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View Full Version : A lesson on Japanese charcoal (Because BBQ season is approaching!!)



Korin_Mari
05-21-2012, 04:26 PM
I am so incredibly excited for BBQ season! My current BBQ place is Blue Smoke NY run by Danny Mayer's Union Square Restaurant Group. If you have a chance you should definitely stop by and have their Kansas City ribs with mashed potatoes.

If you asked me right now what my favorite non-knife product we have at korin, I would tell you right away that its the binchotan charcoal (and the Zoujirushi Air pot... but thats another story.)

Binchotan is a traditional Japanese charcoal that is completely different from American charcoal in just about every way possible. Due to the fact that binchotan is chemical free, almost smoke free, and burns at a temperature 300 to 600 degrees higher than American charcoal. The lack of chemical additives and the incredibly high heat preserves the flavorful juices, adds a beautiful sear, and makes anything barbecued on it absolutely delectable.

Ms. Kawano allowed us to take 5lbs each and try them out. So we had a BBQ at a coworker's house!


There are three different types of binchotan. Main different being the longevity of the flame.


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White binchotan burns for up to 5 hours. Because white binchotan is the hardest charcoal, it is also the hardest to light. It may take about an hour to light it. However, once it is lit it will burn at the highest temperature for the longest amount of time.
http://korin.com/White-Binchotan-Charcoal_2

Aramaru charcoal is the easier to light than white binchotan, however they have a shorter life (up to 3-4 hours). This makes them ideal to mix with white binchotan. Please light aramaru charcoal by placing it over direct flame until it turns red. This may take up 30 minutes.
http://korin.com/Binchotan-Aramaru-Charcoal

Sumi charcoal is a charcoal briquette that is more economical than aramaru and white binchotan. Sumi charcoal is also chemical free, almost smoke free, and burn three times hotter than American charcoal. Sumi charcoal is the easiest to light out of the three types of Japanese charcoals, however they have a shorter life (up to 3 hours).
http://korin.com/Japanese-Sumi-Charcoal

Tips:
- Put the white binchotan over direct flame with either a charcoal starter or over a netted pot similar to the charcoal starter. This will take up to 30 minutes to 1 hour. You can find the starter pot here: http://korin.com/Charcoal-Starter-Pan-with-Handle
- Mix sumi or aramaru charcoal that light up faster with the white binchotan
- Please note liquid fuel is not enough to burn these white binchotan, you must put binchotan over direct flame to light.



Binchotan being Used

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Taken at Gohan Society's Event last December. The grill being used here can be found: http://korin.com/Charcoal-Barbecue-Konro-Lg?sc=28&category=281236

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Tadashi Ono of Matsuri Restaurant. Writer of The Japanese Grill (http://korin.com/The-Japanese-Grill-Ono-Salat)

A few restaurants that use these charcoal: Bouley, Brushstroke, Matsuri NY, Tori-Shin NY


Benefits and Health Value of White Charcoal

- Filters and absorbs chemicals in water. All water filters have white charcoal in them. :)

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- Absorbs odors
Korin uses it in the pocket knife showcase. We have to keep the showcase humidified, because the pocket knives are really sensitive to humidity and dryness. (The handles start to shrink and etc.) But in efforts to keep the case humidified, the entire case started to smell damp and gross, so we put the binchotan in. It looks pretty too. :D

- Absorbs dampness
You can put it in your fridge to replace baking soda!

- Produces negative ions that helps the immune system, and decreases electromagnetism. Supposedly, its good to keep next to your bed. I've never tried it though, so I can't vouch for this.

- Reusable! As long as it's not ash, you can reuse binchotan as many times as you want. You could also reuse it by soaking it in water for a few minutes for a better effect.

- Neutralizes and improves soil quality for plants

- Small amounts of binchotan powder can help kill stomach viruses, prevent food poisoning, and stop diarrhea. *Warning: Large amounts is unhealthy.

- Small amounts in rice cookers increases the rice’s calcium and makes the rice keep for longer.

- Bathing with a little bit of binchotan in the water can help improve one’s blood cycle, hair and skin.

*I got this information at WhiteBinchotan.com (http://www.whitecharcoal.com/benefit_health.php). It's a little Engrishy, but it was very helpful.



