You can’t call yourself an authentic Japanese food enthusiast unless you’ve tried some delicious dishes cooked on a Konro and Hibachi grill.
Most Japanese households own at least one of these types of grills because you can cook the most succulent and flavorful meats and veggies.
These grills are smaller types of BBQ cookers. Their names also refer to authentic Japanese cooking methods using Binchotan charcoal.
This article explains what the Konro and Hibachi grill is, the differences, and gives you ideas of great Japanese-inspired dishes to try at home.
In this post we'll cover:
What is a Konro Grill?
The Konro is a small portable box or rectangular shaped grill.
It comes in about two sizes:
- the first is a larger one meant for a group
- the second is the small cube-shaped grill, which is usually meant for couples or solo cooking.
The traditional Konro grill is made out of diatomite, a natural material that is basically fossilized plankton and algae. This material is also known as diatomaceous earth, and it has excellent insulating properties and is very heat-resistant.
To construct the grills, the manufacturer must procure hand-mined diatomite and then bake it for approximately 6 hours at 1000 degrees.
This results in a heavy but very sturdy and resistant material for the grill. To grill, you must place charcoal inside, then place the food on the grates.
Best charcoal for the Konro grill
For the most fantastic cooking experience, the Konro is used with Binchotan charcoal.
This particular charcoal is expensive because it’s produced in Japan’s Wakayama Prefecture.
The charcoal is made from Asian White Holm Oak, a dense hardwood. The coal has a white color, and it burns consistently for about four or five hours.
Thus, it’s ideal for Konro grilling.
In case you were wondering if you can use a konro grill indoors? Here’s why you shouldn’t.
What is a Hibachi grill?
The Hibachi is a small cast-iron grill you can use with charcoal.
There are three types:
- Cast-iron grate
- Gas griddle (think of it as a type of hot plate with a flat surface)
- Teppanyaki (a recent addition to Hibachi grill varieties)
The small portable cast-iron grate model is most common because it’s used for direct-cooking, especially in small homes with tiny outdoor areas.
Most hibachis are portable so that you can grill with charcoal on the go.
Hibachis come in a few shapes and sizes, but most are portable. Restaurants use large electric hibachis for cooking large quantities of food at once.
The grill doesn’t have a lid, so it takes some practice to get the cooking method just right.
To use the grill, the user places Binchotan (or other) charcoals on the bottom and places the food on the hot plate.
The charcoals create direct and close heat, which cooks the food thoroughly. Some Hibachi models also have small vents to give access to the heat so that you can adjust it.
Want to get the best Hibachi grill? Read: Best Hibachi Cooking Grill to buy for home | Top 5 grills for sale reviewed.
Charcoal & Electric & Gas
The traditional Hibachi is also used with Japanese Binchotan special charcoal.
It gives the food a juicy flavor, and it doesn’t dry out the meats.
Since not everyone can enjoy Hibachi outdoors due to space limitations, there are indoor electric Hibachi models.
Electric models are the most popular in Western restaurants.
The gas models are propane-fueled and they are best when you don’t want to spend any time lighting charcoal. These heat up in seconds and you can start grilling right away!
Konro vs. Hibachi Grills: Foods to Cook
Both grills allow you to cook all kinds of dishes, especially meats and vegetables.
Both grill styles are used to cook such popular dishes as Yakiniku, Robata, Yakitori, Takoyaki, and all varieties of barbecue.
I will share some of the best Japanese dish ideas below.
Foods to cook: Konro
When you grill on the Konro, the meat retains more of its juices than when you use a gas hob. Therefore, the meat is juicier and retains that umami (savory) flavor.
The Konro doesn’t create a smoke, the only time you get smoke is when fat from your meat drips onto the charcoal. Therefore, it’s different from classic smoking.
Here are some great foods to cook with the Konro:
- Grilled beef steak
- Chicken Skewers (Yakitori)
- Koji Cured Salmon
- Grilled Veggies like tomatoes and mushrooms
- Veggies Cooked in tinfoil
- Grilled Scallops
- Yaki Onigiri (grilled rice balls)
- Grilled Pineapple
Foods to cook: Hibachi
The Hibachi is a versatile cooking device. Whether it’s a hot plate or cast-iron grate model, the cooking method is similar. The most common grilled foods are meat and vegetables, usually seasoned with delicious sauces.
The tricky part of cooking on the Hibachi is knowing how long to grill for.
For more on this, be sure to also read: How Hot Does A Hibachi Grill Get? Binchotan & ideal temperature.
With a few tries and a handful of good condiments and seasonings, your Hibachi grilled food tastes out of this world.
Here’s what to try cooking on your Hibachi:
- Grilled steak with Ponzu sauce
- Roasted cabbage
- Chicken Meatballs on a Skewer
- Soy-Glazed Fish
- Mizo Salmon Steak
- Red pepper and mushroom skewers
If you already love grilling on your pellet or charcoal grill, you should try a traditional Kinka Konro Grill or the Hinomaru Collection traditional wooden base grill.
It’s a different BBQ experience compared to using the traditional Western-style big pellet or gas grills.
If you’re home alone, you can quickly create a restaurant-style meal for yourself with the best cuts of meats and a selection of vegetables.
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For more Asian grilling options, read all about the Shichirin grill | review of the top 3 best grills [+Shichirin explained].