How Does Cremation Work?

By: Matthew Funeral Home
Monday, November 27, 2023

Most people understand that cremation is a process by which the remains of the deceased are burned and converted to ashes. But there are many steps to the process in order to ensure that everything is done right. In this article, we will delve into the step-by-step process of cremation.


The first step of the cremation process is ensuring that the deceased is properly identified. This is usually done via the next of kin. After the deceased is sufficiently identified, a metal tag will be placed on the body. This tag will not leave the remains until right before cremation when a final verification process is done.

Procedure Authorization

The crematory must be given specific authorization preceding the cremation. While this can vary from state to state, most require that the person making the funeral arrangements signs off on the procedure. If you are working with a funeral home, your funeral director will guide you through this process. You will also need to pick the type of container or urn for the cremains. 

Preparing the Remains

Generally, this step involves the cleaning and dressing of the deceased. Usually, the remains have not been embalmed beforehand, unless specified by the funeral arrangements (such as for public viewings). Jewelry and other items are removed from the deceased, except for those that have been requested to stay with the deceased. Medical devices and prosthetics that are battery-operated or mechanical are removed, as well. This is to avoid unnecessary reactions within the retort. Lastly, the body is placed within a combustible vessel.

Moving to the Retort

After a final identification verification, the vessel is placed into the retort. The retort is a special furnace that can reach temperatures of 1,800 to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Retorts must meet high standards for environmental and air quality standards to be in use. At the end of the process, there is a cooling period to allow the cremains to become cool enough to handle. Depending on the size of the individual and the vessel used, the whole burning and cooling process will take approximately 2-3 hours.

Finalizing the Remains

Next, the ashes are checked for any metal. This can include surgical pins, screws, and joints from surgeries. The metal may be removed by hand or via magnets, depending on the facility. Usually, these metal objects are sent to be recycled. Then, the remains are processed in a special machine that ensures that everything is ground to ash.

Ash Transferral

Lastly, the ashes are transferred to the chosen container(s) or urn(s). Any memorial keepsakes the family requests, such as pendants or bracelets, will be filled. Then, the crematorium will release the ashes only to those authorized to receive them. If you are coordinating with a funeral home, they will usually be the ones responsible for receiving the ashes. 

How Long Does The Whole Process Take?

Please note that depending on the size of the cremation facility, and the procedures involved, there may be a longer turnaround time than expected. While the cremation process takes only a few hours, there are a lot of important steps before and after that can lengthen the time. Your funeral home will be better equipped to inform you of when the process will be completed. 

For over 50 years, Matthew Funeral Home has been serving the Staten Island community. We can help with almost every aspect of your loved one’s memorial service. Our family is here to serve yours, every step of the way.

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