Charcoal is the New Black
June 22, 2015 6:47 PM   Subscribe

Charcoal has become the hot new flavouring in everything from cocktails to meat and mash See also: BURN YOUR FOOD , "Chefs all over the U.S. are bringing the grill indoors with charcoal infusions, vegetable ash, and more creative techniques for getting smoky, charred flavor". Chef Adam Perry Lang's recipe for "Charcoal Salt" from his book "Charred and Scruffed" (reviews) and an "improved" version of the recipe on Instructables.
posted by spock (68 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Bringing the grill indoors is dangerous. Carbon monoxide, unlike charcoal, is tasteless and odorless.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:53 PM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


In the Dream Within A Dream, a vegetable ash seasoned with salt and sugar is sprinkled around the rim of a champagne flute that's filled with pisco, guava juice, suze (a French aperitif) and bitters. According to Kratena, the ash adds a "smoky-burn flavour" and a slight mouth-drying sensation, which complement the refreshing cocktail. For added wow factor, the ash is blended with edible glitter, causing the ebony-dusted glass to sparkle under light. "That's what makes it very sexy," says Kratena.

I enjoy putting some meat on the Coleman as much as the next person, but I honestly hope the next hot new food trend is everyone just shutting the fuck up about food.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:55 PM on June 22, 2015 [23 favorites]


Am I missing something? Is there not a huge chasm of difference between "smoky" and "charred"? I cannot understand this trend. You kids get off my grill.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:59 PM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Mm this briquette is delicious, and it helps keep my breath fresh!
posted by JHarris at 7:04 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Mmmmmmm...tasty carbon.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:05 PM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Although, come to think of it, I recall my ex-wife describing going camping with her family when she was young (she grew up with three sisters). If a hot dog fell through the grill into the coals, they all exclaimed "ewwww, I don't want that one!" until Dad calmly uttered "That's how the Indians use to eat them", at which point that one dog became a popular commodity. So I guess I get this trend after all. Sort of.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:05 PM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I got a vertical propane smoker for Father's Day! And a giant bag of mesquite chunks, and another giant bag of cherrywood swadust.

The most scathing hit against that big black box is that propane can sometimes combust into a gas that makes things taste like bacon, if you cook them low and slow.

Turkey legs it is, then!
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:11 PM on June 22, 2015


"...but charcoal as an actual ingredient – bringing flavour....Although the charcoal doesn't taste of anything"

Right.

"Some of the UK's top chefs and bartenders are exploring the smoky, bitter and earthy notes of charcoal (we're now talking run-of-the-mill coal, not the specially activated variety) and toying with our full range of senses in the process."

"Run-of-the-mill coal," eh? Bituminous or anthracite? Inquiring minds want to know.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:14 PM on June 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


The hell? This is totally fucking untasty and stupid and everyone will get more cancer.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:22 PM on June 22, 2015 [16 favorites]


My grandfather (a surgeon) insisted his whole life that charring food was cancerous and/or otherwise bad for you. I can hear him railing against this trend from the great beyond.
posted by sallybrown at 7:22 PM on June 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


In this age of gas grills I suppose that we must accept that when someone says "charcoal" they only think "briquettes". However, the charcoal being spoken of here is lump charcoal that made from real hardwood, not fillers. See: Lump Charcoal Database and Weber Virtual Bullet: Charcoal.

Those of you who are closed-minded or otherwise quick to condemn, here is a use for Charcoal Salt that you may not have considered (from someone who has actually used it).

Bringing the grill indoors is dangerous. Carbon monoxide, unlike charcoal, is tasteless and odorless.

I realize that reading comprehension is going to hell and congrats on being the first to post, but don't you think you could have at least finished the sentence that contained the phrase "are bringing the grill indoors"???
posted by spock at 7:24 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Shoot, burning your food is trendy now? I've been a gourmet chef all my life, then.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:28 PM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Somewhere in Texas, Hank Hill is weeping.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 7:35 PM on June 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


Organic, small-batch artisanal carbon, of course.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:36 PM on June 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


as an Asian living in Asia, I love a good charcoal bun as much as anyone, but this... is something else.
posted by cendawanita at 7:37 PM on June 22, 2015


I have a char story.

We were on some family trip somewhere and needed to get lunch. We were running behind schedule so didn't have time to actually stop someplace, so we were forced to take an exit, cross our fingers, and let the gods of interstate highway adjacent fast food establishments choose our fate. The only option was Burger King.

It's worth noting here that my family isn't much of a fast food family. It's only a stop of last resort when on road trips. None of us have a proper working knowledge of any major fast food chain menus, and only really know what gets filtered through half ignored TV commercials and such.

