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First time charcoal making questions

Charcoal retort smoke

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#1 PagodaMomar

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 05:58 PM

So I attempted to make a batch of charcoal today. I got an old pressure cooker, removed all of the plastic handles, bolted up all but one hole in the lid. I loaded it up with batch white pine 2x4s, clamped the lid down, put it on the turkey fryer burner and started it up. It started off like i read it was supposed to started smoking out the hole in about 15 minutes, but after about an hour and a half all I had coming out the lid was a ton of smoke. I finally shut it off because the wife was complaining about all the smoke. The gases never did ignite like I read they were supposed to. I realized about half way through that I didn't have the burner turned all the way up, and am wondering if this could be a problem, though after I cranked it to high still nothing but a ton of white smoke. I'm wondering what I might be doing wrong. http://www.firesmith...oaltutorial.pdf I used this as a bit of a guide. The only difference between my set up and it was that I had only one hole in the lid, probably around 3/8 in big. And I didn't bother to put the insulation wrap on the outside since it said it was optional. Just wondering if i might be doing something wrong with my setup or any helpful hints would be appreciated.

#2 Bobosan

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 06:27 PM

2 x 4's??? Cut or split those down to maximum 3/4 to 1" and stand them upright in the pot. Also, I found that a bottom burner is not very effective or efficient making charcoal this way. Try to surround the sides and bottom with your heat source and it should cook more evenly and faster. Another thought is that pressure cookers have thicker walls than a 1 or 5 gallon paint can and will require much more heat.

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#3 PagodaMomar

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 06:49 PM

Thanks Bobosan. I'll give it another go tomorrow with a paint can.

#4 Poindexter

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 07:39 PM

You may also have to ignite the exhaust gas yourself. Now that I have done it a few times in my fireplace i can kinda sort of start to tell when it should be flaming even if the exhaust plume is unlit. At that point I'll stick a lit match in the exhaust from the retort to see if it will light.

#5 mikeee

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 10:40 PM

Read up on the TLUD cooking method, you don't need an external heat source and you still end up with very good charcoal.
Many pyro's are using Eastern Red Cedar chips (animal bedding) and cooking the wood chips in the TLUD cooker.
The wood chips burn at a low temperature and leave charcoal behind.
The trick is stopping the cooking process and sealing off the cooking chamber to stop the charcoal from turning to ash.

#6 Bobosan

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 07:01 AM

You may also have to ignite the exhaust gas yourself. Now that I have done it a few times in my fireplace i can kinda sort of start to tell when it should be flaming even if the exhaust plume is unlit. At that point I'll stick a lit match in the exhaust from the retort to see if it will light.


One way to tell when the exhaust gas may burn is when it turns from white (steam, first pic) to a light grey/yellowish color (combustibles). As Poindexter mentioned, you may have to light it to get it burning with flame.

#7 Arthur

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Posted 10 May 2013 - 03:34 PM

If you can, point the vent hole out of the bottom of the can. That way the foul smelling coking smoke gets burned in the fire.





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