What is Hibachi? Japanese Hibachi VS Teppanyaki Grills

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  September 18, 2021

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People often get confused between Teppanyaki and Hibachi, and that’s understandable.

We’ve been lied to by big “hibachi” restaurant chains like Benihana.

Ok, maybe “lied to” is a bit extreme. However, these establishments label themselves as hibachi restaurants when what they’re famous for, in fact, is teppanyaki-style cooking.

I’ll take you through all of the differences between these two cooking styles.

Difference between Teppanyaki & Hibachi grilling

Japan has blessed the world with a lot of innovations- no doubt. In the world of food, they have certainly earned their place. Two of the most recognized Japanese cuisines are teppanyaki and hibachi.

Just because the origins of these two cuisines are rooted in Japan, many people mistakenly think that they are the same thing.

Teppanyaki and Hibachi are two completely different cuisines, each with its unique flavors and culinary history.

In this article, I’ll clear up your confusion about the differences between teppanyaki and hibachi.

One of the first main differences is that teppanyaki requires a solid flat top griddle, whereas hibachi requires a barbecue-style grill with grates.

Let’s look through examples of various grills, and you’ll see the difference:

Teppanyaki vs hibachi grills Images
Best for Stovetop Teppanyaki: Everdure Furnace

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Best for Tabletop Teppanyaki: Presto Slimline Best indoor tabletop Teppanyaki grill: Presto Slimline

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Best traditional hibachi grill: Hitachiya Japanese ceramic grill Hitachiya-BBQ-Charcoal-Konro-Grill

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Best cast iron Hibachi grill: Update International

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Best for Modern Hibachi: Marsh Allen Best multi-position cooking grids: Marsh Allen cast-iron hibachi

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Best portable hibachi for camping: Char-Broil Tabletop Charcoal Best modern grill: Char-Broil Tabletop Charcoal

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Best small tabletop hibachi: Kafuh earthenware mini yakitori Best traditional hibachi: Kafuh earthenware mini yakitori

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I currently have both types of grills since I love Japanese cuisine so much. They’re both very different in terms of their style and the kind of food they produce.
 

Difference Between Teppanyaki and Hibachi

Here’s the most significant difference between teppanyaki and hibachi:

Hibachi Grill Buying Guide

The type of hibachi grill you purchase depends on what better suits you and your specific cooking needs.

I have tested many different grills, and I picked two favorites, both with different uses.

In this article, I’ll go in-depth into all of these beautiful hibachi grills and let you decide which one best suits your needs.

Types of Hibachi Grills

To better understand the pros and cons of these various grills, it’s important to highlight that they can come in different shapes, configurations, and sizes.

Some have a cheaper build made of aluminum, but this can cause problems since they tend to rust and end up falling apart.

To make sure you get an excellent hibachi grill, spend a little more money and get a cast iron or a ceramic grill.

Some hibachi grills have racks with adjustable height, allowing you to change the distance between the food and the heat from the flames.

However, many of the grills with adjustable racks aren’t very durable. So if you plan to take your hibachi grill anywhere with you, you will need to make sure you buy a sturdy one.

Specific hibachi models have bottom or side vents to help you adjust your fire. The vents will allow air to increase the fire’s heat by rising through the grill.

And if you’re serious about getting into Japanese cooking, you should check out my review of the best Hibachi knives right here. It’s one of the first things to get when starting out any Japanese cooking adventure.

Material

Your hibachi grill’s material will affect its durability and cooking efficiency. Cast iron is the best choice if you are looking for a traditional hibachi grill.

Cast iron is durable and can withstand high heat without cracking or buckling. These durable hibachi grills can also enhance the taste of your food.

Cast iron is also an excellent material for making the grates on your grill.

But there are some downsides. It is heavier than aluminum and requires more maintenance.

Aluminum hibachi grills are available, but they won’t last as long. They will need to be cleaned regularly to prevent rust and wear.

Some people prefer aluminum hibachi grills for camping because it’s easier to carry.

The third popular material is diatomaceous earth. Although this natural clay-like material is used mostly for konro and shichirin grills, you’ll find hibachis like this too. 

You have to be careful about washing this grill. You can only hand wash it gently because it’s sensitive. When dropped or exposed to water while hot, it can crack. 

Hibachi grills with wooden handles are also preferred over those made of metal. Wooden handles will not transfer heat as well from the grill to their material. As a result, your hands are less at risk of burning.