So anyway, we start driving up to Burger King and my family was arguing about something, because we were always arguing about something. Mom was yelling at Dad about how he was going to miss the turn, Dad was yelling at me to stop whining about eating fast food, I was yelling at my brother to stop touching his feet on my face, that kind of drill. My dad is trying to get everyone to shut up and pay attention so we can order and get back on the road without losing too much time, and he drives right up to the drive through speaker box.

The drive through of this Burger King was configured in such a way that you couldn't get a good view of the menu when you were right up on the box. We were all yelling at my dad to back up a bit so we could see our options, but he rolls the window down and decides to just get things moving. Tensions are high. Everyone is pissed off. You can just hear the lady in the box trying to politely ask what we want over the din.

My dad sticks his head out the window, and very loudly clears his throat and says, "yes please, I would like one Shar-Grilled Biggie McChickie."

There's a moment of complete silence. The Burger King lady says, "um, sir, could you please repeat that?" and suddenly my mom, brother, and I just break out in peals of laughter. Absolutely uncontrollable.

It's McChicken, not McChickie, and either way we're not at McDonalds.
We're not at Wendy's either, so no Biggie.
The one thing he did get right, that Burger King does the char-broiled burger thing, he pronounces like the char in Charlotte.

Just completely and utterly clueless.

We ended up parking and actually going in to sit down and eat (and apologize profusely to the poor drive through attendant). We've been milking the Shar-Grilled Biggie McChickie thing for the last 15 years (in fact it came up again just yesterday) and it still hasn't gotten old.
posted by phunniemee at 7:41 PM on June 22, 2015 [37 favorites]


Comments concerned with health and cancer risk from hearing the word "char" or "burn" may also want to look more closely into what is actually the cause for concern. The Savant article, on the other hand, is not advocating charring muscle meat - if that is a concern to you, (in the vast universe of greater concerns you might have for the health of yourself and others - such as texting or reading your phone while driving which is infinitely more dangerous.) The article is advocating ways to get the smokey charred flavor we love in other safer ways. In short, all char is not created equally.
posted by spock at 7:42 PM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Either Durkee or McCormick made a charcoal seasoning back in the '70s & '80s. It was black and tasted like smoke and salt, maybe with some MSG in it. If you were very careful not to use too much, it wasn't too bad on a pan fried hamburger or broiled pork chop to give it a kinda charcoal grilled flavor. I can still picture it sitting in the spice rack next to the old olive green stovetop, but Google is yielding no image result and only a few mentions.
posted by gimli at 7:44 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


That is possible, gimli. This page (Google Cache) references a "Charcoal Salt" made by a Wagner Spice Co. that is similarly no longer available.
posted by spock at 7:51 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Makes Christmas easy for your favourite hipster's stocking.
posted by standardasparagus at 7:52 PM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]




DAMNATION! When I was growing up and a teen and maybe even into my 20s, there were dire warnings that eating char was potentially cancerous, so I was prohibited from eating my favorite food -- burnt toast. THINK OF THE WASTED YEARS.
posted by janey47 at 8:10 PM on June 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


I was pretty skeptical when I approached this, but these actually look like interesting ingredients. Yeah, the language in the first link is a little flowery, but on a practical level I'm already using smoked salt anyway, so I can see myself trying out charcoal derivatives.

Also, that bread made with ash sounds really great, and I guess in a way isn't too far off from ashcakes and things like that.
posted by teponaztli at 8:10 PM on June 22, 2015


If this makes rauchbier the next big beer trend then this is a good and just world.
posted by capricorn at 8:11 PM on June 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


my favorite food -- burnt toast.

Your comment, and the Saveur article, made me think of James Beard:
It seems to me that one seldom finds toast that is really toasted. Usually it is a flabby piece of warmed bread with a slight color to it. My thoughts go back a long way to the days when I first lived in England and one would still use a toasting fork in front of the fire to toast bread, crumpets, and muffins for tea. Never, never, never has toast smelled or tasted as good, save when it has been done over a toast rack on a stove or over coals.
posted by teponaztli at 8:22 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


This trend explains the little package of charcoal crackers in the nearby Whole Paycheck store. It doesn't explain why I should believe these should be consumed with cheese, or at all. Perhaps I'll try one, and put the other eight in the compost.
posted by datawrangler at 8:42 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think I've told this story before on the blue, but I did some work with one of the largest flavours and fragrances companies in Europe 15 or so years back. The folks I worked with said the holy grail of the industry was to create a smoky flavouring that wasn't carcinogenic. Then again, the big problem in the industry at the time was the asbestos-like health effects of the buttery flavouring used on microwave popcorn if handled in bulk.
posted by michswiss at 8:44 PM on June 22, 2015


One of the dishes served to me at Roganic was drizzled with coal oil.
posted by brujita at 9:34 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


drizzled with coal oil

Surely they could have come up with a less geologic, more appetizing name for it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:55 PM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


All I know is that I like boiled hot dogs and French's mustard on a soft white bun.
posted by Nevin at 10:17 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I do my food trends like I do my popular books: if it's worth a damn, it'll be worth looking at in ten to fifteen years.
posted by doctorfrog at 10:22 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bringing the grill indoors is dangerous. Carbon monoxide, unlike charcoal, is tasteless and odorless.

