Hibachi vs. Sukiyaki: Comparing Charcoal Grilling to Hot Pot Cooking

We may earn a commission on qualified purchases made through one of our links. Learn more

Hibachi and sukiyaki are two popular Japanese dishes that are enjoyed by people all over the world.

Both are cooked tableside and feature a variety of ingredients, but the way they are prepared and the flavors they offer are quite different.

In this post, we will explore the differences between hibachi and sukiyaki, including their history, cooking methods, ingredients, and cultural significance.

Hibachi vs. Sukiyaki: Comparing Traditional Grill to Hot Pot

In a nutshell, hibachi is a style of Japanese cuisine that involves grilling meat, seafood, and vegetables on a traditional hibachi grill, while sukiyaki is a hot pot dish that is typically made with thinly sliced beef, tofu, vegetables, and noodles cooked in a simmering broth at the table.

Whether you’re a fan of one or both of these dishes, you’ll discover some fascinating insights into the art of Japanese cooking and dining.

So, let’s dive in and explore the unique characteristics that make hibachi and sukiyaki two of the most beloved Japanese dishes of all time.

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free

What is hibachi?

Hibachi is a type of cooking that originated in Japan. It’s a style of cooking that uses an open-top charcoal grill, usually made of cast iron, to cook food.

The hibachi grill is placed on a table, and the food is cooked directly over the hot coals. The hibachi cooking style is known for its intense heat and smoky flavor.

You can cook various foods in a hibachi, including meats, vegetables, and seafood.

The hibachi is also great for grilling, as the intense heat of the charcoal grill sears the food quickly, locking in the flavor.

Hibachi grills are easy to use, and they don’t require a lot of equipment or setup.

All you need is the hibachi, some charcoal, and some kindling. Once you have everything set up, you can start cooking right away.

The hibachi grill is also easy to clean up; all you need to do is let the coals cool and dispose of them.

Hibachi is a great way to cook food for a group of people. You can quickly cook enough food for a large group in a short amount of time.

Plus, it’s a fun way to get everyone involved in the cooking process. If you haven’t tried hibachi foods before, I would highly recommend giving it a try. 

Don’t confuse traditional hibachi with teppanyaki

If you are confused about hibachi now, it might because you are thinking of what is actually called teppanyaki style cooking (you know, those restaurants where the chef cooks in front of you!).

But know that teppanyaki and traditional hibachi are two separate things, and what is often called hibachi is the US, is actually teppanyaki.

Traditional hibachi and teppanyaki are both Japanese cooking styles that involve grilling food on a flat iron surface, but there are some key differences between the two.

Hibachi is a traditional Japanese method of cooking that involves using a small portable charcoal grill.

Historically, hibachi was used for heating homes and cooking food.

Nowadays, it is typically used in restaurants to cook individual servings of meat, seafood, and vegetables on a small iron grill.

The ingredients are often seasoned with soy sauce, sake, or other savory flavors and may be served with rice or noodles.

Teppanyaki, on the other hand, is a more modern style of Japanese cuisine that emerged in post-World War II Japan.

It involves cooking food on a large iron griddle in front of diners, often with a theatrical presentation by the chef.

Teppanyaki often features larger cuts of meat, such as steak, and may include seafood and vegetables.

The ingredients are often seasoned with a combination of soy sauce, garlic, and other savory flavors and are frequently served with a side of fried rice or noodles.

In summary, hibachi is a traditional Japanese grilling technique involving a small, portable grill.

On the other hand, teppanyaki is a more modern style of cuisine that features a larger grill and often incorporates a theatrical element to the cooking presentation.

What is sukiyaki?

Sukiyaki is a traditional Japanese dish that’s been around for centuries.

It’s made by simmering thinly sliced beef, vegetables, and other ingredients in a sweet and savory broth. 

The most common ingredients used in sukiyaki are beef, shirataki noodles, tofu, mushrooms, and green onions.

The dish is usually served hot and is often eaten with a raw egg or dipping sauce.

Sukiyaki is a popular dish in Japan, and it’s often served on special occasions like birthdays and holidays.

It’s also a popular dish to make at home, as it’s relatively easy to prepare and can be customized to suit individual tastes.