Hibachi: Gas vs. Charcoal

The traditional charcoal flavor in food prepared on a charcoal grill is unbeatable.

You will need to bring charcoal to make charcoal hibachi grills and it takes longer to get started.

But, when it comes to tasting all the real flavors of Yakiniku, the best choice is by far an authentic small tabletop hibachi. 

The downside is that temperature control of charcoal hibachi grills is slightly more challenging.

But, personal preference is the most important factor. If you’re looking for an indoor charcoal grill for your home, the charcoal ones are less convenient whereas propane ones are safer overall. 

Propane is the primary heating source for gas hibachi grills. Gas grills offer a few benefits: they are quick to ignite and are easier for you to manage the temperature. This is the case for restaurant grills that are built into the table. 

Gas hibachi grills are easier to use for beginners. However, experienced cooks may prefer the added flavor of a charcoal hibachi barbecue grill.

Portability

Hibachi grills tend to be lightweight. For easy transport, you should look for one with handles. 

Hibachi grills have the greatest advantage of being portable. You can bring it along on camping trips or to your friend’s house to cook outside or when you go camping in the woods. 

A heavy hibachi grill is not worth the effort. You can buy a regular charcoal or gas grill at a certain point. This grill will be lighter than a hibachi grill but have a larger cooking surface.

Cooking space

Before you make a purchase, check the total surface area of the hibachi grill. The amount of food that you can grill at once is limited by the surface area.

Usually, hibachi grills have a small grilling surface because they are designed for 2-5 people to grill at once. 

Taller hibachi grills may have different spaces in the charcoal bowl.

These areas can be used to stack or remove charcoal, allowing you to have different heat levels in different parts of your grilling area. This setup allows you to sear certain foods and warm others simultaneously. 

Cost

Cast iron hibachi grills are a great investment and offer excellent value. They are often more costly than the cheaper plastic hibachi grills.

But, the good news is that hibachi grills are more affordable than most outdoor grills and smokers like Webers or the Green Egg, for example. 

Best Teppanyaki Grills Reviewed

Best for Stovetop Teppanyaki: Everdure Furnace

Everdure furnace teppanyaki grill plate

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Best for Tabletop Teppanyaki: Presto Slimline

Best indoor tabletop Teppanyaki grill: Presto Slimline

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Best Hibachi Grills Reviewed

Best Traditional Hibachi Grill: Hitachiya Japanese Ceramic Grill

Hitachiya-BBQ-Charcoal-Konro-Grill-for-binchotan

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The best feature on this grill is probably the adjustable air vent, which sports a handy slider.

The cooking grates are pre-seasoned, which means they’re ready to use.

It also features a draft door that lets you regulate the heat, making cooking your desired meals easier.

It’s very durable and made out of ceramic, just like traditional hibachi grills. It can withstand the super high heat of binchotan charcoal. Additionally, regular charcoals are a suitable option. Check it out here on Amazon

Best Cast Iron Hibachi Grill: Update International

Update international cast iron hibachi grill pot

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This grill closer resembles an original Hibachi grill. If you feel like experiencing both cooking and the culture at its finest, this grill is the one for you.

This hibachi grill is made from cast iron and is the perfect size to fit in the center of a pu pu platter.

Visually, it’s a marvel due to the dark cast iron body featuring an appealing dark wood base. It’s also available as a dragon set with an antique brass finish.

This set includes both the grill and fuel holder and can cook a variety of appetizers.

On the other hand, we also need to point out that some have said that food tends to stick on the surface or that the top rusts easily.

While others have complained that the cooking surface is tiny, this makes it ideal for personal use or traveling. However, it may be an issue for people cooking large amounts of food.

Check prices and availability here.

Best for Modern Hibachi: Marsh Allen

Best multi-position cooking grids: Marsh Allen cast-iron hibachi

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This grill features adjustable cooking grids that can be positioned anywhere and help you quickly and efficiently cook your meals.

It has more than 150 sq in of cooking space which means there’s plenty of room.

The wooden handles are an excellent addition since they make it easier to adjust the grill plate and keep you safe.

It also features two adjustable air vents, which assist in controlling the rate at which the charcoal burns.

Bonus: The upward curved sides on the grid keep the food in place while cooking.

However, assembling this grill can be tricky since it’s heavy. Additionally, some of the components seem a bit cheap. Check the lowest prices on Amazon

Best Portable Hibachi for Camping: Char-Broil Tabletop Charcoal

Best modern grill: Char-Broil Tabletop Charcoal

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If your primary use for your new grill is portability, then consider this inexpensive hibachi grill option. 

