Binchotan – the best BBQ fuel September 13, 2015 – Posted in: Blog

Happy Coal is all about helping you purify and beautify your water.

But we are bursting with pride and must tell you about how many other useful applications it has. It is truly a miracle material!

In Japan, binchotan’s popularity as water filter began a few decades ago. For hundreds of years before that, binchotan has been mainly used as fuel in open fire pits irori in traditional Japanese homes.

These days, modern conveniences have replaced the primitive fire pits, but the Japanese still enjoy at-home grilling over fire. For that, they use tabletop grills, known as hibachi or konro.

Tabletop hibachi

A hibachi made of diatomaceous earth.

Binchotan burns without smoke, owing to its purity. Kishu binchotan has the highest carbon content, 98%, and burns very cleanly, without flames, and for a long time. Food grilled over binchotan retains its natural flavour and moisture, and doesn’t ever smell burnt. Binchotan burns at lower temperatures, so dripping juices and fats simply run off the coal, rather than cling to its surface, producing smoke.

To use, only a few sticks are required. Lighting process is not for the faint hearted. Binchotan isn’t easily flammable, so a cook would place binchotan into a special charcoal chimney (a sort of metal pot with a handle and holes in the bottom), and keep binchotan over a gas or other open flame for 5-10 minutes, until it begins to glow. Then, the binchotan is transferred into a hibachi.

The burning life of binchotan is longer than regular charcoal’s. It can be extinguished and reignited 2-3 times. (To extinguish, it needs to be smothered – for example, with a mixture of ash and sands).

The quantity of binchotan required for a single grilling.

 

Binchotan is not just for the Japanese (or Australian) home cooks. High-end Japanese restaurants use it for grilling, too. Any yakitori restaurant worth its shio (salt in Japanese) will use binchotan as fuel. Due to the high price of binchotan, lower-end restaurants resort to gas flames or cheaper imported Chinese and Vietnamese charcoal. But “proper” places will grill over binchotan, and will proudly advertise it.

 

Binchotan at the production site - glowing and being smothered in the mixture of sand and ash.

 

There you go. Binchotan is not just a water filter! There are many more ways to use binchotan, so stay tuned.