Hibachi cooking is a grilling technique that originated in Japan. The hibachi grill may be small and portable or installed in the kitchen or inset in the center of a dining table. Depending on the type and size of the grill, hibachi cooking may include anything from simple, grilled meats and vegetables to communal soups and stews.
Literally translated, the word “hibachi” means “fire bowl." Hibachi braziers originated in China as devices for indoor heating and were made of hollowed-out cypress wood lined with metal or ceramic. The hibachi was later adopted by the Japanese during the eighth century. In Japan, true hibachi braziers are not used for cooking, but rather as a source of warmth. They were first used as portable stoves by Japanese troops during World War II.
In Japan, grills for hibachi cooking are called shichirin. A traditional shichirin is a deep, unglazed ceramic pot fitted with a simple wire rack. Skewered meats known as yakitori are one of the most popular foods prepared hibachi style. Yakitori ingredients may be marinated before cooking, or they may be brushed with teriyaki sauce during the grilling process. In the United States, shichirin are commonly used in sushi bars, especially for grilling eel.
The term “teppanyaki” is often used interchangeably with hibachi cooking. Teppanyaki refers to food cooked on large griddles, such as those used in Asian restaurants and Japanese steakhouses. Despite the disparity in terminology, hibachi-style cooking refers to any food prepared on a Japanese-style grill. Foods prepared teppanyaki-style usually consist of simple grilled meats, chicken, and seafood and are accompanied by fried rice or stir-fried noodles. Teppanyaki chefs often perform this style of cooking with great showmanship.
Hibachi grills sold in the U.S. are made of sheet metal or cast iron. A hibachi is fitted with handles on either side for safe portability and legs or runners that elevate the brazier from the surface on which it rests. A hibachi may also have notched vertical posts that hold the grilling racks, which have handles for safely adjusting their distance from the heat source.
Hibachi cooking is ideal for small living spaces or for picnics and camping. Any type of charcoal may be used for hibachi cooking, although natural hardwood charcoal may produce the best results. A hibachi should always be placed on a flat, stable surface, and should never be used indoors or in an unventilated space.