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Charcoal Making in Sakon Nakhon

When you are traveling rural Sakon Nakhon, you may well come across a small earthen oven with a chimney billowing smoke, or a smoldering pit of wood. What you are seeing is the making of charcoal. Rural Thais make their own charcoal to use for cooking, and for heat during the cold season. As more Thais have moved into the middle class, and awareness of pollution has increased, the amount of charcoal making has decreased some over the past decade. However, it is still quite common in poor, rural areas. And, it must be said that cooking over home-made coal does make for some delicious grilled food, such as gai yang and khaw moo yang.

The process of making charcoal in Sakon Nakhon, and other rural areas of Thailand, begins by starting a wood fire in a pit or earthen/clay oven. The pieces of wood used are usually of an approximate same size, so they burn at the same speed. After the fire is started, it is covered with rice husks and/or dirt to create an oxygen deprived smoldering fire. After 4-7 days of very slow burning (which has to be continually monitored, so it doesn’t get too hot or cold), the wood has turned to charcoal. The fresher the wood, the longer it takes.

Usually hard wood is used for the making of charcoal, such as mango trees, which are plentiful around Sakon Nakhon. Thus cutting some down for charcoal making doesn’t impact the availability of mangos. If no hardwood trees are available, bamboo can be cut down and used.

Charcoal Making Sakon Nakhon
Clay Charcoal Oven - Sakon Nakhon
Charcoal Making in Thailand