Not all charcoal is equal

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

With barbecuing becoming more and more popular, also and especially with many top chefs and gastro-pubs around Britain most of the charcoal sold in the country aids in the destruction of the tropical forests.

Only 10% of all charcoal sold in Britain is from this country. Most of it comes from tropical hardwoods which require firelighters, the latter tainting the meat with carcinogenic residues. That charcoal also is very harmful to the environment by way of production in those Third World countries whence it comes.

British lump-wood charcoal, made from Hazel and such like, from coppiced woodlands does not require the chemical firelighters which, in the majority, are made from petroleum products, such as paraffin (kerosene) or are a gasoline-based fluid.

Charcoal made from coppiced Hazel, and other such native, and not-so-native, hardwoods, does not, as said, require chemical firelighters and thus is much more environmentally friendly than the charcoal that we generally find on offer in our stores.

Worst still, even though it sounds very good and sustainable, is the charcoal made from “recycled” wood. What wood, I would like to ask, has been recycled into those charcoal briquettes? Maybe it is better we don't know and just ignore those offerings. Definitely they are not something that I would want to cook my sausages, burgers and chops on.

While no glue should be needed in the use of those briquettes as the sawdust will have enough lignin to bind everything together the worrying aspect, in my book, is as to the treatment such wood may have undergone in first place (unless it is all but sawdust from sawmills, but even then).

Charcoal made from coppiced hardwoods, from British woodlands, is sustainable. The rest is greenwash.

© 2013