Everyone loves food that is cooked on a grill and for a lot of people who might not otherwise cook, grilling food can be a cathartic experience. Over the last few years, there have been a lot more options available to home cooks such as the Big Green Egg and the Kamado grill. These are great machines that can be used in a lot of different ways to achieve a lot of different cooking outcomes.
Here is another great option for grilling at home: A Konro or yakitori grill fired with bincho-tan charcoal. One great feature of these grills is their size. They tend to be on the small side, typically 12″ by 12″ or 12″ by 18″ (the size I have at home and in some cases as small as 8″), and if you’re grilling for one to four people, the size is perfect. You can utilize grates that come with the grill or skewer your foods and suspend them over the very hot charcoal. You can also build a fire in the center of the grill and cook foods on the deck around the perimeter of the fire.
The small size of the grill could make some people believe that it could never deliver the firepower necessary to cook, say, two nice rib steaks. The bincho-tan charcoal is the secret weapon that delivers that needed firepower, burning much hotter than standard hardwood charcoal or charcoal briquettes. Bincho-tan is produced in Japan utilizing oak (or white oak) wood and has a history that dates back to the Edo period. The resulting charcoal, which sounds like metal when tapped together, burns very clean with no smoke and it gives food a very clean flavor. It also means these grills could be used in a lightly ventilated area in addition to outdoors.
If a little smoky flavor is desired, try adding some wood chips to the charcoal as the food is cooking. I have done this with steaks and burgers and they turned out perfectly. It would also work well with the traditional yakitori skewers of chicken wings glazed with a mixture of mirin, soy sauce, sake, sugar, pepper, scallions, garlic, and ginger.
The beauty of grilling at home with bincho-tan charcoal is that it allows the cook to create big flavors in small spaces. It also works great with any fish, chicken or red meat and vegetables, too.