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, 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.
White charcoal is made by pyrolysing wood in a kiln at ~240°C for 120 hours, then raising the temperature to ~1000°C. Once carbonised, the material is taken out and covered in a damp mixture of earth, sand and ash. Little is known about the structure of this form of charcoal.
There exists a common misconception amongst restaurants and chefs when promoting the use of binchō-tan, when they mistakenly refer to oga-tan, a form of compressed sawdust charcoal, as binchō-tan. 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.
Binchō-tan is a type of lump charcoal or hardwood charcoal, taking 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.
- "Microstructural Characterization of White Charcoal". Journal of Analytical & Applied Pyrolysis. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
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