Teppanyaki means grilled on an iron plate

Teppanyaki: teppan “iron plate” & yaki “grilled” | What is Teppanyaki

The world of culinary is surely a diverse one. The variety that exists in this world is staggering and often times delicious!

If you are neither a hardcore foodie nor a culinary expert – it is very obvious that you may have never heard of the term teppanyaki. It is gaining a lot in popularity though and quickly becoming a household name.

But trust me, you definitely came across it at least once. This is because the presence of teppanyaki is dominant even in Western culture, even more so in Western culture than in Japan, though it still is authentic Japanese cuisine.

Did you know it’s not that old? Let’s find out more in this in-depth post with all the information you’ll need on Teppanyaki and by the end of this article you will be an expert on the topic.

What does Teppanyaki mean?

Teppanyaki means “grilled on a flat iron plate”. When we break down the Japanese word teppanyaki you get: “teppan” 鉄板 which means iron plate and “yaki” 焼き simply meaning grilled.

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

You mighty be thinking that this is a very simple cuisine – but you would be so 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.

Here’s the art of Teppanyaki, a video by David Tran at his Benihana restaurant:

A brief history of Teppanyaki

When I say history in an article involving Japanese things – you all must be wondering about ancient times where ninjas and samurais were dominant.

But this would be a very common mistake; teppanyaki cuisine is relatively new but people assume it’s ancient due to the style of preparation.

It all began in 1945 when a restaurant chain called Misono introduced the concept of cooking western food in ‘teppan’. This idea was not so popular among locals as they found it to be very common, below them.

However, the restaurant chain observed that tourists were fascinated by this cuisine – mostly because of the knife skills that were displayed by the chefs right in front of them.

Teppanyaki was mostly popular amongst tourists

It was something totally new in the culinary world at that time.

Teppanyaki has seen remarkable growth in the US in the form of large chain restaurants, which were even more common in the 80’s.

Cooks at these diners cook meat and vegetables and even rice on a sweeping iron fire sear in front of customers.

Dinner guests can appreciate watching the masterful cooking technique with culinary specialists’ fun execution style, which can lead to some exciting experiences if you’ve never seen it up close before.

It’s like dinner ánd a show thrown together in one exciting package.

Teppanyaki restaurants in Japan though, have an exceptional one of a kind vibe compared to those in the US.

Want to get started in making Teppanyaki yourself? Check out our essentials buying guide to get you on the right track.

Teppanyaki is not Hibachi

Teppanyaki is regularly mistaken for Hibachi flame broiling.

Hibachi, notwithstanding, uses an open-grill flame broil, though teppanyaki utilizes a strong, frying pan style but large flat cooking surface.

This makes Teppanyaki appropriate for rice, onions, carrots and mushrooms which would otherwise fall through the grates.

Teppanyaki has a very interesting history- no doubt about that, however, it must be noted that this form of cooking is flourishing in modern times and is a key element in spreading Japanese culture all over the world.

The next time you see a traditionally dressed Japanese man boasting his knife skills at a restaurant- just know for sure that he is not a ninja but a great Teppanyaki chef!

Also read: the main differences between Hibachi and Teppanyaki

Teppanyaki Defined

Teppanyaki refers to a dish of veggies, fish, and meat that is prepared using a large griddle that is commonly built into the table of diners.

The term teppanyaki comes from teppan, meaning iron plate, and yaki, meaning grilled, pan-fried, or broiled.

Teppanyaki is considered a live kitchen cooking method, wherein the chef prepares the dish in front of customers. The guests will then choose the cooking style that they desire and select the seasoning themselves.

Equipped with the right skills and cooking tools, the chef will do the rest of the preparations. Usually, each dish is prepared one at a time in order for the patron to appreciate the taste of the food and flair of the cooking style.

Usually the Teppanyaki chef will prepare one dish at a time

Teppanyaki should not be regarded as similar to barbecue grill.

The latter utilizes gas flame or charcoal and has an open grate structure, while the teppanyaki plate has a flat design, which is perfect when cooking small ingredients such as little cuts of meat, chopped veggies, egg, and rice.

If you’re not sure yet what types of grill to buy, it would be better to include teppanyaki on your list. The benefits of using this type of grill are explained in the next sections.

The Beginning of Teppanyaki

Teppanyaki-style steakhouse was first served in a Japanese restaurant chain known as Misono. They originated the idea of cooking Western food on a teppan in 1945.

Teppanyaki has not been popular in Japan for centuries. This is regarded as a Japanese-style cooking method, but many people in Japan believe that this originated from Western countries.

Advantages of Using a Teppanyaki Grill

A lot of traditional barbecue grills are designed to have grate openings, making it unsuitable to cook little food items such as eggs, fish, and chopped veggies.

Obviously, these food items will fall into the fire through the grate openings. This way, there’s a great possibility that the food you’re cooking will get burned.

This is certainly different from those traditional grills since this is designed with a solid flat surface, enabling the user to grill food without throwing some portions away.

The ingredients are in direct contact of the surface of the grill, making the food juices to be also heated and cooked properly.