This travel-friendly design has heat-resistant handles and foldable legs to lock the grill’s lid in place.

It also features more than 180 sq inches of cooking space, meaning that you could cook nine hamburgers at the same time and still have space between them.

This grill is made of high-quality steel, guaranteeing that it’ll last for multiple grilling sessions and avoid rust.

However, being such a powerful grill, the assembly can be time-consuming, and some of the components have sharp edges. Also, it can be a bit awkward to light the fire on the grill. Check prices here

Best Small Tabletop Hibachi: Kafuh Earthenware Mini Yakitori

It’s believed that Hibachi grills have existed since around 794 and 1185 AD, during the Heian period. The term hibachi literally means “fire bowl” due to the grill’s cylinder shape and an open top.

Original hibachi containers were created from ceramic or wood lined with metal. Most of these grills are decorative and can even be built into furniture to make them easier to use.

Some makers take the traditional approach to grill-making, like this earthenware mini grill from kafuh with great reviews on Amazon.

Best traditional hibachi: Kafuh earthenware mini yakitori

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Also read our article on a built-in teppanyaki hibachi grill

Charcoal Hibachi

Now you may have noticed that the grills mentioned above all use charcoal. There are more charcoal-fired hibachi options compared to electrical ones.

However, unlike many similar grills, they don’t have a lid.

Most hibachis have enough space to allow you to control your fire at different temperatures (i.e., two-level fire). This lets you control the number of coals on either side of the grill, making one side hotter than the other.

For example, this would allow you to grill your items on one side while keeping them warm on the other side before serving. 

Why Cook Hibachi?

Smaller hibachi grills offer a unique and effective solution for those who love the taste of charcoal-grilled foods but don’t have enough space for a full-sized one.

These small grills have become very popular in recent years due to the advantages of using actual fire and their easy-to-carry size. No matter what size of hibachi grill you choose for your next stir fry, these grills transform your meals into an experience.

The best hibachi cooking grills

Also, read on for my top 4 Hibachi Chefs knives you might want to consider.

What is Teppanyaki?

Teppanyaki is all over the world nowadays, but what exactly is it?

Teppanyaki is a type of Japanese cuisine that uses an iron griddle to cook food.

The word “teppan” means iron plate, whereas ‘yaki’ means grilled food.

If you’re thinking this makes it a simple cuisine, you would be very wrong. Teppanyaki is one of the most complex forms of food out there, and it takes high levels of skill to master this form of cooking.

The History of Teppanyaki

Teppanyaki originated in Tokyo, Japan, in 1945 at a restaurant chain called Misono. This makes teppanyaki a relatively recent addition to the culinary world.

Interestingly, many locals didn’t fancy teppanyaki at all when it was first introduced. Teppanyaki was criticized for being an inappropriate and unhygienic form of cooking.

However, American soldiers and later the tourists adored this cuisine due to the entertainment factor involved in teppanyaki. This includes all the classic tricks like knife throwing and the ‘playing’ with fire.

Mind you, these types of tricks require incredible skills! I have a whole article here on the best teppanyaki tricks you’ve ever seen, including a great video of knife skills.

Misono took advantage of this and focused mainly on these entertainment factors. With chefs juggling knives and ingredients and pulling off the risky stunts with the intense hot flame, their rebranding certainly paid off.

Teppanyaki Blows Over to Western Culture

Teppanyaki was a massive hit in western cultures. Soon, restaurant chains focusing on specifically on teppanyaki were opening worldwide.

Although these types of restaurants technically specialize in teppanyaki cooking, many people mistakenly refer to this type of cooking, where the chef cooks in front of you on an iron grill, as hibachi-style cooking.

Teppanyaki is still very popular today, and chefs still include stunts for the guests’ entertainment.

You might be wondering if you can make teppanyaki at home, and you definitely can! Although teppanyaki may look highly sophisticated, you’ll see that it’s not all that hard if you take the entertainment factor out.

Can You Cook Teppanyaki Yourself?

With a bit of practice, you can enjoy the sublime taste of teppanyaki at home.

You need to purchase the particular teppanyaki grill, but it’s not that expensive. I just bought the Everdure Stovetop grill from Amazon, which is just easy to use.

Before this, I owned an electric grill, which is excellent for getting you started but more for a party environment or cooking around the table. This new grill can be used on the stove as well as outside on my BBQ.

