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 binchō-tan in Japan is oak, specifically ubame oak [ja], 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. Binchō-tan produced in Wakayama is referred to as Kishū binchō-tan (紀州備長炭), Kishū being the old name of Wakayama.

White charcoal is made by pyrolysing wood in a kiln at approximately 240 °C for 120 hours, then raising the temperature to around 1000 °C. Once carbonised, the material is taken out and covered in a damp mixture of earth, sand and ash.[1] Due to its special physical structure, it takes on a whiter or even metallic appearance and apart from being used for cooking, brings benefits to the home, such as absorption of odors.

There exists a common misconception amongst restaurants and chefs when promoting their use of binchō-tan, when restaurants mistakenly refer to a type of Biomass briquettes known as 'oga-tan', as binchō-tan.'

To differentiate between the aforementioned "non-pure" products, understanding the physical differences between binchō-tan and oga-tan is key. Oga-tan is a form of compressed sawdust charcoal with angular edges and often consists of a hole in the center.

Binchō-tan is a type of hardwood charcoal which takes the natural shape of the wood that was used to make it. Binchō-tan is also harder than black charcoal, ringing with a metallic sound when struck.

Wind chimes and a musical instrument, the tankin ("charcoal-xylophone"), have been made from Binchō-tan.

Oga-tan, which is a type of compressed sawdust charcoal that is often mistakenly marketed as Bincho-tan

References[edit]

  1. ^ Chia, C. H.; Munroe, P.; Joseph, S. D. (2012). "Microstructural Characterization of White Charcoal". Journal of Analytical & Applied Pyrolysis. 18 (S2): 1562. Bibcode:2012MiMic..18S1562C. doi:10.1017/S143192761200966X. hdl:11858/00-001M-0000-0019-DC11-C. S2CID 137383274. Retrieved 29 April 2020.

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