Charcoal’s culinary cool cred: activated charcoal and what to do with it

It doesn’t look or sound like something you would want to ingest, however, activated charcoal is the latest culinary constituent on everyone’s lips and it’s the antithesis of the unicorn food craze of 2017.

Activated charcoal bun

This sooty, jet black powder has been a mainstay of Chinese medicine for thousands of years based on its detoxifying capabilities, yet discussions surrounding its health benefits have reached fever pitch recently amongst an increasingly health-conscious foodie scene.
Now local cafés and bakeries are turning smoothies, burger buns and even coffee – known as ‘gothic coffee’ – black with food-grade charcoal.
Completely different to the charcoal for your grilled barbecue or charred wood from the fire, activated charcoal has been treated by high levels of heat so its surface expands and becomes incredibly porous on a microscopic level.
Hence its use in treating cases of drug overdoses and poisoning, where it traps toxins in the intestinal tract and reduces the amount of poison able to enter the body.
The ‘activation’ process helps the charcoal bind with anything it comes in contact with, which explains its addition in many beauty products – and even toothpaste – lately, based on the idea that charcoal will bind to dirt and oils to clear your skin.
Although we don’t purport to know the efficacy of such claims, what we can tell you is that charcoal activated cooking certainly earns some culinary cool cred, at least if Instagram has anything to do with it.