Binchōtan

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Binchō-tan / white charcoal
Burning Binchōtan

Binchō-tan (Japanese: 備長炭), also called white charcoal or binchō-zumi, is a type of charcoal traditionally used in Japanese cooking. Its use dates to the Edo period, when during the Genroku era, a craftsman named Bichū-ya Chōzaemon (備中屋 長左衛門) began to produce it in Tanabe, Wakayama. The typical raw material used to make Binchotan in Japan is oak, specifically ubame oak (Quercus phillyraeoides), now the official tree of Wakayama Prefecture. Wakayama continues to be a major producer of high-quality charcoal, with the town of Minabe, Wakayama producing more binchō-tan than any other town in Japan. Binchōtan is a type of lump charcoal or hardwood charcoal.

To differentiate the aforementioned "non-pure" products, there is a movement to call binchō-tan produced in Wakayama Kishū binchō-tan (紀州備長炭), Kishū being the old name of Wakayama.

There exists a common misconception amongst restaurants and chefs when promoting the use of Binchō-tan, when they mistakenly refer to Oga-tan, which is a form of compressed sawdust charcoal as Binchō-tan. Binchō-tan takes the shape of the wood that was used to make it.

Binchō-tan is harder than black charcoal, and rings with a metallic sound when struck. Wind chimes and a musical instrument, the tankin ("charcoal-xylophone") have been made from it.

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