What is Hibachi? Japanese Hibachi VS a Teppanyaki grill

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  July 7, 2020

The world we live in is diverse, and this diversity is what makes this a great planet to live on. When it comes to food, there is such a wide range of choices for us.

Over many years, different cultures have contributed their very own recipes in the culinary world.

Today it is very easy for us to sink our teeth into these different types of cuisine. Surely, all these cuisines are delicious in their very own way!

Difference between Teppanyaki & Hibachi grilling

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

My top Teppanyaki grill plate is the Everdure Furnace Grill Stovetop. It’s quite large and very sturdy so it’ ll last you a long time.

Looking at the Hibachi grills you can get, you should check out the Update International Cast Iron Hibachi Set, which is a bit more traditional than the other suggestion I have a bit further down this article.

These two cuisines have thrived through the test of time, and in modern times, they are a worldwide favorite.

Just because these two cuisines have their origins rooted in Japan- many people make the mistake of thinking that they are the same thing.

That is so not the case. Teppanyaki and Hibachi are two completely different cuisines.

Each has its own unique properties that make them stand out, and also, they both have a different history.

In this article, I’ll clarify your confusion regarding the differences between teppanyaki and Hibachi.

So, I have both, just because I love Asian Cuisine so much and got them from Amazon, which was pretty easy and received them quite fast.

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.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TEPPANYAKI AND HIBACHI

Here’s the biggest difference between Teppanyaki and Hibachi:

Best Teppanyaki vs. Hibachi grills

These are my absolute favorite Teppanyaki and Hibachi grills for different situations and budgets:

 

Cuisine Top Choice
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 for Traditional Hibachi: Update International Cast Iron Hibachi Set, Black

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

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What is Teppanyaki?

Teppanyaki is just all over the world nowadays. At this point, you must be wondering what it is? At least enough to know the differences with Hibachi.

Be assured that, in this article, I’ll cover the details about teppanyaki, and by the end of it, you will be an expert on Teppanyaki.

In layman’s terms, teppanyaki is a Japanese cuisine that involves the use of an iron griddle to cook food.

When we break down the Japanese word teppanyaki– things get a bit interesting: “teppan” means iron plate whereas ‘yaki’ simply means grilled food.

You must be thinking that this is a very simple cuisine- but 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.

A small history of teppanyaki

Teppanyaki has a very interesting history. I’m sure the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Japanese history is that it probably involves samurais and sword fighting.

But that is certainly not the case. The origin story of teppanyaki is very similar to that of Colonel Sanders’s story!

Teppanyaki originated in Tokyo, Japan, at a restaurant chain called Misono. When in the Kobe district, this restaurant first adopted the concept of teppanyaki in 1945.

This makes teppanyaki a relatively new addition to the world of cooking.

The interesting thing about teppanyaki’s history is that the locals didn’t fancy teppanyaki at all. Teppanyaki was criticized for being an inappropriate and also unhygienic form of cooking!

So, you must be wondering how such a badly critiqued cuisine survived the test of time!

It was, in fact, first American soldiers and later the tourists who adored this cuisine, especially people from the US. But the catch was that the tourists were mainly fascinated by the entertainment factor involved in teppanyaki.

And by entertainment, I mean all the knife throwing and the ‘playing’ with fire involved. Mind you, these required high skills!

I have a full article here on the best teppanyaki tricks you’ve ever seen, including a great video of knife skills. So, check that out when you get a chance.

Misono took advantage of this and, for the following years, focused mainly on these entertainment factors. They hired people with excellent knife skills that were not hard to find in Japan!

All those juggling with knives and ingredients; the risky maneuvers with the intense hot flame- they paid off.

Teppanyaki blows over to western culture

Teppanyaki was a huge hit in western culture! And soon, restaurant chains, focusing on teppanyaki, were being opened up worldwide!

Although many people call this type of cooking where the chef cooks in front of you on an iron grill plate: hibachi style cooking.

Today teppanyaki, as we know, is very popular, and the teppanyaki chefs to this day continue to focus on the entertainment factor. Why wouldn’t they? It’s truly a treat to the eye (no pun intended).

At this point, you’re probably fascinated by the rich history of teppanyaki and might be wondering if you can do it at home- and you definitely can!

Although teppanyaki may look extremely sophisticated, if you take the entertainment factor out, you’ll see that it’s not all that hard.

How can you do it yourself?

With a little practice, you can enjoy the sublime taste of teppanyaki at home. It is very similar to ordinary grilling, but, of course, you need to purchase the special teppanyaki grill, which is not that expensive!

I just bought the Everdure Stovetop grill from Amazon, which is just easy to use.

I owned an electric one before this, which is great to get you started, but more for party style around the table cooking and this one I can use on my stove as well as outside on my BBQ.

