What is Hibachi and How to Use One

Herbie the BBQ King

By Herbie

What is Hibachi?

Hibachi is a type of Japanese cuisine that is prepared and served on a hibachi grill, cooked on charcoal. The word “hibachi” actually refers to the small, portable grills that are used to cook this type of food, so read along to find out what is hibachi.

Hibachi meals are typically cooked in front of the diners, and often include seafood, different types of meat, and vegetables leaving them with a beautiful smoky flavour.

What does Hibachi mean in Japanese?

In Japanese, hibachi means “fire bowl.” It is a traditional Japanese cooking method that involves grilling food over an open flame.

Generally, it is a cylindrical or box shaped container with an open top, made from heatproof material designed to burn charcoal for cooking over.

Hibachi is a popular way to cook meats and vegetables, and it is often used in Japanese restaurants. The intense heat of the hibachi grill sears the food, locking in its flavor. Hibachi-style cooking is also a great way to entertain guests, as it is interactive and fun.

What Are the Benefits of Using Hibachi Grill?

japanes hibachi cooking food

Hibachi grills have been around for centuries and are a staple in Japanese cuisine. In recent years, they have gained popularity in the United States as well.

Hibachi grills offer many benefits that make them a great choice for cooking at home.

One of the main benefits of using a hibachi grill is that it can be used indoors or outdoors. This makes it a versatile cooking option for any time of year.

Most Hibachi grills are portable and this makes them ideal for grilling all types of food directly on the table as well as taking with you when you go camping as they don’t take up much room when packing the car.

Hibachi grills also cook food quickly and evenly, making them ideal for busy weeknights or entertaining guests. Because of their small, compact size they can be used indoors but make sure you have plenty of ventilation. Ideally an overhead hood should be available.

Hibachi grills produce high levels of heat that cook’s food quickly and evenly. This helps prevent overcooking or undercooking, which can result in poor tasting meals.

The hot coals on the grill help create an intense flavor profile in your dishes. You won’t find this kind of flavor depth with other cooking methods, like ovens or stovetops.

Hibachi grills use less oil than other types of cooking equipment, making them a healthy alternative to pan frying your food.

You are able to cook just about anything on a Hibachi grill including different meat types, seafood, chicken, pork, duck, and all kinds of seasonal veges.

How does a Hibachi grill work?

A Hibachi grill is a small, portable grill that is typically used for outdoor cooking. The word “Hibachi” means “fire bowl” in Japanese, and these grills are traditionally made from ceramic or cast iron.

So how does a Hibachi grill work? The grill is placed over a bed of charcoal, which has been lit. Once the charcoal is hot, the food is cooked directly on the grate. This style of grilling allows for very high temperatures, which means that food can be cooked quickly and evenly.

The key is in the charcoal. Traditional hibachi grills use “binchotan” charcoal as fuel, which produces intense heat. It is quite expensive though and normal charcoal or briquettes will do the job just fine.

Binchotan is a very dense charcoal, white in colour, used by Japanese yakitori chefs because it burns for up to 5 hours and can be used again later.

This high heat is perfect for cooking meats and vegetables quickly and evenly.

The heat from the charcoal cooks the food by convection – meaning that it heats up the air around it instead of simply heating up the surface on which your food is placed.

How to Use Hibachi Grill for Cooking?

If you are familiar with charcoal grilling then using the Hibachi for cooking will be reasonably familiar, the main difference is that hibachi cooking is grilling directly on very high heat.

With that said, here are some tips for using a hibachi grill to cook your favorite foods.

  1. First up you will need a flat, level surface to place your hibachi on preferably one that is heat proof. You can always make a heat shield to place under the hibachi with a few layers of aluminium foil.
  2. Heat the hibachi grill with charcoal or briquettes. Traditional hibachi grills use binchotan charcoal for the extra high heat it produces.
  3. Light the charcoal with a chimney starter and once they are glowing red spread them out in a single layer in your hibachi. Ideally the temperature required is up to 450°F (230°C) at the centre and 250°F (130°C) around the edges.
  4. Place the cooking rack on top of the grill and season with vegetable oil using a long handled brush prior to placing your food.
  5. Try to work out the cooking times for the different foods you will be cooking so that the longest cooking items will go on the grate first and so on till the shortest cooking items. Because of the high heat in the hibachi, you will need to keep turning the food to stop it burning.
  6. Once you’ve finished cooking, remove the grate then take out the charcoal with long handled tongs and heat proof gloves, placing them into a metal filled with water. They will be good to go next time.

What kind of food can you cook on a Hibachi grill?

When it comes to cooking on a hibachi grill, there are endless possibilities. You can cook just about any type of food on a hibachi grill that you can on a normal barbecue, from meats and vegetables to seafood. The key to success is to know how to properly cook the food on the hibachi.

If you’re looking to cook meats on a hibachi grill, some of the best options include steak, chicken, lamb and pork. When cooking these types of meats, it’s important to make sure that they’re cooked all the way through.

Seafood is also a very popular choice on the hibachi with thick fleshed fish, scallops, squid, shrimp (or prawns in Oz) and lobster.

Vegetables are also great options for cooking on a hibachi grill. Some of the best vegetables to cook on a hibachi grill include mushrooms, zucchini, onions, eggplant and capsicum.

Another popular choice is a combination of meat and vegetables threaded onto skewers like lamb, capsicum, mushroom, and onion skewers for example.

