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pastrygirl

Charcoal in food - new trend?

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I've noticed charcoal being used in food - this local company puts activated charcoal in their vegan "ice cream". 

 

 

I used to have a theory that you could put anything in ice cream and people would still eat it - but charcoal?  So you can have your frozen dessert and cleanse at the same time?   Is this really a good idea and not another way to increase your cancer risk?  I like a little smoky grilled meat but I'm not sure I need more charcoal in my diet.

 

What say eG?

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Nothing new. Charcoal has been used as an anti-fermentative, absorbent, or deodorizer in food for centuries if not millennia.

 

Charcoal biscuits (cookies) were popular in the late 19th century/early 20th century and were still around when I was a kid in the 1950s.

 

Charcoal is also used in Chinese cooking and that of of SE Asia.

 

What you are seeing is just the latest marketing fad.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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May be a good ingredient to add to bean or Jerusalem artichoke dishes.

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Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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1 hour ago, liuzhou said:

Charcoal biscuits (cookies) were popular in the late 19th century/early 20th century and were still around when I was a kid in the 1950s.

 

Interesting!

 

I did try some bamboo charcoal covered peanuts once.  And there are cheeses with ash that I forgot about - that's probably an anti-fermentative or anti-bacterial use?

 

Oh and someone on Instagram had a burger on a black charcoal bun, that's where else I'd seen it lately.

 

It just seems like it should taste like dirt or otherwise horrible. 

 

 

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The only time I've tasted charcoal ash was when I unknowingly touched the skewer of marshmallows I was roasting in the dark. I knew immediately upon tasting something was wrong, and went to check it out under the porch light. So I don't like it.

 

@gfron1uses ashes of various types in the cuisine at his former restaurant to great effect, it seems, and I've heard of other upscale places doing it. People seem to enjoy it, but I don't think it is for me.

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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There are several cheeses from Corsica and the Pyrenees that have used ash covering for a long time. 

 

When we lived in Brazil, there were pure charcoal tablets for stomach aches. They totally work but I can never find any here.

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5 minutes ago, johnnyd said:

There are several cheeses from Corsica and the Pyrenees that have used ash covering for a long time. 

 

When we lived in Brazil, there were pure charcoal tablets for stomach aches. They totally work but I can never find any here.

 

There are several cheeses everywhere which use ash and have done for centuries.

 

I've had charcoal tablets, too. In England. And in China.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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I used to steal the charcoal biscuits out of the dog's treat cupboard when I was a youngster.  My grandma objected to me taking them away from the dog but had no issue with me eating them. My aunts were horrified and were sure I was about to be poisoned.  I'm still here some 70 years later so perhaps the poison is slow acting.

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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When ashes are used in modern cuisine, if the chef is doing it right, the carbonization is stopped right before it turns to ash keeping some of the base food's flavor. Leek ash is the most used and it should maintain a leek flavor. But as others have said, old trick.

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12 minutes ago, gfron1 said:

When ashes are used in modern cuisine, if the chef is doing it right, the carbonization is stopped right before it turns to ash keeping some of the base food's flavor. Leek ash is the most used and it should maintain a leek flavor. But as others have said, old trick.

And certainly not "activated"  I would guess.  I suspect that most of us are ingesting more charcoal than we recognize.  We just don't buy it in bulk.

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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2 hours ago, gfron1 said:

When ashes are used in modern cuisine, if the chef is doing it right, the carbonization is stopped right before it turns to ash keeping some of the base food's flavor. Leek ash is the most used and it should maintain a leek flavor. But as others have said, old trick.

 

OK, so as a chef, when do you decide to use leek ash for flavor instead of fresh leeks?  What does being charred into oblivion add?  Flavor, presentation, just being different, copying someone more famous ... what is the appeal to you as a chef?  I love Maillard reactions as much as the next person but generally stop before things turn black.  Leek ash still tastes like leeks but so much more?  Smoky complexity and deep caramelization?

 

I think the frozen dessert people adding activated charcoal are trying to be uber healthy, at least in terms of trends - they're vegan, gluten free, have a turmeric flavor, etc.  Probably not the same reasons a modernist chef would char leeks. 

 

Full disclosure: another company in my commissary uses the one decent convection oven to make their ash.  It stinks for days and they leave bits of charred onion to blow onto everything the next person (usually me, with delicate macarons) bakes.  Smoke billowing everywhere, not pleasant.  So I'll admit to a personal grudge against these specific people and their ashes.  I have a hard time believing that it is so delicious as to be worth my nightmare in the kitchen, but I'll admit that maybe it's not the ash itself but the lack of consideration for others in its production.

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@pastrygirl IDK what your commissary partners are doing but I've never had smoke come from my ash making. You don't cook to "oblivion." You go til dry and dark. There really is a difference between what we are calling ash, and burnt. To answer your main question though, ash adds an elemental, earthy, subtle flavor tinged with the base produce. I prefer it with acidic or tangy foods to offer a counter balance. I would never serve it, for example, with banana bread. That doesn't make sense. But goat cheese, pickles, vinegars...great addition.

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@gfron1 thanks for the info.  So properly done, vegetable "ash" should not actually be ashes from lighting the veg on fire?  Rather a name for ingredients dried at a higher temp to achieve deep color?  What method do you use?

 

I still think the activated charcoal thing is goofy and irresponsible at best.  But I can think of many foods on which I appreciate char - Neapolitan pizza comes to mind - so maybe I would appreciate "ash" more if I wasn't privy to the making of it, or at least these guys' making of it  :P

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