Tips for Hibachi Cooking On a Grill

If you have a small space but love the taste of charcoal-grilled foods, the hibachi grill can be the best choice. When it comes to providing maximum grilling efficiency, few grills can beat the blast-furnace heat of the compact Japanese-style grill known as the hibachi. Without it, there would be no yakitori or robatayaki.

Read on to learn more about hibachi and get some helpful tips on how to cook on a hibachi grill.

What is Hibachi?

Hibachi is a traditional Japanese device or vessel used for cooking or heating. Oftentimes, a hibachi uses a lot of open hot coals as the main heat source. It’s a brazier whose shape can either be round, box-shaped, or cylindrical.

In Japanese, the term “hibachi” literally means “fire bowl.” A hibachi used for cooking is technically called a shichirin. The word can refer to both the actual cooking apparatus or the style of cooking. It can also refer to the meal prepared on this type of grill.

Hibachi is often confused with teppanyaki, which is a different style of Japanese cooking. “Teppanyaki” literally means “cooking on a metal plate,” and it usually describes the large metal hot plates you see at Japanese restaurants. Hibachi is cooking directly over hot coals, while teppanyaki is cooking over a gas or electric frypan.

What is a Hibachi Grill?

A hibachi grill cooking lobster

Hibachi grills are used for cooking different types of food, like yakitori, yakiniku, robatayaki, steak, shrimp, chicken fillets, and vegetables. Charcoal-fueled hibachis do give you a lot of options for grilling. However, it doesn’t have a lid like many other types of charcoal grills . While grilling on a hibachi with charcoal can be challenging, you can grill almost anything that will fit on the cooking surface once you get the hang of it.

Hibachi grills come in different shapes, sizes, and configurations. Cheaper hibachis are usually made from cast aluminum, which tends to rust and fall apart. If you want a good hibachi grill, invest in a solid, cast iron   one.

Most hibachi grills are large enough to let you create a two-level fire – meaning you can put more coals to one side than the other. This gives you a hot side and a not-so-hot one, which is excellent for getting foods seared while offering the space to grill or keep other foods warm while you do something else.

How Does It Work?

Hibachi grills work by simply heating whatever food sits on a metal mesh placed above the coals, giving the food a good, smoky flavor. Modern versions of hibachi generally have vents that can allow the user to control the amount of air circulation, and thus, the heat.

Hibachi grills are popular because they tend to be smaller than traditional grills, portable, and simpler to cook in. The only significant drawback with hibachi grills is that it can take time and sometimes be hard to get the charcoal to a sufficient level of heat before you can cook on it.

How to Set Up Hibachi Grill

Nowadays, most hibachi grills are small and portable, so they don’t need too much prep work before use. Here’s how you can set it up:

1. Get a good location for your grill.

Be careful where to put your grill. Charcoal gives off carbon monoxide when burned, so it’s best to put it outdoors. Make sure that there’s nothing close to the grill that can catch fire. Also, don’t put it on top of anything that can be damaged or melted by heat or embers. It also needs to be placed somewhere stable and flat, so no wonky tables and uneven rocks.

2. Light up the charcoal.

You can light the charcoal using different methods: you can heat them on a stovetop, on an external vessel like a fire chimney, using a blowtorch, or heating it up inside the actual hibachi grill itself. Choose the method you’re most comfortable doing.

3. Cook.

Place the grill on top of the coals and let it heat up for about 20 to 30 minutes. When the coals are sufficiently hot, you can now cook.

Utensils to Use with a Hibachi Grill

Metal tongs, metal spatulas, and wooden skewers are utensils that are useful for cooking with a hibachi grill. Tongs will allow you to move the food from the grill to the plate easier and safer, and they can also help you flip food on the grill more quickly than a spatula. Use two sets of tongs: one for cooking and one for moving charcoal.

Meanwhile, wooden skewers are great for putting the meat in and cooking on the grill because they don’t get too hot or lose their shape as metal skewers do.

Tips for Using Hibachi Grill for Cooking

A hibachi grilling a few skewers

  • Bricks and heatproof tiles make a good surface to set your hibachi grill on. You can also use inverted, commercial-grade rimmed baking sheets. If you want to use a wooden cutting board, use an old one, so you won’t mind it scarring with embers or sparks. Never use a plastic tray or cutting board under a hot hibachi.
  • Use a blowtorch to light the binchotan . It’s very dense and will take longer to light than charcoal or briquettes.
  • Aerate the coals using a fan or hairdryer to obtain a hotter fire.
  • Good foods to grill on a hibachi include sates, kebabs, yakitori, chicken breasts, thin steaks or fillets, sliced vegetables, hamburgers, hotdogs, tofu, pork chops and beef steaks (less than ¾ inch thick), and even bread and fruit.
  • The type of meat you’re grilling must be considered when it comes to cooking on a hibachi grill. Thin cuts like flank steak, skirt steak, or marinated ribeye must be cooked at medium to high heat for about one to two minutes per side. Thick cuts like chicken breast, pork chops, or leg lamb must be cooked at medium to low heat for five to eight minutes.
  • Hibachi vegetables are an easy and healthy dinner option you might like to try. When grilling vegetables, be careful not to burn them. You usually need to grill them for one to two minutes per side. Popular vegetables to cook on a hibachi grill include mushrooms, corn, peppers, eggplant, and onions.
  • Use spices such as garlic powder or paprika before cooking to add flavor without adding too much fat.