A hibachi grill is the ultimate in go-anywhere cooking; the small size and light weight allows for maximum portability when camping, hiking or picnicing. This report will explore the hibachi BBQ through use of the following sections:
Types of Hibachi Grills
Charcoal and Wood
Buying a Charcoal Grill
Safely Using a Hibachi
History of the Hibachi
The hibachi originates from China, but it is often said to have come from Japan; they were widely used in both countries, and started out as a type of portable heater. The word hibachi is a combination of the Japanese words Hi (fire) and bachi (bowl). Using charcoal as a burning source, the hibachi was generally found in the homes of nobility.
Because of the sparseness of metals in early Japan and China, hibachis were generally made out of a hollowed wood bowl, such as cypress, lined with baked clay. As smelting and casting methods refined, metal and ceramics began to make up the more upscale hibachis; highly-trained craftsmen also started to employ lacquered finishes, gold leaf and gilt, and intricate artistic designs for decorative purposes.
Hibachis were put to use in World War Two as portable heaters and cigarette lighters for Japanese troops. Even today, the Japanese still view the hibachi as a heat source; hibachi is translated from modern Japanese as a type of heater or fireplace.
The Chinese were the first culture to utilize the heat produced from a hibachi for cooking food. By adding a grill to the top of the traditional hibachi, it was found that food could be quickly seared to perfection.
Types of Hibachi Grills
The shape of a hibachi makes it ideal for outdoor cooking. The translation (fire bowl) basically says it all; a bowl or tubular base, with a grill on top.
Modern hibachi grills can be classified into two distinct groups, gas fired or charcoal fired, and can be made of ceramics or metal.
The gas-fired hibachi is a more recent innovation. Using propane as a fuel source, food is cooked clean, a perfect solution for those who do not want a charcoal aftertaste. The technical premise is the same as a larger propane-fired barbeque; a small propane tank (ie: Coleman’s) is attached to a valve at the bottom of the hibachi, which then produces flammable vapours at a constant rate. The advantages of gas over charcoal are a consistent amount of heat and a pure-tasting food result. The only problem is that these hibachis leave you with numerous small, empty propane tanks which must be disposed of in the proper manner.
Charcoal-fired hibachis have not changes much since their invention. Charcoal is placed at the bottom of the grill, and then lit. An intense heat is produced which can last for hours. Most charcoal grills have adjustable racks so that the distance between heat and food can be altered. As well, charcoal hibachis allow the cook to build a two-level fire, meaning that the heat on one side may be much less intense then the heat on the other side. This is perfect for keeping food warm, but not overcooking it (such as a finished hamburger). If space on the grill is an issue, secondary, or tiered grills can be added to accommodate more food.
Charcoal imparts a subtle taste to anything barbequed over it; many BBQ enthusiasts choose charcoal hibachis solely for this reason. The only downside is that it takes a bit of time to get used to cooking with charcoal. There will usually be one or two vents near the bottom of the hibachi which can be adjusted to regulate the heat. It can be a bit tricky to get used to, but with experimentation, this is easily overcome. Charcoal briquettes can also easily be disposed of, making them more environmentally-sound then empty propane tanks. Recommended: portable charcoal hibachi grills
Metal is the material of choice for hibachi manufacturers. It is highly durable, radiates heat better, and cooks more evenly. The most commonly used metals are cast iron and copper, but there is a growing trend towards aluminum. Beware, though… Cheaper aluminum models have been known to rust out in a very short period of time. BBQ experts suggest purchasing a solid cast iron model, as they are proven to last for numerous years. When it comes to metal hibachis, price will dictate quality.
Ceramic hibachis are generally used as decorative or heating pieces, but may have a grill placed over top for rustic cooking. The design of ceramic hibachis has not changed much since early Japan and China; a deep bowl, tapering out at the top. These hibachis have a reputation for beauty and elegance, and are considered to be more like art pieces than practical cooking devices. Antique dealers run a lucrative trade by selling older ceramic hibachis, with some going for many thousands of dollars. A ceramic hibachi makes a great addition to an outdoor patio or deck, providing comfort, warmth, and a place to roast marshmallows.
Cooking with a Hibachi
Due to the small size and intense heat produced by a hibachi, the first and foremost rule when cooking is to use smaller food items, such as thin strips of meat, hamburgers, or kabobs. This is absolutely imperative because the food will either be burnt to a crisp on the outside, or not cooked fully on the inside.
Grilling on a hibachi offers many cooking options. The grill is perfect for searing meat, and if the fire is built properly, plenty of space can be devoted to slow grilling or roasting.
Small strips of meat, usually beef or pork, cook especially well on a hibachi. The strips are laid perpendicular to the grill pattern and left to cook for about two minutes on each side, depending on the intensity of the fire. This method is a wonderful treat for a family dinner. By placing the hibachi in the middle of the table, everybody gets to try their hand at being chef.
