Charcoal, How It’s Made!

In all the years that I have spent traveling the world I have on many occasions seen the smoking fires made by the Charcoal Men but up to just recently I had never seen the full process of just how it is made.

Logs ready to cook!


Just a couple of weeks ago we employed 3 young lads who were cousins from up in the mountains, these boys were recommended by the DSWD so we gave them work.

Covering the logs with leaves!

They were very busy trimming the trees, they are like monkeys especially getting the coconuts for a Copra Harvest and working in the garden when one of the boys asked my wife if she wanted Charcoal, if so he could make it for her. That sounded like a very good idea as we had lots of tree trimmings so we told him to go ahead and start the process. This caught my attention because as I said, I had never actually seen Charcoal being made from start to finish.

The wife chose the site, just behind my cave which was good as I could keep an eye on the progress of the project!

Pit Ready to light!

There are several methods of making Charcoal but I will describe the first method that the boy used.

He started by digging a shallow pit about 3 meters long by just over a meter wide. He then laid in 2 long branches of Ipil Ipil tree along the full length of the pit on either side, this was to keep the main logs off the ground in order to allow air to pass under and fuel the fire with oxygen. Shorter logs, just over a meter wide were then stacked along the pit into the center where they rested against 2 vertical logs which would be removed once the cooking process had begun causing a chimney in the center drawing the fire slowley through the log piles allowing the Charcoal to form.

Starting the Fire!

The whole stack of wood was covered with dry vegetation which would get the fire going then it was covered with Banana leaves etc which would hold back the flames as the whole area with the exception of a few air holes was covered in soil which would cause the contents of the pit to smoulder slowly and cook into Charcoal.


Once the fire was lit I was very surprised to see that there was not too much smoke after the initial few minutes and this smoke was created from the vegetation burning to get the fire started but after about one hour when the boy was happy and sure that all was burning correctly he then covered the pit and puled out the vertical posts and the small amount of smoke now came from the holes left which went down to the bottom of the pit drawing the air through in order to slowly fuel the fire.

Slow Cooking!

I always thought that Charcoal cooking took several days but again I was wrong as this first batch was cooked in around 24 hours and we got 7 sacks from this first effort. The thicker the logs the longer it takes to cook!

Digging up the cooked Charcoal!

We will continue making the Charcoal as we have plenty of trees which need constant maintenance and the money from the Charcoal and Copra that the boys have prepared is going to put them through Night School as they all did not finish their education because of the lack of finance. The wife got them enrolled into the school and if they are diligent then they can harvest different commodities from our land and should finish school if they really want too.

First Harvest!

I really hope that they take this chance to better themselves but we will have to see. We have given other the same chance but most have not taken the offer too seriously and dropped out of school and returned to where they come from. Only time will tell!

As I said before, this is one method of cooking Charcoal, there are several other ways to do it!

Post Author: GenSan Chris (152 Posts)

Chris Dearne, aka "GenSan Chris" is a long term resident of the Philippines. Chris has been living in General Santos City since 1992! Chris owns a hotel in General Santos called Cambridge Farm Hotel, and also the Cambridge Dive Center, formerly Tuna City Scuba Center. Chris' interests include Scuba Diving, Instructing, and Formula 1 Racing.

Investigation in the Philippines


  1. Mark G. says

    My Father in Law up in Samar uses a very similar method. Usually only when they are doing the copra as well. Nice of you to sponsor those boys Chris.

    • GenSan Chris says

      Hi Mark,
      I am sure that such methods are used all over the place, if it works its good! The boys are doing fine!

  2. Gary Wigle says

    Some how food just tastes better when cooked over charcoal! Thanks for sharing Chris. How is the new van working out for you???

  3. Scott Fortune says

    I am seeing with each new post, or each search on the internet how NOTHNIG seems to be wasted in the Philippines. Whether it is animal products, or planting/trees being turned into charcoal! And with each thing I see of the Philippines I see more and more waste here in the United States.

    I look forward to having the opportunity to take the full advantage of our planet resources and not waste them.

    Thanks for sharing GENSAN Chris. I’m sure we’ll be making some charcoal if we buy land and clear some of it for a house and other needs.

  4. Jamie says

    Hi Scott, just make sure you check out all the LIP articles on property ownership (or non-ownership) for foreigners living in PI.

    Generally, property will not be owned by you, it will be owned by your wife. And you have little to no recourse so far as your interest in property.

    • corjo says

      Is the making of charcoal green? I seem to remember reading somewhere that its bad for the enviornment. Nice of you to give the kids a chance but most kids are not great long term planners and of course all want to be back home with their loved ones.

      • GenSan Chris says

        Hi Corjo,
        Charcoal makes smoke at the begining so it’ really not green. We give kids a chance and see how they go, they can improve if they want to!

  5. AlexB says

    Hi Chris,

    I’m now well informed about charcoal making,(and amazed). I am also touched by your experience with the 3 DSWD boys from the mountains. There may be an interesting business opportunity for them?!?


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