A bag of the black stuff...

I’m fascinated by charcoal, whenever we go to an open air museum such a Beamish in the North East or The Weald & Downland closer to home I make a beeline for the charcoal burners.  I’m not sure what’s fuelled my obsession, perhaps my love of BBQ and outdoor cooking where charcoal is such a vital component.

Charcoal has been made the same way for 1000’s of years in an air tight kiln, originally made of earth and turf but latterly made of heavy iron rings.  It’s time consuming, skilled, and incredibly dirty work!

Wild Wood Charcoal

I met Rosie Rendell several years ago when she was demonstrating her coppice work at The Goodwood Estate.  I recently discovered her and her partner Phil had acquired a charcoal business, using a retort.  If electric cars are going to save the motor industry then retorts will have much the same role to play where charcoal burning is concerned!  Although I won the junior science cup aged 12 I’m not going to attempt to explain the science.  What I will say is the process is far more sustainable and efficient than conventional charcoal burning, not least of all as the fuel to create the charcoal is actually the wood gas that exudes from the timber as it heats and metamorphoses in the heart of the retort.  It’s clever stuff.

The Retort - Pre burnThe Retort - Post Burn

Wildwood charcoal use coppiced wood, from the woodland Rosie tends to, forestry thinning’s and tree surgery waste from Phil’s arboriculture business, much of which is hardwood.  The clever design of the retort overcomes one of the key floors in conventional charcoal making.  Usually the charcoal is moved from the kiln using forks, the result is smaller pieces and lots of dust – hence the dirty work.  The retorts design enables bigger pieces to be easily removed, providing BBQ fanatics like me with large lumps of hardwood charcoal perfect for long slow cooks or quick grills.

Large Lumpwood Charcoal 

With so much charcoal in the UK imported from all over the world this sustainable local alternative sounds to us to be the perfect choice for your grilling needs this summer.


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