Sukiyaki is a great way to get a variety of flavors and textures in one dish.

The beef is tender and flavorful, the vegetables are crunchy, and the broth is sweet and savory.

It’s also a great way to get in some protein and vegetables in one meal. 

Find a full sukiyaki steak recipe here (with tips on how to cook and serve your sukiyaki)

Difference between hibachi and sukiyaki

Now that we know a thing or two about both of the Japanese staples let’s compare them point-by-point:


Hibachi foods are prepared with the help of a unique Japanese grill called shichirin locally.

The grill is heated with binchotan charcoal, and the food is cooked over it with minimal spices, concentrating on mainly bringing out the ingredients’ natural flavors. 

The food is grilled, fried, or smoked, depending on what you order.

Besides the food, hibachi restaurants are also famous for entertaining gimmicks by the chef, so expect a nice show experience as you await your order. 

If you live in American or European countries, you will often see hibachi chefs using griddles.

This is technically teppanyaki-style cooking. It’s a relatively fancier way of cooking hibachi dishes, but it’s NOT hibachi. 

However, the experience is pretty much the same in terms of food and entertainment. The only difference is the taste.

Teppanyaki foods don’t have that signature smokiness we get in hibachi. Nevertheless, it tastes great in its own way. 

On the other hand, sukiyaki is simpler to prepare. It is cooked in two different ways- the Kanto style and the Kansai style.

In Kanto style, the Japanese sukiyaki sauce, or Warishita (recipe here!), is poured into a pot.

The remaining ingredients such as meat, veggies, and tofu are then simmered and cooked in it. 

In Kansai style, it is the other way around; the meat is added first to the pot.

It is followed by the sauce, vegetables, and other ingredients when it’s almost or entirely cooked.

It’s also important to note that Kansai-style sukiyaki does not use Warishita sauce. Instead, it uses soy sauce. 

Both preparation methods have a huge impact on the overall flavor of the sukiyaki.

In the Kanto version, the beef absorbs the sauce flavors fully during cooking, having a more intense flavor than in the Kansai version.  


Hibachi is usually prepared with various proteins, vegetables, and mushrooms.

The most common ingredients of a traditional hibachi plate typically consist of beef, vegetables, rice, noodles, and mushrooms. 

Although beef is more of a standard in hibachi restaurants, the protein can differ depending on the customer’s preference.

If you don’t want beef, you can opt for other proteins such as shrimp or chicken. You can also use pork in the recipe if you are a home cook. 

The vegetables used in hibachi are usually bell peppers, onions, zucchini, and carrots, combined with different types of mushrooms for an extra kick.

The most common type of mushroom used among all is the white button mushroom. 

As for flavoring, hibachi brings out the raw, original flavor of all the meat and veggies.

Hence, every hibachi dish is flavored only with soy sauce, usually combined with ginger and garlic for some herby spiciness.

There are no over-the-top ingredients. 

Compared to hibachi dishes, sukiyaki has a more complex set of ingredients: protein, vegetables, noodles, and a special sukiyaki sauce prepared from various other condiments. 

The protein used in sukiyaki is predominantly beef.

However, historical accounts of the dish suggest that pork used to be the primary protein choice in the early stages of the dish, as beef used to be pretty expensive in Japan a few decades ago. 

You can make the dish with chicken, fish, or crab if you like. But to experience the authentic taste of sukiyaki, fat-marbled beef is the best choice.

As for vegetables, cabbage, spring onions, and tong ho (an edible green) are considered the best choice.

Mushrooms and tofu are other popular additions for extra flavoring and texture. 

The sukiyaki sauce or Warishita is a mixture of sake, mirin, soy sauce, sugar, dashi, and other (optional) ingredients used to flavor the dish.

However, it depends on the place and variant you eat. 

As mentioned, some versions only use soy sauce for flavoring, having less intense flavor.

However, still, sukiyaki has more complex and potent ingredients when it comes to flavor compared to hibachi. 

Also see how sukiyaki compares to teriyaki here

Serving style

Hibachi is typically served on a hot plate, with each ingredient placed separately.

You can try different combinations of protein, noodles, veggies, and rice to experience their flavors individually.

Each combination feels different than the other. 