There are tons of teppanyaki recipes for you to try! And most of them are easy. There is a wide range of ingredients from which you can choose: beef, shrimp, lobster, chicken, scallops along with assorted vegetables.

I have a lot of 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

Now, although making teppanyaki at home is easy, making it at a restaurant level requires extensive practice. Teppanyaki is such a culinary art form that it requires a greater portion of practice than skills.

Many Japanese restaurants have many other forms of teppanyaki dishes like Kobe beef, Japanese noodles with sliced cabbage, but these are harder than the ones mentioned earlier.

So, if you are a rookie, it is advised that you start with either regular beef or chicken.

For the side dishes, it is totally up to you to make the call. When choosing a side dish, it largely depends on the main ingredient and also personal preference.

If you are confused, then assorted veggies are always a safe option.

Make sure, however, that you don’t overcook or undercook them as a bad side dish will ruin the main dish no matter how good it is.

Other than that, the equipment you require for teppanyaki is the regular set of knives you have at home. More on creating a delicious hibachi dinner at home below.

Teppanyaki uses an iron griddle

At the heart of this process is the iron griddle, so make sure you buy a good one.

However, certain precautions must be taken into account when using the teppanyaki grill because the heat can easily cause serious injury in this type of grill.

So, I recommend you use fireproof gloves and keep a fire extinguisher nearby.

I cannot stress this enough- keep the fire extinguisher close! You can find more info on doing at home.

To summarize: teppanyaki is a form of cooking done on an iron plate and which normally involves a lot of fancy maneuvers.

What is hibachi?

Hibachi and teppanyaki are often thought to be the same thing, but this is a huge misconception! This is because they are both two completely different things.

Hibachi is a Japanese word that translates to fire bowl. Hibachi is like a round stove that uses charcoal for cooking.

Now, Hibachi is not a newcomer in the culinary world like teppanyaki. Hibachi is believed to have been around for hundreds of years, tracing its origin back to ancient Japan.

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

Who invented hibachi?

It is believed that Hibachi first came to the scene when the Japanese were beginning to use metal in their cookware. Still, there are indications it was invented even earlier, around 79–1185 AD in the Heian Period, and the first grills were made of Cypress wood lined with clay.

Hibachi, due to its simplicity, became one of the first contributions by Japan in the culinary world. Very soon, Hibachi was mixed with the rich Japanese culture.

Hibachis were heavily decorated, and they were often made part of Japanese rituals.

What is hibachi style food?

Hibachi style food is the grilling of meat, seafood, and vegetable dishes on a very hot cooking surface that sits on top of a ceramic or wooden bowl filled with burning charcoal.

The Binchotan type of charcoal gives it a unique flavor.

The main appeal of Hibachi dining is intimacy. When you join for a Hibachi dinner, you are guaranteed to have a great time.

Use of hibachi throughout history

These ancient Hibachis are still available today, and their design still baffles people with such great craftsmanship.

Hibachi was mainly used for heating a house, but as time progressed, the uses of Hibachi grew and became very diverse. It was even used for cigarette lighting!

During the world war, Hibachis were used by troops to cook their food on the battlefield. This just shows how much deeply rooted Hibachi is to the Japanese culture.

In fact, before world war two, Hibachi was the most common cooking tool used by the Japanese. It was very common to spot a Hibachi 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 many fancy maneuvers that are required to complete the cooking.

The main thing you’ll be needing is 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.

You have a variety of ingredients to choose from, but for a beginner, simple veggies or steaks are often recommended.

Hibachi grilling is a bit tough as Hibachis are not your conventional grills. So, this will require a bit of getting used to it.

Normally, people use a special sauce when making food on Hibachi- it is referred to as the Hibachi sauce. If you can nail this sauce, then your food will definitely be delicious.

If you are using ceramic Hibachis, then you should be extremely careful because any slip of hand may cause all the fiery hot coal to be all over you, causing severe burns.

Teppanyaki vs Hibachi

For all the Japanese cuisines, teppanyaki is probably the most popular one- and rightfully so!

However, this makes room for a ton of misconceptions. It is very common for anyone to mistake any Japanese cuisine for teppanyaki.

Hibachi, another Japanese cuisine, is probably the most underrated Japanese cuisine because a lot of times it is mistaken for teppanyaki!

They have a very significant yet unnoticeable difference- sounds weird, right?

What I mean by this is that if you are a culinary expert, the difference will be very obvious to you, but if not, then you might not notice it at all.

Especially if a chef prepares your food in the back, and you are just presented with the end result: a plate of delicious food.

They put charcoal on it and then cook their food in it. For teppanyaki, as we know already, an iron grill is used.

When you say hibachi-style cooking in America, most often you mean teppanyaki cooking, the grilling on a flat iron surface.

