Bincho-tan, also called white charcoal or bincho-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 Bichu-ya Chozaemon began to produce it in Tanabe, Wakayama. The typical raw material used to make bincho-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 bincho-tan than any other town in Japan.
White charcoal is made by pyrolising wood in a kiln and, once carbonised, the material is taken out and covered in a damp mixture of earth, sand and ash. The purity of Binchotan coal makes it virtually smokeless, allowing it to be used for indoor and tabletop cooking.
Unlike lump charcoal and briquettes, the high carbon content also renders it completely odourless – enabling you to enjoy the natural flavours of the food.
Bincho-tan is a type of lump charcoal or hardwood charcoal, taking the shape of the wood that was used to make it. It 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.