The hot platter is usually sided with a special hibachi yellow sauce or white sauce to accentuate the dish’s taste and give it that much-needed intensity it lacks. 

On the contrary, sukiyaki is served with all the ingredients jumbled together in a single hot bowl, sided with raw beaten egg.

You can dip each bite in the beaten egg as you eat the sukiyaki bowl. 

It mellows the intense taste of the sauces and gives the meal a wholesome and fulfilling touch. You can also eat meat and veggies without eggs. 

Now, what’s actually the deal with those raw eggs the Japanese put on their rice?


When it comes to taste, both of these dishes are polar opposites! 

Hibachi, as mentioned, is cooked mostly only with soy sauce.

Hence, the only flavor you experience other than the natural taste of meat, rice and veggies is very mild, salty-sweet umami with a bit of smokiness from the charcoal. 

However, the umaminess still doesn’t feel dominant overall and is overshadowed by the ingredients’ natural flavors.

If you like it a little intense, try it with hibachi sauce. Just make sure it’s the yellow one, though. The white one is milder.

Compared to hibachi, sukiyaki has a comparatively intense taste, as mentioned.

However, it is still subtle compared to other hotpots like shabu shabu

The meat and veggies absorb all the sauces during cooking and take up a sweet, sour, and salty flavor that feels super complex.

However, the sweetness still remains conspicuous among all the other flavors, with a touch of tartness. 

Sukiyaki’s taste is much like Chinese hot and sour meals, but with a little more saltiness. 

Find out what the main three differences are between Chinese and Japanese food

Where to eat hibachi and sukiyaki?

Traditional and authentic hibachi food is only available in Japan, in special hibachi restaurants.

Although you will find restaurants taking up the name “hibachi” in America and European countries, those are not authentic hibachi restaurants. 

Instead, as I have mentioned many times on my blog, those are teppanyaki restaurants.

The name teppanyaki is derived from two Japanese words- “teppan,” which means griddle, and “yaki,” which means something cooked over direct heat. 

Since the whole concept of hibachi revolves around cooking the food on a hibachi grill or Shichirin grill, something cooked on a griddle cannot technically be called hibachi.

Hence, you cannot have an authentic hibachi experience at a teppanyaki restaurant. You must go to Japan for that.

As for sukiyaki, you can eat it in any of your favorite Japanese restaurants around the world.

As long as the restaurant holds a respectable name for traditional Japanese cuisine, you can enjoy the true flavors of sukiyaki there. 

However, if you ask me, I highly recommend trying it if you ever visit Japan.

It will give you a good idea of what to expect regarding flavor and set a bar for yourself to compare other restaurants you visit afterwards. 

Which one’s healthier? Hibachi or sukiyaki? 

In terms of healthiness, both hibachi and sukiyaki can be relatively healthy choices, depending on how they are prepared and what ingredients are used.

Hibachi meals typically consist of grilled meat, seafood, and vegetables, which can provide a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

However, the amount of oil or butter used in cooking and the sodium content of any sauces or seasonings can significantly impact the overall healthfulness of the meal.

Choosing leaner cuts of meat, such as chicken or fish, and opting for vegetable-based sauces or seasoning can make hibachi a healthier option.

Sukiyaki, on the other hand, is a hot pot dish that typically features thinly sliced beef, tofu, vegetables, and noodles cooked in a broth made with soy sauce, sugar, and mirin (a type of rice wine).

While the ingredients used in sukiyaki can be nutritious, the broth can be high in sodium and sugar, which may not be ideal for those with dietary restrictions.

To make sukiyaki healthier, using less sugar or opting for a lower-sodium broth can be beneficial.

Both hibachi and sukiyaki can be healthy choices when prepared with nutritious ingredients and careful attention to portion sizes and seasonings.

It ultimately depends on individual dietary needs and preferences.


Hibachi and sukiyaki are two different Japanese dishes.

Hibachi is a cooking style where food is cooked on an open flame, while sukiyaki is a hot pot dish. 

Both dishes are delicious and can be enjoyed in many Japanese restaurants.

If you want to try something new, why not give both hibachi and sukiyaki a try? You won’t regret it!

If you want to cook hibachi style at home, you will need to buy a table top hibachi grill (review here)

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free

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.