June 28, 2018 3 min read
Charcoal made from Japanese oak is called Binchotan, they take this hardwood andpyrolyze 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 and heating it at the normal 400-700℃ range for awhile, and then quickly raising the temperature to over 1000℃, then quickly cooled 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 process results in making it almost pure carbon. 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℉).
PRO TIPIf 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.
The easiest way to start any charcoal is to use a thing called a 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 or putting it on a gas burner. Without one you’ll have to light it 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 really they won’t be at their peak of infrared awesomeness for about an hour. Once they are white hot put them into the bbq. To make 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), a hair dryer also works. 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. Some subscribe to the tenting method to speed up the transition to cooking temperature. To do this cover the grill with a baking sheet or tin foil, and make sure the vents are open. Once the charcoal has a deep red glow, spread it out evenly for as much cooking area as you need.
DID YOU KNOW?You can use binchotan to mineralize water and absorb flavours. Boil a piece of binchotan to sterilize the outside of 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.
We also carry the very awesome Pok Pok Thaan Charcoal, who made this great video, if you prefer to learn from funny videos that reading, will be very useful to you.
Mike was a chef for 15 years and and has been a knife aficionado for most of them. His love of Japanese knives began, coincidentally, when Knifewear began. Mike decided that it was time to get out from behind the stoves and hanging out at Knifewear wasn’t paying the bills so he hired himself. We rehabilitated him into a life of knives and shaving in 2012. He loves to talk about food and cooking as well as knives. Mike is the General Manager of all our shops.