Japanese shichirin grills are used for hibachi cooking. While the term Hibachi translates to fire bowl it actually means the stove for heating your house. When it’s intended for cooking, the term shichirin is used.

The grill used for Hibachi cuisine is unique: an open-grate cylindrical vessel with fireproof lining which uses charcoal as the heating source. 

Two cuisines, different and the same

The ingredients of teppanyaki and Hibachi are likely to be very similar, which is perhaps one of the reasons that this confusion arises.

The cooking processes yield completely different tastes. I personally prefer teppanyaki, but this is subjected to personal preference.

Other than that, both Hibachi and teppanyaki are more than just cuisines in Japan. They are a form of art, and both deserve equal appreciation.

Teppanyaki has made a greater impact because it normally works with Japanese steaks, and we all know that Japanese steaks are the best in the world!

Teppanyaki is easy for you to make at home relative to Hibachi, and also, the availability of iron grills is more than the special cooking vessel required for Hibachi.

What is better, teppanyaki or hibachi?

Now the question stands – which one is better?

Well, to be honest, this is not a valid question because both teppanyaki and Hibachi have excelled in their very own ways.

Although teppanyaki is a bit more popular in western culture, Hibachi makes up for this by being a star in Japan!

As I mentioned earlier, both these cuisines are a form of art coming from the heart of Japan- they both have high traditional value.

But I must say that Hibachi is a clear winner when it comes to traditional value as it is one of the oldest creations of Japan, and also it has been made a part of Japanese ceremonies.

You can see Hibachis as the central attraction of tea festivals in Japan.

Teppanyaki, on the other hand, has bloomed in western culture and has become the epitome of Japanese food in western countries. Also, it represents the splendid skills of Japanese chefs as a form of entertainment.

So it is fair to say both teppanyaki and Hibachi are great in their very own ways and to argue which one is the best is simply chasing one’s tail.

Also read: Did you know these Japanese table manners?

Your hibachi dinner at home

Ready to recreate some delicious Hibachi inspired dishes at home and forego the high price tag that accompanies the Hibachi restaurant? 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!

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 develop.

Any of the grills we have outlined above would be great to use for at-home Hibachi. There is no need to have to pull out separate pans, large skillets, a wok, or other electric griddles.

Now you will also want to have two different oils handy as well for your Hibachi dinner. These oils are vegetable oil and sesame oil. 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 handy for Hibachi cooking because these sauces have a thicker consistency than the oils and can definitely go a long way when it comes to developing more flavor on both the meats and vegetables you plan to grill.

Fried rice is another staple in Hibachi cooking. If you make it yourself, make sure that the rice you use is at least a day old and cool. Otherwise, you may find that fresh rice will clump up too much and will not offer you the same consistency. It may also be overcooked and mushy, which can ruin your dish.

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.

Now introduce vegetables. Carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini, onion – there is no limit on the vegetables you can use on your Hibachi grill.

When choosing the proteins for your Hibachi dinner, steak, chicken, and shrimp are all popular choices along with lobster, beef, and scallops, as we mentioned earlier.

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!

As a finisher to your fried rice, Hibachi noodles, protein, and vegetables, don’t be afraid to sprinkle on some sesame seeds for some added crunch and appeal. You will find that grilling Hibachi at home is just as delicious as if you were to make a reservation at your favorite Japanese steakhouse. Only this way, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you made it yourself at home!

Related hibachi questions

So, a lot of you had some additional questions related to the difference between Teppanyaki and Hibachi, and I’ve added this Q&A section to answer a few:

Is Benihana Hibachi?

Although people call Benihana hibachi style cooking, the cooking in front of you on the iron grill plate is actually 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.” It refers more to the sauce used to get the glazed finish when grilling, which is a sweet soy-based sauce using lots of spices. Hibachi refers more 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 whereas teriyaki is anything grilled with a shiny sweet soy sauce glaze and refers more to the sauce than the cooking style.

Is hibachi actually Japanese?

Hibachi is certainly Japanese and is often mistaken for Teppanyaki. Here in America, you’ll 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 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 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 variances from 450 degrees in the center to 250 degrees around the edges. Part of Hibachi cooking is playing with the temperature by moving ingredients around across the cooking surface.

What types of equipment do teppanyaki chefs need?

A skilled teppanyaki chef needs to have a full set of Japanese knives, a uniform, the right utensils including spatulas, scrapers, chopsticks, and 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 that recognizable hibachi flavor you recognize from your favorite Japanese steakhouse.

Final thoughts

Now, you probably have a greater understanding of the differences between teppanyaki and Hibachi.

This knowledge will allow you to appreciate the Japanese culinary culture even better, and you can thoroughly enjoy the traditional values of these cuisines because now you know how they all started.

Other than that, 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.

Also, I have discussed in the article the possibilities of implementing both of these cuisines in the comfort of your home- so be sure to give that a try!

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!

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.