Why is binchotan so prized by chefs?
White charcoal, particularly binchotan, is prized by restaurateurs
for the superior quality of its burn in addition to its excellent heat
retention at high temperatures (as much as 1,000°C). This charcoal
has no odour and produces no flame.
The carbon of the charcoal combines with oxygen in the air to maintain
steady combustion. Both carbon and oxygen are tasteless and odourless,
and therefore produce no smell. The smell associated with charcoal comes
from its impurities and volatile components. While the volatile components
facilitate ignition, they give off an odour when burning, and this spoils
the flavour of the food.
The carbon component of charcoal is 80% for fine quality charcoal, and
70% for the charcoals used outside Japan. However, in binchotan charcoal,
the carbon component is 93% to 95%, while binchotan from the Kishu region
is 96%pure carbon. This charcoal is almost free of volatile components
and other impurities and burns like a pure carbon stick. While binchotan
charcoal is difficult to ignite, the purity that makes it resistant
to ignition also ensures it is odourless.
Because binchotan charcoal is nearly pure carbon, it momentarily reaches
temperatures of 1000°C and produces no flame, which scorches food.
Its flameless and therefore gentle quality is another feature of binchotan
charcoal that makes it so prized by chefs.