Light up the yakitori grill for food, fun, and friends!
Yakiniku means "grilled meat" in Japanese, and the definition is as broad as you'd expect. It includes beef, chicken, and pork; it can be made indoors or out; on a charcoal grill, a gas grill, an electric grill, or in a pan on a burner on the stove in your kitchen.
When I say "yakiniku" on this site, I mean meats grilled on tabletop grills and cooked with Japanese flavors and/or methods. But I'm not trying to teach you how to recreate an authentic Japanese restaurant experience at home as much as share with you some crowd-pleasing recipes, tips for using your tabletop grill/konro, and inspiring you with some awesome ideas for tabletop cooking parties centered around the grill.
I've noticed that a lot of us English speakers confuse some of the Japanese words for different dishes and styles of cooking. I’ll explain them here, but you don’t need to memorize any of this to make delicious food. I hope knowing what these terms mean will help you find the information and recipes you want.
Yakimono means "grilled things" and includes meats and vegetables cooked on the grill or fried in a pan. It's not very commonly used in English. Confusingly, it can also mean ceramics, as in "fired things."
Yakiniku means grilled meat and includes beef, chicken, pork, and seafood cut and grilled in bite-sized pieces. The definition usually includes all kinds of food grilled on a Japanese barbecue grill or with Japanese glazes and condiments. It's closely related to Korean barbecue; think of it as a kind of Japanese bulgogi. Delicious!
Yakitori skewers grilling on our little konro
Yakitori specifically means "grilled chicken," but it’s so ubiquitous that many people use "yakitori" for all Japanese barbecue dishes, particularly meat skewers. You and your friends can grill up some skewers on a yakitori grill.
Teppanyaki means "iron-plate grilling." It’s standard fare in Japan and other countries in Asia, the kind of place you'd stop in for lunch or after a night at the bar. In the United States, however, diners expect the chefs to put on an impressive circus act, tossing bits of meat into open mouths from a yard away, building volcanoes out of onion rings, and dipping everything in an addictive mayonnaise-based sauce. You can make teppanyaki at home, without the showmanship, on a tabletop teppanyaki grill or on the cast-iron grilling surface of your raclette grill.
Hibachi actually refers to an old-school heater used in Japan in the days before electricity. Somehow, as Japanese cuisine and cooking appliances gained popularity in the United States a few decades ago, the word was used in English to refer to the large steel grills used in teppanyaki restaurant and the food cooked on those grills, as well as small, portable cast-iron grills like the Lodge hibachi.
At The Tabletop Cook, we're mostly interested in the tabletop grills and recipes for them, so our tips and recipes will refer to cast-iron, clay, electric, and gas tabletop grills. To make matters more confusing, these little grills are actually called konro or shichirin in Japanese.I also bought my clay konro grill on Amazon
Teriyaki means "shiny broiled" in Japanese and refers to the glossy finish on glazed and grilled meats and vegetables. The sheen is produced by the sugary teriyaki sauce, which is really easy to make at home, but can also be found already-made at grocery stores. It's so easy to mix up a batch, brush it on some chicken, and grill up dinner with friends.
Here's my family hamming it up at my request.
Some of my favorite online stores might have just what you need for your next tabletop meal!
Asian Food Grocer has a great selection of essential ingredients and many hard-to-find items.
Cilantro Cook Shop has a great selection of quality raclette and fondue sets.
For The Gourmet has an amazing selection of cheeses and chocolates.
Sephra specializes in chocolate, caramel and fruit fondues... and fountains.