How to light binchotan

Binchotan is prized Japanese charcoal, popular not only in Japan but around the world. It's becoming increasingly harder to secure as there is a domestic shortage in Japan. 

Unlike regular hardwood charcoal, Binchotan will burn for 3 – 5 hours, it can be extinguished and re-ignited 2 – 4 times and burns with an even constant heat. The taste of grilling on binchotan compared to other charcoal can only be described as uncomparable.

Lighting your binchotan

1. Place charcoal in a charcoal chimney or an old pot with holes in the bottom, directly over a naked flame (Example: side wok burner on your gas barbeque, or a cast iron gas ring from the hardware store, or open flame on your barbeque if high enough output) for about 25 minutes. The binchotan should be consistently glowing. Do not use a synthetic fire starter or you will end up with unhealthy and distasteful chemical fumes.

2. Make sure all the charcoal is lit properly before placing it in the konro barbeque.

3. Use tongs to evenly place charcoal in your barbeque. If you are only using half your barbeque, stack binchotan evenly on one side only.

Let the heat build another 20 minutes.

Safety

  • Use outside only.
  • Store binchotan in an airtight plastic container to keep dry.
  • If you notice any cracking or popping sounds you need to dry out the charcoal first. This is because binchotan absorbs moisture from the air. Any moisture inside the charcoal will expand on heating causing cracking sounds/spitting. To dry out A) place in the sun or B) If you want to use straight away, put it on low heat for approximately 10+ minutes. After drying out you can increase the temperature.
  • Place a metal grill net over the top of the charcoal chimney for the initial heating phase. This will prevent any flying pieces of charcoal (due to absorption of moisture from the air).
  • All lit charcoal / fire produces carbon monoxide gas which is odourless and fatal without adequate ventilation.

Chef's Tips

  • Ensure you stack at least 2-3 layers deep of binchotan logs. This will give you good vertical heat and a more reliable grilling experience.
  • Be patient. Often people start grilling before the charcoal has reached it’s peak heat potential.
  • You’ll know when it’s ready to grill when a piece of chicken skin blisters and crackles after one minute.

 

Further Reading...

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