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Sep 9, 2010 12:01 PM

WTB Japanese Charcoal

Anyone know where I can get high quality Japanese style charcoal? I believe it's called Binchotan.

In restaurants I've seen it in it's raw form where you can see the wood grain and also in briquettes. The briquettes sometimes have a hole in the center.

I'd be interested in learning about both and any advantages/disadvantages if anyone has any knowledge to share...

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  1. Well, I tried Chowhound's search before posting with no luck but then found the following link through Google. I can't figure out how to delete my post, but there is plenty of good info in the link (of course if anyone has any recent charcoal sightings, please chime in!):

    1. I bought some medium quality binchotan at Makukai in Gardena a year ago - I think they still have it. It was in a red box, but I don't remember how much it was. The briquettes are junk. They have some petroleum fuel in them and they make your food smell like gasoline. If you want to buy a bunch of the good stuff you can get it at Mutual Trading in Los Angeles, but the boxes they sell are big and cost over $100. It's good quality but if you aren't using it at a restaurant it will take you forever to get through a box that big.

      7 Replies
      1. re: la2tokyo

        I bought mine at Marukai as well. You can get them in small boxes for about $10 a pop IIRC, but the great thing about binchotan is that you can reuse it.

        Like charcoal, you want to use the real stuff, and considering the amount you should be using each time, it really isn't that expensive. That being said, I use cheap kingsford charcoal (thank you, home depot) to heat up the shichirin and binchotan first. And use the binchotan itself when it's grilling time.

        1. re: andytseng

          "...the great thing about binchotan is that you can reuse it."

          You can "reuse" any charcoal.

          Actually, you're not reusing it -- you're just burning the remaining fuel. It works for *any* lump or briquette charcoal.

          (BTW, I think the hype surrounding binchotan is laughable, but go ahead and use it in good health...)


          1. re: Joe Blowe

            Joe, I think the current formulation of Kingsford burns cooler than that of several years past. I just opened a bag of the "vintage" stuff and it does seem to burn hotter.

            I haven't tried binchotan, and at that price probably won't unless it's a gift. I like Mexican mesquite coal pretty well, though the chunks vary a lot in size. Great fireworks show as it burns to readiness.

            1. re: Akitist

              I don't use Kingsford (I use lump and/or and split hardwood), so I wouldn't know about current or previous heat levels. I do know that the folks over at Naked Whiz have put Kingsford products through many tests, and it always ranks in the mid- to lower-tier.

              The "mythology" behind binchotan was what I was referring to: It doesn't burn any hotter than lump charcoal manufactured in the U.S. In fact, some say it burns cooler. It's not made from some special hardwood -- it's just a run-of-the-mill species of oak. It doesn't throw off infrared waves from another part of the spectrum. It's not neutral in its smoke/flavor profile, and it doesn't imbue exotic flavors into whatever you're grilling.

              It's a pleasant experience in a yakitori somewhere with friends, good food, and free flowing beer. But it ain't supercharcoal.

              It's hype. If you don't believe me, stroll through the aisles at your local Japanese market and behold the exaggerated health claims! Same goes for their charcoal...

              1. re: Joe Blowe

                Point taken on the charcoal.

                Agree on the heath claims. Especially those for Aojirushi. Their TV infomercials are a hoot, too. Lets say some of them would not be run on normal US channels.

                1. re: Joe Blowe

                  I didn't know that it was supposed to burn hotter than charcoal, which like you said, it doesn't. Maybe just a misconception from typically using the binchotan closer to the grilling surface.

                  But for me, the binchotan does burn cleaner, and it's not supposed to imbue any exotic flavors. Lump charcoal has never lasted long enough for me to consider re-using it. I usually have to add more charcoal to keep things going for parties/events.

                  I believe the supposed health benefits are mostly from using charcoal to purify water or air, but I'm not familiar with those uses. Cooking/Food-wise, I believe the health benefit is supposed to be from the binchotan releasing less carcinogens than standard charcoal. If there are more claims than that, I would be skeptical as well.

              2. re: Joe Blowe

                I picked up 2 lbs. to experiment with. I have only used lump charcoal for quite a few years. The Binchotan is physically very different than any charcoal that I've ever handled previously. It's almost ceramic like. It'll be interesting to see how it works.

          2. Anzen Hardware


            They burn very hot and clean, with little smoke. Korean restaurants also use similar bincho-tan as well.

            1 Reply
            1. I, too, am looking for this kind of charcoal.
              My dinning experience from a Japanese Izakaya has aroused my curiosity and interest on it.
              Here is what I can share as taken from the restaurant's website
              "Binchotan burns at higher temperature and contains less moisture compared to other charcoal, which helps cook ingredients with crisp finish. Binchotan emits substantial far-infrared rays to cook ingredients thoroughly without burning them. Active carbon created by far-infrared rays brings out full flavor of the ingredients"

              1. Huge thanks for all the replies! Can't wait to start experimenting!