I'd also not recommended on a porch with a roof on top of it. And probably don't use gasoline as lighter fluid.

/may have done something that may have come close to burning the house down once as a teenager. Shh, nobody ever found out and no damage was done.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:35 PM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


LET THEM EAT CAKE
posted by NoraReed at 11:12 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Garage here. I used oil to cover the burn mark then scrubbed it with GoJo.

A Koegel Vienna, grilled in a dab of olive oil dusted with pepper, put that dog on steamed bun and thazit.
posted by clavdivs at 11:12 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


when i was a kid someone explained to me that in "let them eat cake" by "cake" they meant some kind of charcoal or maybe burnt bread at the bottom of the oven or something and i believed it but i just looked it up and could find absolutely no evidence that anyone else has ever been told that so i apologize if that all-caps comment was complete nonsense
posted by NoraReed at 11:17 PM on June 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


Of course you didn't find it as the qoute is usually attributed to Marie Antionette, which is dubious. We know that brioche was more expensive then, but suffice it to say, one needs the buttered paper for the Brioche mousse line or it's going to look like a smoke stack with a puffy hat but let us focus on the 'Faire une brioche'.
Now we know from Diderot that a chapelle is crucial for the baking process going back centuries. Ovens in France also had not changed much until the 19th century. So it is unlikely that bread shops during the revolution and the years preceding, used much coal if any hence no coal brioche for the poor and yearning.
Now if she said "let them eat this Ancient gattreaux" of say the Kings BUTT, then perhaps diaster could have be averted.
posted by clavdivs at 11:54 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


asbestos-like health effects of the buttery flavouring used on microwave popcorn if handled in bulk.

Oh you mean the stuff I used to actively scrape out of the bag and eat after popping the corn? Lovely.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:19 AM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I too remember cancer warnings about charred food. I never liked anything burnt anyhow so plan to ignore this trend.
posted by mermayd at 3:28 AM on June 23, 2015


Is this any different from liquid smoke? I mean, other than the shock value of scooping up a handful of ashes from the bottom of the grill and sprinkling it on your salad or whatever?
posted by indubitable at 4:15 AM on June 23, 2015


Can we get credits for eating charcoal? Swallowing my carbon footprint?
posted by chavenet at 5:03 AM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mr.Encyclopedia: It's a respiratory condition caused by inhalation of the flavoring agent. Unless you were consuming truly gargantuan quantities of popcorn, or chopping the butter flavouring up into lines and snorting it or huffing it from the bag I wouldn't worry too much.
posted by Grimgrin at 5:56 AM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Finally, I'm on trend. I let my massive rib fillet with bone- in sear for a bit too long on one side on the cast iron skillet the other night but it was still raw in the middle so I baked it in the pre-heated to 180C oven for 40 minutes on a bed of onion, mushrooms and garlic butter and the poisonous taste of the burnt side stayed with me all night but oh, it tasted so good.
posted by h00py at 6:03 AM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Looks like the market is primed for the next trend in flavor layering: Charred coconut!
posted by underthehat at 6:42 AM on June 23, 2015


drizzled with coal oil

Surely they could have come up with a less geologic, more appetizing name for it.


Kerosene?

My grandparents called the kerosene lamps at their camp "coal oil" lamps, so it's probably a geologic association I'll never be able to shake no matter how tasty said "coal oil" a dish is drizzled with may or may not be.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:46 AM on June 23, 2015


infinitewindow:
Bringing the grill indoors is dangerous. Carbon monoxide, unlike charcoal, is tasteless and odorless.


Shhhhhhh! I will not have you undo the months of work that the Pretentious Foodie Population Reduction Programme put into this campaign.
posted by dr_dank at 7:23 AM on June 23, 2015


AWW HELL YEAH, this is basically the only time I've ever been cool before it was cool. When I was a kid I set off the smoke alarm making my breakfast almost every single day between when I got big enough to make my own toast to when I left for college. Burnt toast all the way, with honey and butter. Scrape up the burnt bits with the butter knife, mix it all together. So good.

Nowadays I don't really eat toast any more, but I still savor the taste of charcoal, especially when its mixed with something sweet. Burnt cookies? GIMMIE.

