What Kind Of Charcoal Do You Use For Yakitori?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  August 12, 2020

Today, there is something trending in the western world—yakitori. This is a Japanese word that means a grilled chicken.

However, this name doesn’t describe the complexity, variety, as well as the cultural meaning of Japan’s most desired grilled meat.

Yakitori comprises of small and elegant skewers (mostly made of chicken, and it can be made of other meat, as well as vegetables but then it wouldn’t be called yakitori).

What kind of charcoal do you need for Yakitori?

These are the embodiment of Japanese BBQ and are considered to be some of the best fast foods in Asia.

Binchotan is the only traditional choice of charcoal when it comes to Yakitori grilling.

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What kind of charcoal can I use for yakitori?

Everyone knows that the best yakitori comes from Japan, and it is grilled to perfection. To produce this mouthwatering Japanese delicacy, you need to use charcoal.

However, many people have a challenge in choosing the best charcoal to use to cook their yakitori.

However, it is important to note that there are three types of charcoal that you can use for yakitori.

These include lump charcoal, briquette, and binchotan (with binchotan being the only traditional choice of course).

If you’re just grilling at home, you might do fine with lump charcoal or briquettes, just as you normally would use with your grill, but for the best taste you should go with binchotan and I’ll get to why in a second.

Lump charcoal

Mostly, lump charcoal is made by burning wood in an enclosed container at around 500 degrees Celsius. The entire process requires minimum oxygen before the fire is extinguished and then cooled. Lump charcoal contains a carbon content of approximately 70 % to 80% and doesn’t last for long. Just like binchotan, lump charcoal should be ignited in a chimney starter before being used. A bag of lump charcoal contains pieces of different sizes.

Because of the inconsistency in the charcoal sizes, your grill will not have uniform heat distribution. You will find that some parts are hotter than others are. One notable thing about lump charcoal is that it first burns at high temperature, and then it quickly loses heat once it peaks.

You should check out these great Yakitori grills I’ve reviewed as well if you haven’t bought one.

Briquettes

someone is firing up the grill with briquettes

Also known as hot beads, briquettes are manufactured in uniform sizes, which assists in dealing with the inconsistencies of lump charcoal. However, briquettes have lots of fillers, impurities, as well as a lower carbon content compared to lump charcoal. Besides, they have extra chemicals, which allows them to have a steadier burning and light faster.

Adding briquettes to synthetic fire starters can give you clouds of dangerous chemical pollutants at the beginning of your barbeque period. When you compare lump charcoal with briquettes, you will realize that it produces less hash and burns hotter than briquettes. However, lump charcoal burns quickly, and it’s susceptible to producing sparks, as well as sudden popping and loud sounds.

Binchotan

Many chefs from different parts of the world love binchotan. It is a highly pure carbon charcoal, which is produced from oak.

Binchotan is entirely odorless, unlike briquettes and lump charcoal, because of its high carbon content. As a result, binchotan allows you to enjoy the ordinary flavors of your food.

So, how do you identify binchotan charcoal? It’s pretty simple—you just need to hit two pieces of the charcoal together, and they will produce a light-metallic sound.

To produce binchotan, oak wood is burned in a sealed kiln at low temperatures for an extended period of time. This can take up to four days.

Oxygen levels in the kiln are reduced to allow carbonization to occur. Then, it is refined at high temperatures, of over 950 degrees Celsius for a short period of time.

After the firing process, the charcoal is removed from the kiln and then smothered with ash, soil, and sand. The smothering process gives the charcoal its unique white appearance.

The end product is a highly solid charcoal, with a carbon content of around 93% to 95%. The best binchotan in the world comes from Kishu, and it is said that it has a carbon content of around 96%.

So, why do people love binchotan?

Binchotan comes with numerous benefits, and that’s the reason why many yakitori chefs love it.

First, it burns cleanly, and it produces a steady heat. In addition, it is said that its ashes can neutralize the acids found in proteins, as well as other unwanted acidic products as the meat continues to cook.

Since this charcoal produces far-infrared radiation, foods are sealed quickly, and this helps in improving the natural flavors found in food.

Furthermore, it is essential to note that binchotan is a very dense charcoal, which means it can burn for an extended period of time.

Each piece of the charcoal can burn for up to 5 hours, but this also depends on the thickness.

The major drawback of binchotan is that that it’s hard to ignite, compared to briquettes and lump charcoal.

How can I ignite binchotan?

You can also check this video from Tee Cloar on Youtube:

 

Check out these amazing Binchotan grills to start Japanese grilling with charcoal

Popular Yakitori

However, you cannot enjoy this Japanese delicacy with one thing missing—charcoal. It is important to note that you need charcoal to grill your yakitori.

Bottom Line

Well, now you have everything you need to know in case you need to go and search for charcoal to cook your yakitori. However, it is important to note that the efficiency and purity of your charcoal plays an important part in preserving the taste of your yakitori. Therefore, you need to consider charcoal, which burns for long and which doesn’t contain additives or chemicals.

Also read: the best Japanese chefs knives

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.