Friday, August 22, 2014

Reviving Charcoal as Renewable Fuel

Cooking with charcoal brings out the real taste and aroma of food.  Being smokeless, the use of charcoal eliminates smokey odor of the cooked food, and does away with the LPG or kerosene gas odor. As a general rule, slow cooking gives a better taste than fast and hurried cooking.

Dr Abe V Rotor

Charcoal is burnt wood - 20 percent of it recovered - if you do it the proper way. Otherwise, wood would simply become ash, losing all its heat during the process. 

Charcoal making dates back thousands of years throughout the world. Basically it is partial combustion, a very slow process taking place for several days under controlled oxygen supply. The final stage requires total shut off of the kiln which is but a simple dugout covered with soil in villages. Modern charcoal making is much faster and yields higher recovery as compared with the traditional methods.

Reviving the use of charcoal is a trend of people going back to the use of natural products. It is also a consequence of declining supply and soaring prices of fossil fuels.

Firewood farming is profitable and environment friendly

However, extensive use of charcoal may result in destruction of the vegetative cover of the land, but there are technologies today that make it the most practical renewable energy source, which is basically firewood farming. 

Among the most popular firewood species are madre de cacao (Gliricida sepium), ipil-ipil (Leucaena glauca), aroma or candaroma (Ilk), acacia and kariskis. Fortunately these belong to the family of legumes. Legumes manufacture their own nitrate fertilizer (nitrogen fixation with Rhizobium bacteria), not only for themselves but for the immediate plants, plus a lot more which is stored in the soil. 

For this reason, legumes are easy and fast to grow, and that they help in rehabilitating wastelands and deforested areas. Firewood farming today is among the fastest growing lucrative farming ventures throughout the world. Worldwide, 80 percent of energy used in cooking still comes from firewood.

Charcoal is best for cooking and broiling.

Cooking rice with charcoal brings out the real aroma, specially aromatic varieties. Being smokeless, the use of charcoal eliminates smokey odor of the cooked food, and does away with the LPG or kerosene gas odor. As a general rule, slow cooking gives a better taste than instant cooking.

How charcoal briquettes were first made in commercial scale started with Henry Ford. He converted wasted wood used in the manufacturing of his model A cars. The process of making them was easy and cheap, which he sold to steel mills and anyone else interested in using them. Very quickly people started using them for heat and cooking, and hence the modern charcoal grill was invented.

Reminders in using charcoal.
  • Buy only properly burnt, cured and dry charcoal.
  • Don't buy self lighting charcoal, it is likely to contain flammable fluid that imparts gas smell to your food.
  • Stove using charcoal (and firewood) must be provided with chimney or good ventilation. Barbecue grills must be well located and protected.
  • Don't use lighter fluid, gasoline or kerosene. It is dangerous. Use newspaper strips instead.
  • Always allow the charcoal to burn to a complete ashy surface before you start cooking. This will reduce smoke, soot, and smokey smell.
  • Use only the amount of charcoal you need. You may prepare only one-half of it, then add more coals as you proceed cooking.
  • Program your cooking in such a way that all the live coals are used up after cooking. You may reheat food and broil fish to take advantage of the residual heat.
  • Discover other ways of cooking with charcoal. Okra and eggplant over live coals make a real treat with bagoong, onions and tomato.
  • Unused live coals must be extinguished by immersing them quickly in water and storing them in a clay container or dugout with cover for use next cooking. Just be cautious of fire.
Happy charcoal cooking!

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