Kabobs are also ideal for cooking on a hibachi, with poultry being the meat of choice. The key to a perfect hibachi-cooked kabob is to marinate it in a sweet and sour sauce for 6 – 8 hours, then allow for about five to seven minutes of cooking time on both sides, less if no meat is involved. Again, cooking time will depend on the intensity of the heat. Make sure to keep a steady rate of heat, or cooking times may be thrown out of proportion.
It is important to have a grill with numerous slats, as this will help to eliminate food drippings and prevent food from falling into the charcoal or burners. As well, regulation of the heat produced will ensure safe cooking. Always make sure that meat products are cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Any surfaces coming into contact with poultry should be washed before further use to avoid cross-contamination.
For a treat, take the family out to a restaurant that specializes in hibachi grilling. Professional hibachi cooks pay as much attention to the artistry of their work as they do to cooking the food. Some of these restaurants will have a hibachi grill in the centre of the table, and waiters will simply serve drinks and raw meat, allowing their guest to cook for themselves. This is a unique dining experience.
Taste Advantages of Cooking on a Hibachi
For many BBQ enthusiasts, the hibachi offers the most flavorful experience. The grill in the hibachi is located much nearer to the heat source than in other types of barbeques. This allows for two distinct advantages: A charcoal hibachi will have a much greater impression on the overall taste of the food product, and food will be cooked swiftly, capturing much of the natural taste. There's nothing like a Sizzling Steak cooked on a charcoal hibachi
Another taste advantage is the versatility of products which can be prepared on a hibachi. Due to this, each successive dish conveys a taste of the one before it, resulting in a flavour delight. With careful planning, barbequed ambrosia can be obtained!
But the simplest and most profound taste advantage of a hibachi grill is the ambiance. Hibachi grills are social items, recalling weekend gatherings, camping trips, friends and family. Nothing tastes better than food enjoyed with loved ones.
Charcoal – How is it made?
The charcoal used to produce heat in a hibachi starts life as wood. This wood is piled in a conical fashion and then burned in carefully-controlled conditions, allowing only a certain amount of oxygen to enter. Iron retorts are used to house this woodpile. At 300 degrees Celsius, the wood turns into a soft, brown substance that readily inflames anew at 380 degrees Celsius.
Sold as briquettes, charcoal burns hotter and cleaner then wood. These briquettes have additives, such as wax and lighter fluid, to assist in binding them together and to make them easier to light.
Buying a Charcoal Grill
When buying a hibachi grill, it is important to consider many factors:
Is it easy to clean?
The first and foremost feature a hibachi should possess is an easy way to clean it. Having to repeatedly tip the grill over to remove the briquettes will become tiresome over time. Try to purchase a hibachi grill that has an easy clean-out mechanism, such as a removable bottom tray.
Durability should be the selling point of the hibachi in question. The barbeque should be of cast iron, steel, or high-grade aluminium, and should be of a good thickness. As mentioned earlier, shoddily-made hibachis have a habit of rusting out in the bottom. A hibachi should be thought of as a long-term investment… do not be afraid to spend a little more for quality.
An adjustable grill is essential for a hibachi. By lowering or raising the grill, heat intensity can be easily controlled. One important note: be sure that the grill can be easily accessed while the charcoal is burning. In the case of food igniting or searing too swiftly, a faster response may save dinner.
A Reputable Dealer
Caveat Emptor! Be sure to do some sleuthing around on the internet before deciding on a hibachi. The simple fact of the matter is that a reputable company generally means a higher-quality product. And in the case of breakage or other problems, a reputable dealer will certainly have an extensive customer support network equipped to handle the buyer’s needs more adequately than a smaller, less renowned company. As well, be sure to contact the company before you purchase the hibachi, either by phone or in writing. Many companies can claim they sell reputable products, but words can be warped. Personal communication will ease any apprehension associated with the purchase.
Safely Using a Hibachi
Like any product utilizing heat or flames, hibachi barbeques should be treated with respect. Safe usage will prevent injuries.
Place the hibachi on a sturdy surface – a flat, level surface will keep the hibachi from rocking or wobbling when food is turned on it. The briquettes in a charcoal hibachi could prove dangerous if the grill were to turn over.
Use in an open space – Make sure to choose a cooking area with plenty of ventilation and with no trees or shrubbery overhead. Also make sure to not wear loose clothing while cooking on a hibachi, as hanging strings or baggy pants can easily ignite.
Keep a bucket of water at hand – Should the hibachi tip over or the food light on fire, quick action will hinder any major damage. Always be prepared by filling a bucket with water before the hibachi is lit.