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.

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.

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.


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