There are tons of delicious teppanyaki recipes for you to try with a wide range of ingredients from which you can choose. Try out meats like beef, shrimp, lobster, chicken, or scallops alongside assorted vegetables. I have many Teppanyaki recipes on my blog that you can check out to get you started.

Get your quick start in enjoying Japanese cuisine here with our top recommended tools

If you’re a rookie chef, start with either regular beef or chicken. When choosing a side dish, it largely depends on the main ingredient and also personal preference. If you are unsure what to choose, then assorted veggies are always a safe option. 

I also recommend you use fireproof gloves and keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case any accidents occur.

You can find more info on cooking teppanyaki at home here.

What is Hibachi?

Unlike teppanyaki, hibachi is not a newcomer in the culinary world. On the contrary, hibachi is believed to have been around for hundreds of years, tracing its origin back to ancient Japan.

Hibachi is simple to make, mainly because the Hibachi grill requires little or no skill to operate.

Who Invented Hibachi?

Hibachi first came to the scene when the Japanese began to use metal cookware.

There are also indications it was invented even earlier, around 79–1185 AD in the Heian Period, and that the first grills were made of Cypress wood lined with clay.

Due to its simplicity, hibachi became one of Japan’s first contributions to the culinary world. Over time, hibachi was mixed with the rich Japanese culture to result in food that’s still popular to this day.

How to Cook Hibachi

Hibachi involves grilling meat, seafood, and vegetable dishes on a hot cooking surface on top of a ceramic or wooden bowl filled with burning charcoal.

Though any type of charcoal will suffice, the binchotan type of charcoal is popular because it gives the food a unique flavor and smokiness.

One of hibachi’s main appeals is intimate dining setting. All guests sit around the hot grill and join in for the same dining experience, whether you’re friends or strangers.

When you sit down for a Hibachi dinner, you are guaranteed to have a great time.

Hibachi Throughout History

Ancient hibachi grills are still available today, and their excellent craftmanship and design still baffles people to this day.

Historically, hibachi was mainly used for heating up a house. As time progressed, the uses of hibachi grew and became very diverse. During the world war, hibachis were used by troops to cook their food on the battlefield. 

In fact, before World War II, Hibachi was the most common cooking tool used by the Japanese. It was typical to spot a hibachi grill in public places like train stations, bus stops, hospital waiting rooms, etc.

Hibachi Grilling Skills at Home

Like teppanyaki, hibachi is also easy to make at home. A significant reason for this is that hibachi doesn’t involve that all the fancy maneuvers required in teppanyaki.

The main things you’ll need are the hibachi ‘fire bowl’ and some charcoal. I would love to try out this more traditional one in the near future just to get the whole feeling of Japanese cooking. You can also use this tabletop version if you want something more portable for your at-home cooking.

For a beginner, simple veggies or steaks are often recommended for your first dish. Normally, people use a special sauce when making food on hibachi, referred to as “hibachi sauce”. If you can nail this sauce, then your food will definitely be delicious.

What is Better, Teppanyaki or Hibachi?

Now the question stands – which one is better?

While both teppanyaki and Hibachi have excelled in their very own ways, it ultimately depends on your geographic location, preferred cooking method, and personal flavor preferences.

Although teppanyaki is popular in western culture, hibachi makes up for this by being a star in Japan! Considering that hibachi is one of the oldest creations of Japan, it lends itself to be the traditional winner between the two dishes.

On the other hand, teppanyaki has bloomed in western culture and become the epitome of Japanese food in many western countries. It also represents the splendid entertainment skills of skilled Japanese chefs.

It is fair to say both teppanyaki and Hibachi are fantastic in their very own ways. It’s difficult to argue which one is truly the best, as they both bring great flavors to the table.

Also read: Did you know these Japanese table manners?

Your Hibachi Dinner at Home

Ready to create some delicious hibachi-inspired dishes at home without the high restaurant prices?

First, you need to make sure to have all the ingredients on hand for an authentic Hibachi experience at home. Yum Yum Sauce is, of course, one of the first things on the list of must-haves. You can pour that stuff over absolutely everything you have on your plate, and it’ll taste delicious!

If you choose to make this sauce yourself, make sure to do it about a day ahead of time to give all the flavors some more time to marinate and develop.

Any of the grills we have outlined above would be great to use for at-home hibachi. There is no need to pull out separate pans, skillets, a wok, or other electric griddles when you can cook everything on your new hibachi grill.

