Jealous Devil Onyx
Binchotan Charcoal

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Quick Stats
Date Of Review: February, 2023
Purchased From: Walmart
Date Purchased: September, 2022
Price: $49.97
Advertised Weight: 20 pounds
Type of Wood: Quebracho Blanco
Strange Material: None
Scrap Lumber: None
Smell: Very very mild
Country of Origin: Paraguay


Key Performance Indicators
Chips and Dust:
Lighting:
Max Temperature:
Burn Time:
Ash Production:


Quick Links
Other Information: Click Here
Statements From The Bag: Click Here
Lighting Instructions: Click Here
Safety Instructions: Click Here
Unusual Or Unique Statements: Click Here
Photos of Contents: Click Here
Other Photos: Click Here
Photo of UPC Code: Click Here
Contact Information: Click Here

Rate And Comment On This Charcoal: Click Here


Commentary

This is going to be a rather long review but it's necessary since Jealous Devil is calling their Onyx lump charcoal "binchotan". You need to understand how real binchotan is made and what is made from in order to compare it to Onyx. You need to know what real binchotan sounds, feels and looks like in order to compare it to Onyx. So let's just dive into this question of what is binchotan and what is Onyx.

By now almost everyone is familiar with Jealous Devil lump charcoal. We first reviewed Jealous Devil back in 2016 when you could only buy it in 35-pound bags from their website. Now it's popularity

Aspidosperma quebracho-blanco
has skyrocketed and you can find it in retail stores like Home Depot. It is made in Paraguay (see map at left) from a South American wood called Quebracho Blanco, a wood we have run into a few times before. If you are wondering about the word "quebracho," it is derived from quiebrahacha, or quebrar hacha, meaning "axe-breaker". You can see a photo of the tree that quebracho blanco wood comes from at right.

So now, Jealous Devil has come out with a new version of their charcoal which they are calling "Binchotan." What us binchotan? We'll get to that in just a second but it is very curious that they are claiming to make binchotan from quebracho blanco. For a description of the Quebracho Blanco, we turn to Wikipedia:

"Quebracho blanco wood is uniformly yellow-ochre, without differences between hardwood and sapwood. It is quite heavy (relative density = 0.885 g/cm) and hard, and responds well to bending and shock. Upon drying it tends to collapse, producing deformations and cracks, so the drying process is slow; the wood must be treated with fungicides. It is easy to work and has many uses in carpentry (carts, wheels, floors, shoes, tool handles, furniture); it is also good for chess pieces, skis, etc. Preserved with creosote it can be used outdoors. In some places it is widely used as coal, since it does not produce sparks or large amounts of ash, and it burns strong and slowly."

So that is Quebracho Blanco. What is binchotan? 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 (1603-1867), when, during the Genroku era (1688-1704), a craftsman named Bichu-ya Chozaemon began to produce it in Tanabe, Wakayama. (See map at left.) The typical raw material used to make bincho-tan in Japan is oak, specifically ubame oak (Quercus phillyraeoides), 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 binchotan than any other town in Japan. Binchotan produced in Wakayama is referred to as Kishu bincho-tan, Kishu being the old name of Wakayama.

Binchotan is made by pyrolysing wood in a kiln at approximately 240 C (464°F) for 120 hours, then raising the temperature to around 1000 C (1832°F). Once carbonised, the material is taken out and covered in a damp mixture of earth, sand and ash. Due to its special physical structure, it takes on a whiter or even metallic appearance. The fineness and high quality of binchotan are attributed to this steaming at high temperatures. Although it is often thought that binchotan burns hot, it actually burns at a lower temperature than ordinary charcoal but for a longer period of time. Because it does not release smoke or other unpleasant flavors, it is a favorite of unagi (fresh water eel) and yakitori (chicken) cooks. Binchotan or white charcoal is harder than black charcoal, and rings with a metallic sound when struck.

Now let's take a look at some photos and compare real binchotan charcoal to Jealous Devil Onyx. The photo on the left shows two representative photos of some real binchotan charcoal. Notice that the pieces are cylindrical. The piece on the left shows some remnants of the ash in which the charcoal is buried when it is pulled from the kiln. The photo on the right shows two representative pieces of Onyx. Notice that the pieces are lump shaped, like normal lump charcoal and show no signs of any ash.


Next let's look at photos of the contents of a box of real binchotan versus the box of Onyx. Again notice that the real binchotan charcoal is all cylindrical and bears the residue of ash that is the result of burying the charcoal in ash when it is removed from the kiln. On the other hand, the Onyx charcoal looks like normal lump charcoal with random broken pieces of charcoal and no ash residue.

