give the briquette its wood smoke aroma and also because it's easy to ignite. The other not surprisingly is coal or anthracite which is added to produce a high temperature and long lasting fire.

Ash whitening agent is added to let the chef know when the BBQ is ready to cook on (and still people burn their food by not being sufficiently patient!) The final ingredients are a starch binding agent and an accelerant.

The first steps in the manufacturing of briquettes are to prepare both the char and the coal and this is done by different methods of controlled burning that drive off the moisture and volatile components. Once complete the finished products are pulverized ready for blending.

To make the briquette, the char and the coal is mixed in the correct proportions with the starch binder and fed into a blender where it is thoroughly mixed. Despite having been desiccated, the mix still has significant water content and this is necessary to help form the briquettes.

The briquettes are formed and dropped on a conveyor where they pass through a further drying process but being heated up from 40C to 135C for approximately four hours. During this process the moisture content of the briquette will reduce from about 35% to 5% and at the end they will either be stored or pass directly through to an on line bagging machine.

It depends on the final product specification but it's at the bagging stage that organic solvent may be added (using an atomizer) just before bagging and this produces instant light briquettes. Usually these are put into smaller paper bags so that the barbecue enthusiast can simply pick up an individually wrapped pack and light the paper without having to remove the briquettes from the bag.

Because of the use of fossil fuel in the manufacture of briquettes and the various heat drying processes involved it's arguable that lump wood charcoal is more environmentally friendly however two points have to be borne in mind.

The first is that the drying process drives off volatile gases and these gases can be used to fuel the driers themselves. Whether this is completely sustainable I would doubt however the modern briquette manufacturers do take the environment seriously and now manufacture their char from wood shavings and sawdust i.e. the waste products of the lumber industry.

So whether your choice is lump wood or briquettes not only can you claim to be a traditionalist, you can also be content in the knowledge that you're more environmentally friendly than your gas grilling neighbor. Well at least you'll know your facts and can argue the point!
About the Author
Smoker Grill Recipes - Free BBQ grill recipes & meat smoker cooking ideas on the ceramic barbecue. Charcoal Barbecue Grills - Find out mare about the charcoal grill Free Barbecue Recipes - Outdoor grilling tips, easy fire pit menus, healthy rotisserie suggestions, best homemade bbq sauce recipes.
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