There really is no limit to what you can cook with the grill, let your imagination run free, just be careful not to overcook it!

 

What fuel to use in Hibachi Grill?

When cooking on the Hibachi, the fuel you choose will likely have an impact on the flavour and end result of your meal.

Choosing the best available charcoal may not be an option due to price as it can be very expensive but the experience will be well worth it, at least once.

Binchotan Charcoal

Traditional Japanese binchotan charcoal

As discussed earlier in this article, Binchotan charcoal is a very dense white charcoal and genuine binhcotan is produced from Ubame oak trees of Japan.

The binchotan is famous in Yakitori bars all over Japan due to its slow and clean burning properties which imparts an amazing aroma and flavour into the food being grilled.

The flavour of food cooked over binchotan is pure as there is no smoke or aromas released from the charcoal while grilling.

As the binchotan is so dense, when you tap two pieces together it almost sounds like tapping bits of steel. This helps it to burn for many hours, up to 5 hours in fact and you can dip them into a bucket of water when finished and leave to dry ready for next time.

Lump Charcoal

Lump charcoal is a favourite amongst most die hard grillers and there are many different types to choose from as well.

Lump charcoal may not last as long as binchotan charcoal does, but it will still do the job just fine. You may need to use a bit more at the start and it won’t last as long but hey, you’ll probably be finished cooking in and hour or so anyway.

Briquettes

Briquettes or heat beads are another popular fuel source for cooking on the hibachi grill, the only disadvantage with them is they are not pure like charcoal as they have additives in them create the briquette.

Just be sure to buy a good quality, well known brand and wait until they are completely alight, that is changed colour from black to a red / white glow.

How to ignite a Hibachi grill?

Now you have your hibachi you want to know the best ways to light the charcoal. There are a couple of ways to go about this starting with the old faithful chimney starter.

Fire Chimney with Fire Starters Method

Using a charcoal chimney starter

Loosely stack the charcoal required into the charcoal chimney. Now place two to four fire lighters underneath the starter and light them with a long match or lighter.

Do this on a fire proof surface, I usually do it on my Weber charcoal grill, and once the charcoal is lit it should be glowing light red / orange and appear whitish in colour, not black at the start.

Pour the charcoal evenly over the floor of the hibachi and place the grill rack on top if required and allow the grill to heat up for around 10 minutes or so. This will allow the charcoal to get to full cooking temperature too.

In-Hibachi Method

You can light your charcoal direct in the hibachi if you don’t have a chimney starter. It’s easier than you think.

Grab a couple of fire lights and place on the bottom of the hibachi and loosely place about 1/3 to 1/2 of your charcoal on top. Light the firelights with a long match or lighter and wait for around ten minutes for the charcoal to start burning.

Now they are starting to burn you can add the rest of the charcoal on top and leave for a further 15 minutes or so until they are all glowing. Spread them evenly on the floor of the hibachi and start cooking in 10 minutes.

Blowtorch Method

Similar to using fire lights, place around half the charcoal in the hibachi and use a propane / butane blowtorch to light it.

Wave the blowtorch over the coals until they start to glow orange and place the rest of the charcoal on top until it lights up then spread evenly over the hibachi floor.

Leave 5 minutes until the hibachi heats up and you are good to start grilling.

How to Cook hibachi?

Before you can successfully cook on your hibachi, make sure the grill is preheated before adding any food. This will ensure that food cooks quickly and evenly and gets the smokiest flavour possible.

Season your meat and vegetables before placing on the grill. If you are marinating your meat be sure to this at least half an hour before cooking.

Oil up the grate with a good quality oil and then place your meat on first remembering to keep an eye on it. It will be flaring up quite quickly so you should keep turning your meat to avoid burning and sticking to the grate.

Adjust the temperature if required or move the meat to a cooler part of the hibachi. You may have to give the grate a fresh brush with oil, then place your other vegetables on the grate. These will cook fairly quickly so don’t take your eyes off them.

Different Types of Hibachi Grills

One of the many differetn types of hibachi grills with charcoal in it.

There are two main types of hibachi grills: the teppanyaki grill and the yakitori grill.

Teppanyaki grills are great for cooking large quantities of food at once. They typically have a flat surface that can accommodate multiple pieces of meat or vegetables. They are also good fine finely cut vegetables like onions and even for cooking eggs.

Hibachi grills are ideal for cooking smaller items, such as skewers of chicken or vegetables. They often have a wire rack that allows the food to be cooked evenly on all sides.

Best Tips for Using a Hibachi Grill

If you follow a couple of simple tips, your hibachi cooking experience will be both enjoyable and rewarding.

  1. Get yourself the best charcoal you can afford, binchotan is the top of the line and highly recommended.
  2. For best results, make sure the charcoal is fully alight before trying to cook your food and place the charcoal evenly on the base of the grill.
  3. Brush some vegetable oil on the rack prior to cooking to help prevent food sticking.
  4. If cooking meat and using a marinade, soak the meat in the marinade for over 30 minutes if you can.
  5. Turn the food often to prevent it from burning. The high heat produced from the hibachi will cook food really quick, so you need to keep your eye on it.

Serve up and enjoy.

Written By

Herbie

Hi there, I'm Greg (also known as Herbie) and like most Aussies enjoy a good BBQ. I want to share with you some tips and recipes, along with gear that I like, to help you with your backyard barbecue and grilling hobbie. Anyway, have a look around and let me know what you think and happy BBQing. Cheers Herbie.

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