And finally, real binchotan makes a metallic clinking noise if you tap two pieces together. (Binchotan has been used to make wind chimes and even a xylophone.) Does Jealous Devil make that same metallic clinking noise? Let's listen to the sound of the charcoal. First, Jealous Devil Onyx:

Not much of a metallic sound is there? Let's compare it to the sound of real binchotan charcoal:

Yes, that's the metallic clink of real binchotan charcoal. So, is this Jealous Devil Onyx Charcoal actually binchotan? We'd have to say no for the following reasons,

  • Real binchotan is insanely expensive. While Onyx is expensive at $50 for 20 pounds, it is actually dirt cheap compared to real binchotan.
  • Real binchotan is made in Japan. Onyx is made in Paraguay.
  • Real binchotan is made from Japanese Oak. Onyx is made from Quebracho Blanco.
  • Real binchotan makes a metallic clinking noise if you tap two pieces together. Onyx makes a dull tapping noise just like most lump charcoal.
  • Real binchotan has a whitish powdery surface due to the way they smother the charcoal with ash and dirt when they pull the pieces from the kiln. Onyx is black just like regular lump charcoal.
Although Jealous Devil says they honor "every step of centuries–old traditional production methods" the resulting product neither looks, sounds nor feels like binchotan. At best, this might be called binchotan–style charcoal. When compared to Jealous Devil's regular Chunx lump charcoal, it is harder and more dense. So there is a difference. But let's get on to testing this to see if it actually performs any differently than their regular Chunx charcoal.

Like every lump charcoal review that we do, we start out first by dumping the contents of the box out onto the ground for sorting and inspection. We found no scrap wood, no strange objects, just charcoal. After sorting, we found the following size distribution:

Large 7.7 pounds 36.7%
Medium 8.8 pounds 42.3%
Small 3.2 pounds 15.0%
Chips/Dust 1.2 pounds 6.0%



Total 20.9 pounds

As you can see, almost 80% of the box was comprised of medium and large pieces. And none of the large pieces were so large they needed to be broken up. The 6.0% by weight of chips and dust was Low () compared to all other brands.

In our ease of lighting test, we see how many sheets of newsprint it takes to get a solid fire going in a Weber chimney starter. Jealous Devil Onyx set a new record, requiring 11 sheets of newsprint to get a good fire going. Needless to say, this is Very High () compared to all other brands. Of course, this was to be expected if Onyx actually shares any characteristics with real binchotan. It was indeed virtually smokeless, as advertised. The smell of the burning fire was very very mild and there were no sparks or popping whatsoever.

The next test we perform is our maximum temperature test in which we see how hot the charcoal burns if left to burn in a medium Big Green Egg with the bottom vent open and the daisy wheel removed. Onyx only burned at 863°F. Again, this is no surprise if Onyx is supposed to share characteristics of binchotan. But 863°F is only Average () compared to all other brands. The fire was exceptionally slow to spread and it took a very long time to reach that maximum temperature. While the charcoal was burning, again there were no sparks or pops.

Next up is our burn time test. We burn a carefully measured weight of the charcoal in a small Big Green Egg controlled by a temperature controller. Lighting the charcoal with a MAP/Pro torch was just about as hard as lighting it in the Weber chimney. And once the fire was established it had to come up to the target temperature, of course. Remember how we said the fire was slow to spread in our maximum temperature test? Well, you won't see a better demonstration of how long it takes this charcoal to come up to temperature than this. Remember, we were using a temperature controller which was blowing air into the cooker and fanning the fire. It took 2 hours for the temperature to come up to the target. Usually when we test other brands of lump charcoal, it takes no more than 30 minutes at the most. So much for any such thing as a quick cook. However, it did eventually come up to temperature and its burn time was Low () compared to other charcoals. If this were real binchotan, we would have expected Onyx to burn much longer.

Finally, the amount of ash produced was also Average () compared to all other brands. And again comparing this to real binchotan, we would have expected much less ash.

Before we sum up, we thought we should compare Jealous Devil Onyx Binchotan charcoal to Jealous Devil Chunx lump charcoal. As we noted earlier, Onyx is indeed harder and denser than Chunx. Chunx is more brittle and more easily busted with a hammer. Onyx charcoal has just a hint of a clinking sound while Chunx does not. We also found the Onyx to be close to smokeless with a very very mild smelling burn while Chunx does produce some smoke and has a moderate perfumey smell when it burns.

And what about the claim that only Onyx produces FIR (Far Infrared Radiation)? Here is a photo of a small sample of Chunx (left) and a small sample of Onyx (right) burning side by side:

As you can see both are glowing red in areas and producing infrared radiation. While the Onyx produces more ash than Chunx, ash seems to accumulate on the surface of Onyx charcoal more slowly and thus Onyx could indeed produce more infrared radiation, since ash will block radiation. But frankly, this is the very first time we have ever seen reference to FIR from any manufacturer of lump charcoal. We're not sure that it is all that important except for table-top grilling of unagi and yakitori.

As for performance in our tests, here is a table showing how Onyx compares to Chunx on each of our tests:

OnyxChunx
 Chips and Dust:
 Lighting:
 Max Temperature:
 Burn Time:
 Ash Production:
 Totals: 13 Stars22 Stars

Jealous Devil Chunx beats the very expensive Onyx in every category. That's a pretty dismal performance considering Onyx costs about double what Chunx costs. To put it into perspective, only one brand of lump charcoal has ever scored fewer than 13 stars.

