A yakitori grill is any kind of grill you can use to cook yakitori, which is Japanese for "grilled chicken." However, the word is often used to refer to any kind of Japanese barbecue on skewers: meat, vegetable, or tofu.
I’ve explained the difference on this page between yakiniku, yakitori, teriyaki, and other words that trip up those of us who learned our Japanese from restaurant menus. (It would be easier and just as accurate if I told you they were all Japanese words for "delicious food.")
A homemade yakitori grill; photo by JobyOne
You don’t actually need a special grill to prepare yakitori. In fact, you can prepare it on a stove or in a broiler if that’s all you have.
In Japan, yakitori is often eaten as a street food cooked by vendors on small charcoal or gas grills. It’s usually sold as small marinated kebabs on bamboo skewers.
Street vendor preparing yakitori for a customer in Japan; Photo by Eryn Vorn
At yakitori restaurants, the grills are built right into the table or a server brings you a tabletop grill filled with roasting hot charcoal. Guests order raw meats and vegetables and cook them communally on the grill.
Yakitori can likewise be prepared at home on a small tabletop grill, charcoal, gas or electric. In Japanese, these grills are called "konro." Small clay charcoal grills specifically are called "shichirin." In English, these tabletop grills are sold as yakitori grills, yakiniku grills, or hibachi grills.
Photo by yoppy
At our house, we use the Fire Sense small yakitori charcoal grill for yakitori, yakiniku and other Japanese barbecue dishes, as well as Korean barbecue, Chinese barbecue, hamburgers, hot dogs, and steaks. Basically, you and your friends can cook just about whatever you like on it.
If you have a charcoal grill, never use it inside because it gives off deadly carbon monoxide gas. In restaurants where charcoal grills are used, industrial ventilation systems keep the fresh air circulating. Don’t light it inside!
An electric tabletop grill also makes a good yakitori or yakiniku grill and is safe to use inside. Prepare your favorite yakitori/yakiniku recipe and just cook it up on the electric grill. Any sauce or fat that drips off the meat or vegetables will be burnt off by the heating element under the grill grate. You can also prepare yakitori, yakiniku, and teppanyaki on the cast-iron grill plate of a raclette grill.
Our electric tabletop grill, good for Japanese or Korean barbecue
You can also use a gas tabletop grill to prepare yakitori, or cook it in a pan on a portable gas burner. The main thing is having the cooking unit right there on the table within everyone’s reach, so that everyone can enjoy cooking together and sharing the meal.
Or check our full recipe index for even more ideas!
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.