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  • How to Light Binchotan Charcoal

    May 31, 2024 3 min read

    How to Light Binchotan Charcoal

    What is Binchotan Charcoal?

    Charcoal made from Japanese oak is called Binchotan. The folks who make it use exclusively Japanese white oak, a protected species which they harvest sustainably in very limited quantities. To do so, they must climb a mountain, then climb down carrying the wood on their backs.

    They then take this hardwood and pyrolyze it (use intense heat to convert most of the wood into carbon) like other charcoal. The process used in Japan has been refined and improved to get a much higher carbon content than western lump charcoal by heating it at the normal 400-700℃ range for awhile, and then quickly raising the temperature to over 1000℃, then quickly cooling it using a white powder of earth, sand, and ash. Binchotan is sometimes called ‘white charcoal’ after the white dust that is sometimes left on it from the smothering process. This arduous three day process results charcoal that is 99% carbon and extremely dense.

    While binchotan is typically thought to burn hotter than other charcoals, this isn’t necessarily true. The truth is it burns cleaner, longer and at a more consistent temperature. It lasts for anywhere between 4-6 hours and usually keeps a temperature of around 370℃ (700℉). It also emits infrared light, which helps food cook from the inside out, created a jucier, more evenly cooked finished products. Juices vaporize when they drip onto the charcoal, creating a subtle smokiness that elevates anything cooked over binchotan.


    If you are done cooking and your charcoal is still burning you can quench it in a bucket of water. Once it’s extinguished take it out of the water and you can reuse it… after it’s dried of course.

    How do I light Binchotan Charcoal?

    The easiest way to start any charcoal is to use a thing called a charcoal chimney. It’s like a big can with a divider between the top and bottom. The divider has openings that allow a fire lit under it to affect charcoal set on it above.You light it by stuffing paper in the bottom of it, putting it on a gas burner, or even setting it over a piece of burning wood. Without one you’ll have to light the charcoal like a campfire. I am no Boy Scout, so I find my chimney to be a worthy investment. In a chimney binchotan takes about 25 minutes to get the coals going, but they really won’t be at their peak of infrared awesomeness for about an hour.

    Once your charcoal is white hot put it into the bbq. To make it hotter faster, force air on it. I prefer using a shop vac with the hose set up to blow air (if you accidentally use it to suck up hot coals, we will not be held responsible for the ensuing hilarity, but we would like to see the video of the incident), but a charcoal fan is the most elegant solution. If you force air on it during cooking gritty ash will get on the food, so make sure there’s none over the coals at that time.


    You can use binchotan to mineralize water and absorb flavours. Boil a piece of binchotan to sterilize it and add it to a pot of rice, a jug of water or put it in your fridge to absorb odors.

    Cooking temperature may only be reached an hour from when you start the coals, so plan accordingly. It takes a longer time than typical charcoal to get going, a drawback to be sure, but the tradeoff is the way it burns at a consistent temperature for a very long time. Once you are cooking use the vents of the konro to control the heat by controlling the airflow. More air means more heat.

    If you prefer to learn from videos rather than reading, check out the video below. If you want a more cost effective charcoal than binchotan, check out Shirozumi and Ogatan.