Hibachi vs. Yakitori: What’s the Difference?

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When you move around the world, there’s only one word for making food on an open flame, and that is grilling.

But when you move to Japan, you will find many different names for the process, depending on the ingredients used and the thing cooked. 

Yakiniku, teppanyaki, hibachi, yakitori… it can get pretty complicated for someone who’s just a casual Japanese restaurant visitor to get a flavorful meal after a long day. 

To know what you’re getting, it’s essential to understand the difference.

The same goes for hibachi and yakitori. Although both are grilled, they are two totally different things! 

For starters, hibachi and yakitori are both Japanese dishes made with burning coal. However, hibachi is cooked on a special hibachi grill, while yakitori consists of simple chicken skewers, marinated and flavored with special sauces. 

In this article, I will compare both from different angles, from the cooking method to flavor and anything in between.

In the end, you’ll know everything that there is to know about each. 

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Hibachi vs. yakitori: let’s compare

Here’s a point-to-point comparison between both dishes: 

Cooking method

So, we have already established that hibachi and yakitori are two different names for one thing: grilling.

But is it? Well, technically, yes, but it’s not the grilling itself but the method that makes them different. 

Hibachi dishes are made on hibachi grills: charcoal-fired heating devices that were initially used in Japan for heating purposes for centuries. 

It simply features a grill plate on top of burning charcoal, on which the food is cooked.

As the grill is pretty low above the charcoal, the food cooked is close to the charcoal and the flames; it absorbs maximum smokiness 

People often confuse hibachi with teppanyaki foods available in most American restaurants. However, keep in mind that both are different. 

Hibachi foods are made on a grill, while teppanyaki foods are made on teppan or griddle: a relatively new concept that I will explain further when we get to the history part. 

On the other hand, yakitori is cooked on a normal charcoal grill.

The chicken is skewered with Kushi, a particular type of skewer made primarily with bamboo or steel.

The chicken is glazed with sauces from time to time until cooked (learn exactly how to cook yakitori at home here). 

Another unique thing about yakitori is that it is not made with regular charcoal but with binchotan.

Also known as white charcoal, it is one of the most expensive, hottest, and long-burning charcoal in the world. 

Besides, it is very clean, hence, there are no extra flavors added to the cooked chicken, allowing its authentic flavors to shine.

The same coal is also used in most hibachi restaurants, but it isn’t really a necessary part of the recipe. 

Ingredients used

Hibachi dishes are made with a variety of ingredients.

It includes fried rice cooked in a wok on the hibachi grill, vegetables like zucchini, mushrooms, and onions, and grilled seafood, chicken, and steak.

The seasonings and marinades used to prepare hibachi dishes are simple- traditionally consisting of soy sauce and salt. 

It is about bringing out the natural flavors of vegetables and meat with a touch of smokiness that complements them beautifully.

On the other hand, yakitori is made only using chicken meat and organs. 

A single skewer contains various parts of the chicken, including but not limited to the breast, thighs, heart, gizzard, and liver.

The skewers are seasoned during and after the cooking with a special sauce called tare. 

Tare combines various ingredients, including soy sauce, sake, sweet mirin, brown sugar, and other ingredients, depending on how it’s prepared. 

Learn more about the 16 different types of Yakitori (cooking styles & chicken parts)


The best thing about hibachi foods is that all of the dishes taste different. Plus, even the same dish served at one hibachi restaurant will taste different in another one. 

Here, I will describe the taste based on what’s super common in both. And that is smokiness combined with a mild umami touch.

While some hibachi restaurants use some extra ingredients for extra flavor, most hibachi restaurants focus on the natural, raw flavors of ingredients.

They only cook it with soy sauce, giving it a little umami-ness. 

On the other hand, yakitori skewers are marinated and glazed with sake- a special Japanese sauce made with several different ingredients. 

The taste of the sauce, combined with very mild smokiness from charcoal, gives yakitori skewers a salty-sweet and smoky balance of flavors that complement each other beautifully. 

The taste of yakitori remains the same across all traditional izakaya and yakitori restaurants. The only thing that can cause it to differ is the experience of the chef. 

So, if you ever taste a bad yakitori, you know who to blame! 

Place of serving

Hibachi food is, as you might already know, served in hibachi restaurants. Authentic hibachi restaurants are found only in Japan. 

