Battle of the Hibachis

We’ve made it easy for you and rated the top hibachi grill based on durability, appearance and overall performance.

  1. Update International (HG-35/CI) Cast Iron Hibachi Set
  2. Mr. Flame Son of Hibachi Grill/Griddle Combo with Snuff-Out Pouch and Rotisserie
  3. George Foreman GFO201RX Indoor/Outdoor Electric Grill, Red
  4. Marsh Allen 724HH 24-Inch Folding Charcoal Grill
  5. Char-Griller 3001 Grillin’ Pro 40,800-BTU Gas Grill
  6. Weber 10020 Smokey Joe 14-Inch Portable Grill
  7. Hibachi Tailgate BBQ Grill
  8. Little Griddle SQ180 Universal Griddle for BBQ Grills, Stainless (Formerly the Sizzle-Q)
  9. Marsh Allen 30052AMZ Kay Home Product’s Cast Iron Hibachi Charcoal Grill, 10 by 18-Inch
  10. Livart LV-982 Electric Barbecue Grill, Orange
  11. Flamen 14″ Portable Charcoal BBQ Grill
  12. Backyard Hibachi Flattop Propane Gas Grill – Torched Cypress
  13. Blackstone 36 inch Outdoor Flat Top Gas Grill Griddle Station – 4-burner – Propane Fueled – Restaurant Grade – Professional Quality
  14. Premium Bbq Grill for Cooking Charcoal Portable Flat Top for Outdoor Patio Camping or Backyard in Cast Iron Small Tabletop Design
  15. Fire Sense Large Yakatori Charcoal Grill
  16. Blackstone 28 inch Outdoor Flat Top Gas Grill Griddle Station – 2-burner – Propane Fueled – Restaurant Grade – Professional Quality
  17. Quick Grill Medium: Original Folding Charcoal BBQ Grill Made from Stainless Steel

It’s the antithesis of the modern North American stainless steel super grill (you know, that propane-fired monster with multiple heat zones, infrared sear station and industrial strength rotisserie).

But when it comes to providing maximum grilling efficiency in minimal space, few grills can beat its direct, concentrated, blast-furnace heat.

It’s the compact Japanese-style tabletop grill known in the West as the hibachi. Without it there would be no yakitori or robatayaki.

Get the Yakitori Like They Make It in Japan Recipe

Perhaps you owned one when you were in college or installed one on the fire escape or balcony of your first apartment. If money and space were tight, your first grilling experience may well have taken place on a hibachi. (Hey, you never forget your first time.)

For me—having been born in Japan—the hibachi is more than a nostalgic icon. It reminds us how uncomplicated and elemental grilling can be, requiring little more than a vessel to hold and channel the fire, and vents to control the airflow, and thus the heat.

The first hibachis (the word means “fire bowl”) were used for indoor heating and for warming water. By the 8th century A.D. you could find hibachis carved from cypress wood and lined with clay. These gave way to ornamental porcelain or ceramic models, which in turn have become the sleek firebrick and steel hibachis used today.

Curiously, in Japan you won’t hear the term hibachi used for a grill. The Japanese prefer the terms shichirin or konro. (The former takes its name from the Japanese words for “seven rin”—the archaic cost of a batch of cooking charcoal.) Traditional models resembled large round flowerpots.

The best were made from volcanic diatomaceous earth—unsurpassed for retaining and dispersing the heat. Modern yakitori parlors use long, slender, rectangular grills fabricated from firebrick or ceramic. Some come with wire mesh grates (tightly woven to keep small foods from falling into the fire).

But in Japan, most have no grates. They rely on a metal bar running the length of the firebox to support the ends of the yakitori and other kebabs. The bare portion of the skewer hangs over the edge, which keeps the bamboo from burning.

The finest yakitori parlors use hard, super-premium, super-hot burning charcoal called binchotan. This, aerated with an electric fan, enables the grill master to achieve grilling temperatures as high as 1000 degrees F.

When Japanese-style tabletop grilling came to North America, the grills lost their traditional name (shichirin) and were marketed as hibachis, which was easier for the Western tongue to pronounce. Or maybe it was just a classic case of lost in translation.

In any case, hibachi became the common term in the West. And now, it seems more and more people are rediscovering this remarkably efficient little grill.

American-made hibachis differ in one key way from traditional Japanese shichirin (also called konro) grills. We fabricate them from metal—typically cast iron. With hibachis, as in so much in life, you get what you pay for. Cheap metal hibachis made in China tend to break or wear out after a couple uses.

At a recent session of Barbecue University, we had an opportunity to test drive Japanese and American hibachis side by side. May the best grill win.

Photo Gallery of the Battle of the Hibachis

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