I will forever associate the smell of burnt toast with standing under the smoke detector, waving a dishcloth, tho.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 7:30 AM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mmm... carcinogens!
posted by markkraft at 7:36 AM on June 23, 2015


drizzled with coal oil

Surely they could have come up with a less geologic, more appetizing name for it.

Kerosene?


I wonder how many MeFites in this thread have recently come into close contact with kerosene. I have. I spent the winter in Japan, and generally speaking there is no central heating. Instead Japanese homes use kerosene space heaters. You have to go to the gas station to fill up a couple of jugs of kerosene each week, and then at least once a day you have to fill up the damn space heaters.

I can't imagine anyone marketing food with an even a hint of "coal oil" or "kerosene" flavour. The stuff stinks, and it gets all over the place. I smell the stuff on my hands even if I have been wearing gloves while pumping it.

Hatred.
posted by Nevin at 7:37 AM on June 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


drizzled with coal oil

Listen, those Big Coal folks are getting trounced by natural gas and environmental groups. You gotta give them something.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:48 AM on June 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


The stuff stinks, and it gets all over the place. I smell the stuff on my hands even if I have been wearing gloves while pumping it.

My brother once accidentally shattered a glass kerosene lamp at my grandparent's camp. Took a few days to air the place out. Yep, not pleasant.

No, it was not lit at the time, and would never have been lit when placed somewhere it could have been knocked over. My grandfather nearly died in a sawmill fire when he first came to Canada, and that unsurprisingly engendered a lifelong fear of fire.

Therefore, to quote his broken English, "FIRE SAFETY ALWAYS NUMBER ONE."

That said, I enjoy whisky with "coal tar" or "petroleum" notes in it, so I dunno what they hell is wrong with me.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:52 AM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of the dishes served to me at Roganic was drizzled with coal oil.

I realize it's a UK restaurant, but "Roganic" sounds like the kind of theme restaurant Joe Rogan would open in Times Square in the mold of Guy's American Kitchen and Bar, but with a theme that's tilted a little more towards steroids and yelling.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:17 AM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Roganic almost sounds like a Balkan place - name, or surname. So I assumed a room full of guys smoking, drinking rakija and eating grilled stuff.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:36 AM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Our special today is a Juice'd Burger served in a sensory deprivation chamber," said the Roganic waiter who only claimed to look like Andy Dick. "It comes with a side of yelling. Also, worms."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:36 AM on June 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


What I had was black, not clear or amber. I assumed it was powdered coal mixed in with a vegetable oil.

Simon Rogan is considered to be one of the UK's best restauranteurs.
posted by brujita at 9:45 AM on June 23, 2015


Metafilter: totally fucking untasty and stupid and everyone will get more cancer

(Not really but I couldn't pass up the opportunity!)
posted by archagon at 10:54 AM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Probably not "coal oil" or kerosene, but "charcoal oil":

Burn the charcoal until it's red hot and plunge it into a metal container or pan containing the oil. Cover at once with a lid to trap the steam and leave to cool. Pass the oil through a chinois and reserve to baste the fillets on the grill.
posted by Nevin at 11:34 AM on June 23, 2015


Probably not "coal oil" or kerosene, but "charcoal oil"

I think people were joking around about how "coal oil" can mean kerosene, so the olfactory association isn't a great one. I know I was!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:51 AM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dammit I was being linear again. D'oh!
posted by Nevin at 12:37 PM on June 23, 2015


And d'ohing is half the battle.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:34 PM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Dammit I was being linear again. D'oh!

No coal for you!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:48 PM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was gonna grill up some tofu kebabs on the charcoal grill today because of this thread but as soon as dinnertime rolled around it started storming. Should I...should I grate some charcoal and add it to my food instead?
posted by Drinky Die at 2:53 PM on June 23, 2015


Bust open a Brita filter and mash up the charcoal filler into a powder.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:56 PM on June 23, 2015


Maybe if I just take the grill onto the porch...
posted by Drinky Die at 3:02 PM on June 23, 2015


Come on, you could start a new craze, with regional and specialty (ie. filters sourced from celebrities' kitchens) flavors. Sell branded mortar and pestle sets while you're at it.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:07 PM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is a barbecue, not a roast.
posted by clavdivs at 4:38 PM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've been trying for hours to figure out how to work in a "takes a grillin' and keeps on illin'" joke and have it make sense in the context of this thread, and have totally failed. Now I shall have to go and eat my char in penance.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:37 PM on June 23, 2015


"With hearts black as coal, they mercilessly mocked the latest culinary trend..."

Meh. I got nothin'.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:46 AM on June 24, 2015


MeatLolFilter- Best of the web
I have eaten animal flesh and I have enjoyed it. What is wrong with me?
posted by notmtwain at 8:10 AM on June 24, 2015


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