Although there are a lot of restaurants in America popularized as “hibachi-style restaurants,” they are actually teppanyaki restaurants.

As mentioned, teppanyaki is different from authentic hibachi. 

However, they are still an excellent alternative to hibachi restaurants, providing you with the same dishes, taste, and entertainment, only cooked on a flat griddle rather than a grill, and have less smokiness. 

On the other hand, yakitori is available in specialty restaurants called Yakitori-ya. However, that’s only when we talk about a genuinely authentic taste and experience. 

There are many other types of restaurants selling yakitori.

The most commonly available worldwide is an izakaya: an informal Japanese bar serving drinks and snacks. 

How hibachi and yakitori are served and eaten

Hibachi dishes are commonly served together.

A typical hibachi platter includes meat (chicken, red meat, and sometimes seafood), vegetables, rice, and a special sauce to further accentuate the flavors. 

You can also order hibachi noodles, which are very simple in taste but go great with the overall combination.

And guess what? You can also make them home, as it doesn’t require any special ingredients. 

There’s no traditional way of eating at a hibachi restaurant. However, using chopsticks is a great way to enjoy Japanese flavors in the Japanese way. 

Yakitori is a comparatively simpler dish, served right on the skewers, along with a bottle of beer.

The chicken is eaten right off the skewers with teeth, with a gulp of beer in between to refresh your palate. 

In-home settings, I recommend serving yakitori with some rice.

The neutral flavor of rice combines quite beautifully with the protein, making the already delicious chicken even more flavorful. 

Which one is healthier? Hibachi or yakitori? 

To find out which one is healthier, let’s have a sneak peek into some common facts about hibachi and yakitori.

So, the main hibachi dishes are prepared on a grill or in a wok. The main ingredients of hibachi dishes, as mentioned, are meat, vegetables, and rice.

While the meat and vegetables are mainly grilled, the hibachi fried rice is prepared with butter and soy sauce. 

In other words, you are getting a lot of sodium and fat as you dine at hibachi restaurants, along with all those extra calories.

So if you are watching your diet, you certainly wouldn’t like hibachi foods as much. 

On the other hand, yakitori is prepared with chicken meat and an organ marinated and cooked with yakitori sauce.

Now it doesn’t have as much fat, but talk of all the sodium within, and you’ll be spinning on your head. 

Although it’s an excellent dish for casual weekend dining, it shouldn’t be a regular part of your diet.

That’s especially true if you are a heart or hypertension patient or someone who is susceptible to developing kidney stones. 

Overall, both are generally healthy when consumed in a proper quantity. However, daily consumption of both can cause various health problems for you. 

History of hibachi and yakitori

According to some historians, the history of hibachi goes back to 1145 AD, when the nobles and rich used a hibachi device to heat up their rooms. 

These heating devices were not meant for cooking initially and were not even available to the lower-class population of the country.

However, as it became increasingly integrated into the general population’s homes, its use diversified. 

Besides being a reliable heating device, the hibachi also became a great cooking device for many houses across Japan.

Its size got bigger and more accommodating, and it turned into a full-fledged cooking apparatus conveniently used in Japanese festivities and other traditional celebrations. 

The first official hibachi restaurant was opened in Japan in 1945.

Due to the sheer skill of chefs with knives, flames, and creative ways of using ingredients, the restaurants became major tourist attractions and later expanded to the western world. 

On the other hand, yakitori has a history dating back 1300 years.

However, the only bird cooked using skewers was a sparrow, as eating other livestock, chickens included, was prohibited in Japan.

That’s because the Buddhist community dominated the region for most of its history. 

The use of chicken to make yakitori got popular in the Meiji era when the ban on eating meat was officially lifted by the emperor of the time.

Initially, yakitori was made with beef and pork. Chicken was still a rarity in Japan and eating it was still a luxury to the commoner. 

It was not until the spread of broiler chicken worldwide in the 1960s that chicken became accessible to the public.

The trend of chicken dishes became a popular street staple, and chicken skewers slowly became the only dish associated with the name yakitori. 


Overall, hibachi and yakitori are delicious Japanese dishes cooked over an open flame.

Hibachi is a style of cooking that is more focused on the presentation of the food, while yakitori is more focused on the flavor. 

Both dishes are great options for a delicious meal, so it’s up to you to decide which one you’d like to try.

Read next: can you tell the difference between yakitori and teriyaki? Let’s put it to the test!

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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.