Updated: Jul 22, 2021
How to Burn Loose Incense and Resin on a Charcoal Tablet
Increasingly, people are wanting to try burning loose herbs and powdered incense or resins in place of the familiar stick or cone incense. This article is about how to use charcoal tablets safely and effectively to burn those types of loose incense.
If you want to see a video of this material - check out this YouTube video!
What are charcoal tablets?
The charcoal tablets I am referring to are NOT the charcoal briquettes used to cook on your backyard grill! This is a very different product.
Charcoal tablets are small (about 1-2" in diameter), round and about 1/2" thick. The tablets are compressed charcoal that have an accelerant inside them. You'll see that in action when you hold a match or lighter to the tablet.
The tablet doesn't catch fire like paper would, but you can see sparks dance quickly across the tablet as the tablet 'catches' and begins to burn.
Once the tablet is lit, it will begin to turn gray at the edges, which indicates the lighting process is done and you can begin adding incense.
Charcoal tablets themselves produce a fair amount of smoke! If you live in an apartment or house with good smoke alarms, putting a mound of incense on one of these is very possibly going to set them off. Make sure you are in a position to have ventilation - maybe an open window or door before lighting and putting incense on the tablet.
Another option to cut down on the smoke a little is to break the tablet in pieces. I have used 1/4 tablet to burn incense on many occasions in the past. It works, although you have to manipulate it a bit to get the incense onto the charcoal since the shape is no longer flat. This is a good option to save money on charcoal AND on incense! A little goes a VERY long way!
Safety Tips when Lighting Charcoal
While the charcoal doesn't "ignite" like fireworks, it does light energetically. I have singed my fingers on many occasions over the years while lighting this type of charcoal. To avoid this, I recommend using one of the little tongs available to hold the charcoal, or possibly using a spoon or other tool to hold it away from your fingers.
We have a cute little tongs and scoop set (pictured left) that is very affordable: Incense Tongs and Spoon Set
Alternatively, you could use a grilling tongs, a large spoon and just adjust the tablet on the spoon so you can light the edge...there are many ways to accomplish it. If you use a spoon, use an old one that isn't part of a nice set as it may scorch and look kind of beaten up pretty quickly with use.
For obvious reasons, this is not something to allow children to use unsupervised.
What to Burn the Charcoal In
Charcoal gets hot! For this reason, it is important that you chose a burner wisely. You can't use anything made of wood or resin, as they will absolutely scorch and may even allow the surface beneath the burner to be damaged.
I have personally used a small cast iron cauldron like this one below to burn charcoal. We have them on the site here: Cast Iron Mini Cauldron
The cast iron is a terrific heat sink and almost indestructible. I would still consider a tile or other item under the cauldron though, if the table has a fine finish or painted symbols, for example.
Another option to help with heat is to add sand in the bottom of the cauldron - it acts as an additional heat sink. Using sand allows you to put your cauldron directly down on surfaces without worrying that the legs will burn the furniture. Again, it is always safest to use a coaster or tile!
Burning the Actual Incense
Once you have your heat resistant burner placed, and your charcoal lit and placed in the holder, it's time to put the incense on! Remember: as stated above, a little goes a long way here, so be conservative! As much as you love the scent of that wonderfully witchy incense, you may not love it if your house becomes a smoke cloud of that smell requiring you to open windows to air it out on a snowy day. You can always add a bit more incense if it stops smoking too soon and you feel the scent isn't strong enough.
The smoke from loose incense on charcoal doesn't have to persist as long as a stick or cone incense. Those are very small, and they are designed to burn slower. To get the scent distributed around the space, they often burn for as long as 10-20 minutes. If you burn loose incense on charcoal for that long, you will likely not be able to see through the smoke. Try a little, then when the smoke stops, step out of the room, then back in. You may be surprised at how strong the scent really is.
Of course, you should NEVER leave charcoal burning unattended. This is a smoldering fire inside your home! A cauldron is also nice for this, because it has a nice, cast iron lid you can put over the charcoal to extinguish it and stop the smoke!
Charcoal tablets are a wonderful way to burn loose materials for spells such as loose herbs and resins. Placing a small piece or resin, or just a pinch of loose herbs onto charcoal will fill a room with the smell of those items. This makes it far easier for you begin crafting your own incense too. Adding essential oils to powdered wood base for use on charcoal is another option. To see how to make that type of incense, check out this previous post:
How to Make your own Incense with Essential Oils, Herbs and Powdered Wood
I hope you liked this subject. If you are interested in further discussions about entry level information like how to carve and charge candles, comment below and let me know what you'd like to see!