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Konro grill

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  August 4, 2022

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In Japanese, “konro” means a heat source for cooking. 

A konro grill is a compact charcoal grill. The Japanese build them in a way that maximizes heat retention.

They have a flat grilling surface that’s usually made of galvanized iron so you can heat it up quickly and grill easily. 

The grill is made of 2 ventilation windows that help with airflow and heat control. The grill is made for easier movements, which is why we have 2 handles to help move it around.

It’s also not that heavy, which makes it very portable.

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What does a konro grill look like?

The konro is a barbecue that’s long and narrow in shape.

The Japanese like to cook yakitori or skewers; the grill is narrow so that the skewers’ wooden sticks can sit on the walls of the konro box. This way, the skewers don’t fall through and into the coals. 

You can also buy a wider konro grill that’s suitable for cooking large pieces of meat, such as ribeye steak. 

What makes konro grills famous?

If you ever visit Japan, then you’ll notice some of these small grills on almost every street. If you visit the entertainment area of Osaka, you’ll notice that almost every restaurant (like these foods here) has a konro grill.

Each of these grills is manned by a skilled operator. This person twists yakitori skewers or other delicious meals skillfully. 

The konro grills are not only common in Japan, but also in the west, where they’re known as hibachi grills. However, they’re known as konro or shichirin in Japan.

This might be somehow complicated, but the konro and shichirin names probably changed when people started using these small fireboxes for cooking instead of heating.

What’s special about these grills?

It’s said that hibachi was developed in the 18th century AD. The primary purpose of these grills was to act as heaters.

However, they transformed to become cooking utilities, just like the way we use modern electric hot plates.

Over time, people discovered that these grills were impressive for cooking yakitori and other food items. That’s the reason why they were renamed or rebranded as shichirin or konro.

The original material used to make konro was volcanic diatomaceous earth, a material with a natural capacity for dispersing and retaining heat.

Modern konro grills are long, slender, and with rectangular shapes. As highlighted earlier, these grills are either made of ceramic or firebrick material.

What kind of meat do you cook on a konro grill?

With a decent amount of charcoal, a konro grill can produce up to 750° C. Since these grills come in compact shapes and sizes, their ceramic or firebrick construction makes them ideal for cooking skewers of sliced vegetables or meat.

Since the food is cooked just a few inches away from the charcoal, its juice drips down to the grill, and then it evaporates into a smoky puff of deliciousness. This vapor infuses with the food being grilled.

The grill’s hot temperature is also ideal when it comes to creating crisp caramelized skins on different types of meat.

Usually, you cook yakitori (skewers) on the konro. These skewers are the right size for grilling over hot charcoal.

Chicken is the most popular meat. But you can also cook meats like beef ribeye steak, pork, or seafood. 

As well, you can roast vegetables and make delicious vegan meals.

Why is the konro loved by Japanese chefs?

One of the main reasons why grilling is preferred to other cooking styles is because it adds to the smokey flavor and is a faster way to cook. Additionally, heat will also reach deep inside of food because of the high temperatures.

One of the other reasons why we prefer grilling is because it leaves all the succulent juices inside, especially when it comes to meat. This means you’ll have a crispy, golden exterior with an inside retaining the juices.

The Japanese invented the konro grill to make cooking easy and flavorful!

Can you use a konro grill indoors?

No, never use a konro grill indoors! It’s only suitable for outdoor use because the bottom of the grill becomes extremely hot.

The hot grill is a fire hazard, so always use the grill on a fireproof surface. Never use the konro on a carpet or a tatami mat, as it can catch fire. 

How do you use a konro grill?

So you’ve finally got that konro grill you’ve always desired. Now, you’re only a few steps away from enjoying that backyard-prepared yakitori and other mouthwatering grilled treats.

When you look at the manual, you realize that the words are all in Japanese.

However, don’t worry! Here’s how you can set up your konro grill.

Preparation

When putting on the charcoal, you need to make sure that it’s enough to cover the bottom of the grill. Putting more than that can lead to excessive flame and heat.

Lighting the charcoal

If you want to light your thaan, binchotan, or lump charcoal, you need to pile it on and around barbeque firestarter or burning wood; you shouldn’t put it underneath.

Once the charcoal ignites, spread it out over the grill’s floor. You can also use a BBQ chimney, which is also an excellent tool for lighting your charcoal.

Using the grill

The vents in the konro grill will assist you in adjusting the heat.

Opening the vents allows more oxygen to get into the coals, which leads to increased temperatures. Closing the vents will reverse the whole process.

Binchotan can burn for an extended period of time. However, if you want to add extra, make sure that you need enough for the bottom of the grill to remain covered.

Extinguish the coal in a thick iron-cast container or put them in a bucket full of water. NEVER POUR WATER ON YOUR KONRO TO EXTINGUISH THE FIRE!

This can make your konro grill break as a result of the rapid change in temperature. Make sure that your konro has completely cooled before storing it or putting it away.

Tips for operating the konro grill

The following are some basic dos and don’ts for anyone who owns a konro grill. Following these guidelines can assist you in having a delicious and safe grilling session:

  • Charcoal produces carbon dioxide when burning. So make sure that you use your konro grill in an area with sufficient ventilation. Never use the grill indoors.
  • The bottom of a konro grill can become very hot. So you should never use a konro grill on a tatami mat or carpet. Always make sure that the surface you place your grill on is fireproof.
  • Never move your konro grill while still in use.
  • Never leave a konro grill unattended while in use.
  • Always make sure that you’ve completely put out the fire after using the grill.

Other precautions for using the grill

  • The metal parts of the grill will become hot. So exercise extra caution while handling the grill. In addition, you need to be extra careful since the metal parts can also become sharp, which can lead to cuts or scrapes.
  • Most konro grills are made of either ceramic or clay material. It breaks if banged or dripped. So handle your grill with extreme caution.
  • Don’t pour water on your grill to extinguish the fire. This can make your konro grill break.
  • Never leave your grill outdoors once you finish using it. Avoid storing it in an area with extreme humidity. Make sure that the area where you store it is weatherproof.
  • Make sure that you place your grill on a level and flat surface.
  • When wet, the konro grill doesn’t perform like normal. Therefore, allow your grill to dry completely before using it again.

How do you clean a konro grill?

Don’t clean the grill until the coals are cool and the fire is completely extinguished.

If you want to extinguish the coals, add sand. Don’t pour water on the konro grill, as you can injure yourself.

Once the grill is completely cool, use a wet rag or paper towel to give it a good clean. You don’t need to use special detergents, as water is enough. 

Alternatively, use a Tawashi brush to scrape off the dirt. 

Check out our new cookbook

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

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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.