You will also want to have both vegetable oil and sesame oil handy for your hibachi dinner. Sesame is used for flavor and is an ingredient found in a lot of Hibachi dishes. Soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, and hibachi sauce should also be within reach for your dish. These sauces have a thicker consistency than the oils and go a long way developing more flavor for the grilled meats and vegetables.

Fried rice is another staple in Hibachi cooking. Make sure that your cooked rice is at least a day old and cool before using it. You may find that fresh rice will clump up too much and will not offer the correct consistency. 

If you don’t want cooked rice, you can always opt for hibachi noodles and some onion instead. Noodles make a great addition to your hibachi dinner and are incredibly easy to make.

Carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini, onion – there is no limit on the vegetables you can use on your hibachi grill. Steak, chicken, and shrimp are all popular choices for your hibachi dinner, along lobster, beef, and scallops.

Hibachi grilling is super easy once you get used to this cooking style, and all you will have to watch out for is the cooking time for each different protein you use.

Pro Tip: Garlic butter makes a great addition when you are grilling your proteins! Additionally, sprinkle on some sesame seeds for a bit of crunch for your final dish.

Related Hibachi Questions

Many readers had questions related to the difference between teppanyaki and hibachi, so I’ve here’s Q&A section to answer a few of them:

Is Benihana hibachi?

Although people call Benihana hibachi-style cooking, the cooking in front of you on the iron grill plate is actually considered teppanyaki.

Benihana does offer some hibachi style dishes you can choose from, but the main attraction and the show you witness is teppanyaki.

What is the difference between teriyaki and hibachi?

Teriyaki translated to “glossy grilled.” and refers to the sweet and spicey soy-based sauce used to get the glazed finish when grilling.

Hibachi refers to the cooking style of grilling over charcoal. You can grill teriyaki on a hibachi grill, although hibachi dishes usually are less sweet and only use soy sauce.

What is the difference between teriyaki and teppanyaki?

Teppanyaki is a style of cooking where meat, seafood, and vegetables are cooked on a “teppan,” a flat surface cooking grill. Teriyaki includes anything grilled with a shiny, sweet soy sauce glaze and refers more to the sauce itself rather than a particular cooking style.

Is hibachi actually Japanese?

Hibachi is certainly Japanese. Here in America, you’ll often see teppanyaki grills (or “teppan”) being used in hibachi restaurants and the two terms being used interchangeably. They are both, however, Japanese cooking styles.

Do they eat hibachi in Japan?

Yes, they eat Hibachi in Japan, and it actually originates from Japan. Here we mostly eat grilled red meat when we go out for hibachi, but Japanese cuisine consists more of vegetables and fish rather than meats.

What is a hibachi chef called?

The term “hibachi chef” is more of a Western notion, but an itamae (板前) is a chef in a Japanese kitchen. It’s often referred to as the chef in a high-end Japanese restaurant and translates to “in front of the board,” as in a cutting board.

How hot is a hibachi grill?

A hibachi grill can get very hot, with heat varying from 450 degrees in the center of the grill to 250 degrees around the edges. Part of Hibachi cooking is playing with the temperature by moving ingredients around across the cooking surface.

What equipment do teppanyaki chefs need?

A skilled teppanyaki chef needs a full set of Japanese knives, spatulas, scrapers, chopsticks, sauce bottles, cooking and plating vessels, a knife sharpening whetstone, and cutting boards.

If you plan on making this at home, you should have some of the same utensils on hand.

What seasoning is used in hibachi?

Salt and pepper is used to taste when making hibachi. In addition, vegetable oil and sesame oil are also frequently used for added flavor.

It is added at the same time as the soy sauce and gives you recognizable hibachi flavors from your favorite Japanese steakhouse.

Conclusion

When buying a cooking appliance, you need to analyze your particular needs and preferences to ensure that your new item results in delicious meals you’re willing to try. Hibachi and teppanyaki grilling are two examples of wonderful grilling methods that are unlocked when you purchase a new high quality grill. 

Always remember to stay safe when using a hibachi grill by keeping on a sturdy surface clear of nearby dangers.

A small and portable hibachi is ideal for camping trips and smaller events. Experiment, find out what works better for you, and enjoy concocting fantastic meals in your new hibachi grill.

I hope you give both of these cuisines a try, if you haven’t already, as both of them are great in their very own ways. Try to cook these various cuisines in the comfort of your own home!

And be sure to visit my buying guide for more grills and utensils you just have to have to get started in this area of cooking!

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.