Korin offers many different BBQ grills

We offer large konro grills as well as smaller table top konro grills. We recommend the smaller ones be used with liquid fuel, rather than binchotan charcoal, but we also have small binchotan worthy grills. :)

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Charcoal Barbecue Grill- Small (http://korin.com/Base-for-Small-BBQ-Konro?sc=28&category=281236)
As seen on Bon Appetit (http://www.bonappetit.com/tipstools/slideshows/2011/12/holiday-gift-guide-for-entertainers#slide=10)
$169.00

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Brown Rect Charcoal BBQ Konro (http://korin.com/Brown-Rect-Charcoal-BBQ-Konro?sc=28&category=281237)
$62.00 – $123.00

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The Hida Konro (http://korin.com/Black-Konro?sc=28&category=281237)
^^ Better to just use fuel for these type of grills ^^
$37.50

mhlee
05-21-2012, 04:47 PM
If I was a millionaire, I would use bichotan charcoal to cook my ribs at home.

If I was a billionaire, I would just have a shipping container of the stuff delivered to my house. I love this stuff.

Korin_Mari
05-21-2012, 04:58 PM
If I was a millionaire, I would use bichotan charcoal to cook my ribs at home.

If I was a billionaire, I would just have a shipping container of the stuff delivered to my house. I love this stuff.

Doesn't it make your BBQ taste SO much better? I was really amazed. LOL Thats awesome that you use binchotan! What is your favorite thing to cook with it?

Deckhand
05-21-2012, 05:59 PM
Really great post! Very informative. Love BBQ. Thanks!

Crothcipt
05-21-2012, 07:00 PM
Makes me wonder if the Blacksmiths in Japan use White binchotan, when they say charcoal forged.

mhlee
05-21-2012, 07:12 PM
Doesn't it make your BBQ taste SO much better? I was really amazed. LOL Thats awesome that you use binchotan! What is your favorite thing to cook with it?

It is awesome. I think the thing that makes Binchotan unique is that it burns so cleanly and without much smoke; it provides a clean smoke flavor without off flavors that come from other charcoals.

I also go to a yakitori restaurant close to my house in Gardena that exclusively uses Bichotan. The restaurant is Torimatsu.

Since it's expensive, at home, I use it with a small Konro grill and cook things yakitori style such as tebasaki, shisito, nasu and sometimes seafood like scallops and shrimp.

SpikeC
05-21-2012, 07:56 PM
I wonder how it compares with the mesquite charcoal that I am using. It also produces little smoke once it gets going, and burns quite hot.

mhlee
05-21-2012, 09:03 PM
Spike:

In my experience, there's really no comparable charcoal in the states to Binchotan. First, Binchotan is extremely dense. A similar sized piece of mesquite would last probably 20% of the time of a similar piece of Binchotan. It's much denser (a 1 kg amount of binchotan fits in a small box). Also, when Binchotan burns, you can see that it is burning at a much higher temp - in a small Japanese grill, you only need three of four pieces. And the smell is noticeably less smoky. That's why, IMHO, it's an ideal smoking wood - the charoal wouldn't interfere with the wood.

If I get my hands on some, I'll send you a few pieces so you can see firsthand. It's amazing stuff. It just costs A LOT.

markenki
05-22-2012, 01:16 AM
Thanks for the very informative post! I'll have to try it one of these days.

sachem allison
05-22-2012, 01:20 AM
lights much faster if you use a propane or butane torch, this won't leave any residual taste or smell as the fuel is fully consumed in the flame. No chemicals in the food and you won't have to wait the hour to get it started.

mano
05-22-2012, 08:27 AM
Spike:

In my experience, there's really no comparable charcoal in the states to Binchotan. First, Binchotan is extremely dense. A similar sized piece of mesquite would last probably 20% of the time of a similar piece of Binchotan. It's much denser (a 1 kg amount of binchotan fits in a small box). Also, when Binchotan burns, you can see that it is burning at a much higher temp - in a small Japanese grill, you only need three of four pieces. And the smell is noticeably less smoky. That's why, IMHO, it's an ideal smoking wood - the charoal wouldn't interfere with the wood.