Therefore, dishes prepared using a teppanyaki grill have enhanced flavor, most especially if these are accompanied with sauces.

grill-teppanyaki-japanese

Ingredients

As mentioned earlier, teppanyaki is greatly influenced by Western cooking; therefore, the ingredients used are also westernized. These include lobster, shrimp, chicken, beef, scallop, and a wide variety of veggies.

The most common oil used in cooking the ingredients is soybean oil. Teppanyaki is also served with side dishes such as zucchini (although this is not common in Japan), mung beans, fried rice, and garlic chips. 

International restaurants also provide special sauces, but only soy sauce is offered in Japanese restaurants.

Selecting the Right Teppanyaki Grill

There are a wide variety of teppanyaki grill models that you can see in the market these days. They vary according to price and specifications.

If you want a grill that can be conveniently cleaned after using it, you may select a teppanyaki grill that is made up of stainless steel.

But if you prefer a grill that has the capacity to uniformly distribute heat throughout the surface, it is best to choose those grills that are made up of cast iron.

Since heat is evenly distributed, you can be assured that your ingredients can be properly cooked. When it comes to cooking location, there are teppanyaki grills that are suitable for outdoor use. Outdoor grill models utilize portable fuels such as liquid propane and natural gas.

The grill’s burner system is securely enclosed; thus, strong winds cannot interrupt its functionality. On the other hand, indoor models are powered by electricity, which is more convenient to maneuver.

For a good fit for you, you can check out my buying guide where I show what my choices were going forward, or directly look at my top list of grills.

Making Teppanyaki at home

After reading the first few parts of this article- you are rightful to wonder that teppanyaki cannot be made at home.

This- however- would be a wrong assumption as in the modern day making Teppanyaki at home is extremely easy. Yes, you can even prepare at home!

The evolution of kitchen appliances helped  greatly in this process.

You are probably wondering when you get to throw knives and do all the cool stuff. To this, I would say if you are not an expert- do not even think of doing such things as serious injuries might take place.

But if you are still willing to do so, (probably because you want to show it off to your friends) then take some classes that they have on teppanyaki cooking.

Teppanyaki recipes

There is a wide range of ingredients from which you can choose: beef, shrimp, lobster, chicken, scallops along with assorted vegetables.

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

Many Japanese restaurants feature many other forms of teppanyaki dishes like Kobe beef, Japanese noodles with sliced cabbage et cetera 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. T

he choosing of side dish largely depends on the main ingredient and also personal preference- but if you are confused then mixture of different veggies is always a safe option.

Make sure, however, that you don’t overcook or undercook them as a bad side dish will degrade 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. At the heart of this process is the iron girdle. So make sure you buy a good one.

teppanyaki side dishes

The list of recipes of teppanyaki is huge– but they all share some basic steps. You can also try this Japanese teppanyaki recipe. The first step involves skillfully slicing your main ingredient i.e. beef, chicken etc. in to small portions.

This is probably the most important step in the process because if the size is not proper than the iron girdle will not be able to cook it properly resulting in an overall mess!

Before putting your main ingredient in the iron girdle, it is advised that you prepare your side dishes- like vegetables.

Side dishes normally can withstand longer period of cooking so it’s safe to fry them along with your main dish. It is worth noting that immediately after cutting your main ingredient you must put them in the freezer. Keeping them overnight will yield the best result but not doing so will work too.

The final step is the cooking itself which totally depends on the flame intensity as well as your ingredients. Therefore to master it you need tons of practice.

A common misconception about teppanyaki

For all the Japanese cuisines, teppanyaki is probably the most popular one- rightfully so! However, this makes room for a ton of misconception. It is very common for anyone to mistake literally any Japanese cuisine for teppanyaki.

Hibachi, another Japanese cuisine, is probably the most underrated Japanese cuisine-because most of the time they are mistaken for teppanyaki!

teppanyaki vs hibachi

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 all.

The term hibachi literally translates to fire bowl- this is because the grill used for hibachi cuisines is very unique: a cylindrical vessel with fire proof lining.

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

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

The cooking process yields 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 deserves 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 to make at home relative to hibachi and also the availability of iron girdle is more than the special cooking vessel required by hibachi.

Final thoughts

So, now you probably know a lot about teppanyaki, and you may be wondering how you can implement this knowledge.

There are many ways to do this- you can experience a greater taste of teppanyaki due to your greater choosing ability, or you can show-off your teppanyaki skills to your friends, you can even open your very own teppanyaki restaurant if you have the will to do so.

There are people that say teppanyaki isn’t so good- and that’s completely fine because food is like music- everyone has their own opinion and everyone’s opinion needs to be respected.

As for myself, I cannot imagine a weekend without my teppanyaki.

Teppanyaki restaurant chains are very common in the US, you can find tons of them in every major city. Teppanyaki is also not so expensive like other foreign cuisines!

Teppanyaki is an excellent example of cultural integration- and definitely a delicious one! I hope this article has helped you understand what teppanyaki really is and now you can probably be a ‘ninja’ in your own kitchen to make delicious food.

You will be amazed once you try teppanyaki, I can assure you. 

More info can be found at:

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/teppanyaki

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