How to Make Charcoal (with Images)

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How to Make Charcoal (with Images)
How to Make Charcoal (with Images)

Charcoal, made by burning pieces of wood until all the impurities are gone, is excellent for outdoor barbecues. It can be expensive to buy, but making yours is a cheap and simple solution. Read on to learn how to do this using two different methods.


Method 1 of 2: Lighting a Fire

Make Charcoal Step 1

Step 1. Locate an area where you can build a fire

You can do this in your backyard or you may need a different location and a permit. See what the rules are for this in your city.

Make Charcoal Step 2

Step 2. Get a metal drum

This will be the container in which you will put the wood. Choose any size you like, depending on how much charcoal you want to make. It will need to have a flameproof cover.

Make Charcoal Step 3

Step 3. Choose the wood to turn into charcoal

What kind of wood do you want to use? Select one that has been cured: cherry, oak, or pecan are all good. See if anyone in your area has wood to sell or pick up some from a garden and renovation supply store. You'll need enough to fill the drum to the top. Cut the wood into 10 cm pieces.

Make Charcoal Step 4

Step 4. Fill drum with cured wood

Fill it well with the material to the top and cap it, but do not leave it sealed.

Make Charcoal Step 5

Step 5. Get ready to light a fire

Buy or add extra material to make one that burns for 3-5 hours in the chosen location and leave a hole in the middle for the drum. Put it in the hole and cover with more wood.

Make Charcoal Step 6

Step 6. Burn the fire

Keep it lit for at least 3 hours or more if the drum is large and full. Let the fire go out completely and cool down before getting close.

Make Charcoal Step 7

Step 7. Remove the pieces of charcoal

When you open the lid, you will see a fresh batch of pure charcoal. Use it to barbecue for the rest of the summer.

Method 2 of 2: Using Two Drums

Make Charcoal Step 8

Step 1. Buy a small drum and a bigger one

The small one should fit the big one with room to spare. Using a 115L drum inside a 210L drum will do the trick.

Make Charcoal Step 9

Step 2. Punch a fuel hole in the larger drum

Use a hacksaw and make a square cut in the base of it about 12 by 50 cm. You'll need this hole to put fuel into the drum and keep the drum's contents warm.

Make Charcoal Step 10

Step 3. Drill holes in the bottom of the smaller drum

This allows the extreme heat to pass into it, cooking the wood inside. Drill 5 or 6 1cm holes in the base of the drum.

Make Charcoal Step 11

Step 4. Fill the smaller drum with the cured wood

Ideally, use 10 cm pieces of cherry, oak or pecan wood. Fill the drum well and cover it, leaving an opening so that moisture can escape.

Make Charcoal Step 12

Step 5. Support the larger drum

Place two bricks flat on the bottom of it, one on each side, and then two more on top of the first ones, forming a square. This prevents the smaller drum from touching the bottom of the larger one and allows you to put fuel underneath.

Make Charcoal Step 13

Step 6. Place the smaller drum in the holder

It should fit right inside the bigger one. If not, use smaller bricks or stones to lessen support. Cover the larger drum, leaving a space for air to pass through.

Make Charcoal Step 14

Step 7. Make a fire inside the larger drum and let it burn for 7 to 8 hours

Use wood and sticks for this, passing the materials through the hole in the bottom of the container. As the fire burns, feed it with larger pieces of wood.

  • Keep an eye on the flame; when it decreases, add more wood.
  • The fire should be as hot as possible, so keep feeding it dense wood.
Make Charcoal Step 15

Step 8. Let the fire go out

After 7 to 8 hours, impurities, moisture and gases will have been removed from the wood, leaving only pure charcoal. Let the fire go out completely and cool down before getting close to the drums.

Make Charcoal Step 16

Step 9. Remove the charcoal

Empty the smaller drum into a container and save the charcoal for later use.


Be patient; the process of eliminating the gases takes several hours


  • Do not remove the drum until the fire has completely gone out. If the charcoal comes into contact with enough air before it is ready, it will burn.
  • Don't get hurt and keep children away from flames and hot objects.
  • Leave an opening when capping the drum so that gases can escape from it without building up pressure.

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