If I get my hands on some, I'll send you a few pieces so you can see firsthand. It's amazing stuff. It just costs A LOT.

Smoking is low heat, so wouldn't the very high heat make it a poor match? What type of smoker do you use and what's your method? I'm using a Weber Smokey Mountain, Kingsford regular and assorted hardwoods.

Still-edo
05-22-2012, 10:28 AM
Ok after I get a fancy gyuto I will get one of these yakitory bbq doo hickys.

Random knowledge. Not sure if it's true. But from what I understand, throughout the history of Asia wood fuel has been scarce. So thats why almost everything is cooked high heat and very fast, or not even cooked with fire at all.

Korin_Mari
05-22-2012, 10:51 AM
Makes me wonder if the Blacksmiths in Japan use White binchotan, when they say charcoal forged.

No they don't use binchotan, they use normal coal. :)

Korin_Mari
05-22-2012, 10:52 AM
Ok after I get a fancy gyuto I will get one of these yakitory bbq doo hickys.

Random knowledge. Not sure if it's true. But from what I understand, throughout the history of Asia wood fuel has been scarce. So thats why almost everything is cooked high heat and very fast, or not even cooked with fire at all.

Sounds great! If you do, you should get one in june. Korin will probably be doing a promotion. :)

Korin_Mari
05-22-2012, 11:21 AM
It is awesome. I think the thing that makes Binchotan unique is that it burns so cleanly and without much smoke; it provides a clean smoke flavor without off flavors that come from other charcoals.

I also go to a yakitori restaurant close to my house in Gardena that exclusively uses Bichotan. The restaurant is Torimatsu.

Since it's expensive, at home, I use it with a small Konro grill and cook things yakitori style such as tebasaki, shisito, nasu and sometimes seafood like scallops and shrimp.

mmm... Sounds so good. :3

Korin_Mari
05-22-2012, 11:22 AM
lights much faster if you use a propane or butane torch, this won't leave any residual taste or smell as the fuel is fully consumed in the flame. No chemicals in the food and you won't have to wait the hour to get it started.

A butane torch? Really? I had no idea. I'll have to try it next time.

mhlee
05-22-2012, 11:25 AM
Smoking is low heat, so wouldn't the very high heat make it a poor match? What type of smoker do you use and what's your method? I'm using a Weber Smokey Mountain, Kingsford regular and assorted hardwoods.

Smoking, in my experience, is about heat/air control. Just because it can reach high temperatures doesn't mean it needs to be used in such a manner. Binchotan is great for grilling because of it's ability to maintain high heat, however, that's when you basically leave it fully exposed to air where it has enough air and oxygen to fully burn. The other great aspects about it are (1) the clean smoke it provides - and a lot less smoke than other charcoals and (2) the ability for pieces to last a long time because of density.

Those two characteristics make this an ideal smoking charcoal unlike other charcoals, such as mesquite, that don't last very long, produce a strong smelling (and sometimes acrid) smoke. This allows you as a cook to impart a more pure wood smoke than charcoal smoke to your food and this, IMHO, is what you want when you barbecue or smoke foods.

I have an old school Weber Performer and XLG BGE. I've grilled over Binchotan several times and can personally attest to its burning characteristics. Even in a grill with low airflow characteristics, it does not produce as much smoke or as strong a smelling smoke and can burn for a long time - the same size piece of Binchotan lasted much, much longer than a similar sized piece of Kingsford; I estimate about 5 to 6 times as long. Even yakitori places, where food is cooked directly over a rather large amount of Binchotan, don't reek of smoke.

One other thing is that because the pieces are generally of relatively similar density, you get a more consistent temperature as well.

The real issue with using Binchotan for barbecuing a larger amount of food is cost and making sure unlit charcoal burns because, as previously referred to by others, it is a real PITA to light - it needs to be indirect contact with other lit pieces of Binchotan to light. (It generally won't light even if in direct contact with regular charcoal - I've tried - because regular charcoal doesn't get hot enough. You need to light it with a torch or put it directly on a gas burner to light in my experience.)

I haven't yet smoked/barbecued with it but I intend to soon. And if it sucks, I'll be the first one to admit it.