So, it's time to reflect on this experience and decide on a rating for Jealous Devil Onyx Binchotan. Onyx does live up to the claims that it is virtually smokeless. Also, it does do well in the amount of chips and dust in the box. But other than that, It's insanely difficult to light, only burns at an average maximum temperature, burns for a below average amount of time, and produces quite a bit of ash. As we stated above, it's one of the lowest performing charcoals we have ever tested. And it's extremely high price is a pretty stiff price to pay just to get a virtually smokeless charcoal. But you might decide that this charcoal behaves enough like more expensive genuine binchotan and thus feel it is worth the price if you are cooking unagi or yakitori. Otherwise, as a lump charcoal for smokers we have to give it our Below Average rating.

To the left is the rating that our readers have given this charcoal. If you have used this charcoal and would like to rate it and leave your comments, Click Here

To view reader ratings of all brands, Click Here.


Other Information

None


Statements From The Box

"Hotter Than Hell", "Ingredients: 100% pure hardwood charcoal (That's it. Yes. Really)", "Lighting instructions listed on he bottom of the box... even though you probably won't read them", "Made in Paraguay"

"WHAT IS BINCHOTAN CHARCOAL?
Onyx builds upon the unparalled purity, power, and performance of binchotan charcoal. We craft Onyx binchotan from all-natural, ultra-dense pure South American hardwood - honoring every step of centuries-old traditional production methods. This gives Onyx its distinctive rock-hard metallic feel and its incredible, smoke-free and flame-free burn with virtually no ash. That burn lasts several hours - and since Onyx can be reused, you can enjoy one incredible burn after another.

"Onyx produces penetrating FIR (far infrared) heat which alows for a unique texure and enhanced taste that cannot be achieved with any other fuel source. The outer surface of food is sealed, locking in natural flavor and moisture. The only smoke produced comes from juices dripping onto the fuel, enriching and amplifying natural flavor profiles.

"Give your food the fuel it deserves."


Lighting Instructions

"LIGHTING INSTRUCTIONS
IMPORTANT: Onyx takes significantly more time and heat to light than other typs of charcoal: Onyx may self-extinguish and/or light incompletely without adequate starting power. We strongly recommend using JD Boom! firestarters along with a charcoal chimney. Alternatively you can place Onyx on bed of red-hot, pre-lit charcoal (either in your grill or in the bottom of your charcoal chimney).

"When lit properly, Onyx should be ready to cook over within aproximately 30 minutes and will burn for several hours. Onyx burns with an extremely powerful, smokeless heat - ideal for fast, high-heat grilling and searing.

"Onyx is reusable! When you are done cooking, extinguish your charcoal with plenty of water, and allow it to fully dry before reuse."

"CHIMNEY STARTER PREFERRED LIGHTING METHOD
Place Onyx vertically in chimney. Light Onyx by placing (1) BOOM! at the base of your chimney.

"PRE-LIT CHARCOAL ALTERNATIVE LIGHTING METHOD
Pre-light a bed of lump or briquet charcoal. Once the base layer of charcoal is red-hot, place Onyx on top and wait approximately 30 minutes before cooking."


Safety Instructions

None


Unusual or Unique Statements

None


The Ruler Used In The Following Photographs

We use the following ruler in the photographs which follow. The black and white segments are
1 inch long. The upper scale is in inches, while the lower scale is in centimeters. The distance
between the centers of the two targets is precisely 9 inches.


Photos Of Contents

This photo is an overall view of the contents of the box.


Here is a closer view.


Here are the larger pieces we found in the box.



Here are the contents of the box sorted into large, medium, small, and too small/chips/dust.


Other Photos

This is how the box arrived.


Photo of UPC Code


Contact Information

Jealous Devil, LLC
Hermosa Beach, CA  90254

Phone: 661-532-8767

Email: info@jealousdevil.com
Web: www.jealousdevil.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/jealousdevilcharcoal/


About This Review

If you are unfamiliar with our testing procedures, you may wish to read How We Review Lump Charcoal before reading this review. Also, you can read How We Score Lump Charcoal to learn about our scoring system.

Prices listed in our reviews are current as of the date of the review. We do not attempt to keep these prices current.

The conclusions and final rating given any charcoal are based upon the opinion of the author. We recommend that you use our rating only as a guide. You should read the entire review and decide what is important to you in making any buying decision.

Performance ratings are designated with stars, 1 star being the worst and 5 stars being the best:

= Performance is Far Below Average
= Performance is Below Average
= Performance is Average
= Performance is Above Average
= Performance is Far Above Average

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon at the bottom right corner. Click on the icon to display the image in a new larger window. If you wish to ensure that you are seeing photographs the same way that we are seeing them, we recommend that you calibrate your monitor to a PC-normal gamma of 2.2. You should be able to see the difference between blocks A, B and C below, as well as the difference between blocks 3, 4 and 5.

  

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