The secret to indoor grilling

Kevin Farrell

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Summer has long brought with it an enormous reluctance to ever have to preheat the oven. Whether you live in a house or an apartment, few things are as unwelcome as an additional source of 400 degree heat inside, where you’re already trying to escape from the sweltering sun. When you’ve grown tired of eating your tenth salad in a row and absolutely must cook something, grilling has long been considered the way to go during the hottest months of the year.


But apartment dwellers get left out of this luxury, on account of the fact that grills aren’t exactly prized for their usage indoors. But the Japanese long ago mastered the art of indoor grilling. The secret to barbecuing inside, it turns out, is a special type of white charcoal called Binchotan.

Binchotan is a highly-prized type of white charcoal favored by the Japanese because it is both chemical-free and nearly devoid of smoke when burned. It’s easy to light – no lighter fluid necessary – and it burns extremely hot, even if it can be a bit slow to thoroughly heat up. It’s traditionally used in all manner of grills, from patio-friendly personal varieties to the long, thin yakitori grills used to cook up meats and vegetables in restaurants and street-food hawker stalls across parts of Asia.

Binchotan is created by artisanal masters who burn wood at 1,000 degree temperatures in special kilns to destroy all smoke-producing impurities. Once the briquettes have been formed, ash and sand are used to extinguish the flames, giving Binchotan a metallic, gray or even white color. And the metallic nature isn’t limited to the wood’s looks either. Tap two Binchotan briquettes together and you’re likely to hear a metallic klang.

But here’s the kicker: Binchotan briquettes burn so efficiently that you can even use them to grill indoors. Simply place the charcoal inside of a cast iron skillet, and then top it off with a heat-proof cooling rack. Voila! Indoor grilling.

Because Binchotan is so perfectly suited for nearly any type of grilling, whether indoor or out, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get your tongs on the stuff. The master artisans of Japan and Vietnam that laboriously create the charcoal are an aging class of workers, and young people haven’t exactly flocked to charcoal-making apprenticeships over the past couple of decades. The institutional knowledge so carefully developed over hundreds of years in Japan could very easily die out if nobody steps up to learn from the masters.

And if that weren’t bad enough, Binchotan faces an even graver threat in the form of literal extinction. The ubame oak forests that have been used for generations to produce the charcoal have dwindled with overexploitation. Evergreen oak trees have been pinch hitting in recent years, but even so, Japanese charcoal dealers estimate that the world’s Binchotan supplies will run out completely in as little as ten years if not for some sort of intervention and wide scale preservation plan.

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Originating from an Edo period technique of using Binchōtan hardwood charcoal in Japanese cooking, active charcoal continues being used in medicine, care and beauty products over centuries for its purifying and anti-odor quality. Because it has numerous small pores, it adsorbs and eliminates moisture, chemical substances and odor. More impressively, active charcoal emits far-infrared rays and negative ions. Far-infrared rays are waves of energy, totally invisible to the naked eye, which penetrate the surface of the skin and gently elevate the body's surface temperature, whilst positively activating body systems and functions. • • #japanese #activecharcoal #binchotan #charcoal #selfpurifying #natural #technology #newwork #comingsoon

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If you’re thinking of giving the indoor grilling trick a try (while you still can!), it is absolutely imperative that you only try it with Binchotan charcoal. American charcoal, in nearly all of its forms, produces deadly levels of carbon monoxide when burned. Not only do you not want to ever, under any circumstances, burn this indoors, charcoal grills should only be used outside in wide open areas. And if producing poison weren’t enough of a reason to not risk trying this at home, American black charcoal also makes a heck of a mess when it is burned. Save the ash and soot for outside, and save your life along with it.


Kevin Farrell

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