If you've been following MasterChef Australia 2020 closely, you would have noticed the contestants taking out the hibachi grill in almost every episode. We get it though — there's nothing like giving your food that smoky, charred flavour that tastes legendary. In good news, there's A LOT of stuff you can cook on it, and we have a few recipes to get you started including a DIY guide to making you very own hibachi grill (because why not).
What is a hibachi grill?
A hibachi grill is a Japanese heating device called shichirin which translates to 'fire bowl'. It differs from your usual Aussie grill such as the Weber for the way it stores and distributes heat. It is both small and portable and perfect for homes that have limited space outdoors.
Although a bit pricey, binchotan, a pure high carbon charcoal made from oak, is great for cooking your food on the hibachi grill. According to Chefs Armoury, unlike lump charcoal and briquettes, binchotan is completely odourless and keeps the natural flavours of the food intact.
How to make your own hibachi grill
The YouTube video (below) from Eater on making a Japanese yakitori grill aka hibachi grill is perfect even for an indoor setting but only if the space is well ventilated. Watch the video for a step-by-step guide but here's what Clifford Endo says you'll need to buy (and why) to get started.
First up is getting two square planters of different sizes that are unglazed (as shown in the video) in order to rig a yakitori station that can live on your dining room table. The planters will have to fit nicely into each other.
You'll need an aluminium sheet to fit over the holes in the planters to stand temperatures that are very hot. Next, you'll need to create an insulation which will work as a heat barrier from the actual source of heat. It's as simple as getting playground sand from your local hardware store.
It's important to get the right charcoal, especially if you're going to use the grill indoors. As explained above, binchotan is what you need to get. Even though it's very high heat, it's long lasting and gives out very low smoke. Even when fat drips on it, it doesn't flare up.
Because it's expensive and sometimes difficult to find, you can alternatively use thaan, a Thai charcoal, which is made from fruit wood and has similar qualities as binchotan.
Although not specifically mentioned in the video, get a grill top so that you can grill things like a full piece of steak or an entire cucumber. Otherwise, you can just use skewers if you're opting for food items like minced meat kebabs or chicken shish tawook.
*Disclaimer: When you're using the DIY hibachi grill, make sure to place the grill on top of a heat resistant surface to avoid any form of cracking.
For a more permanent, outdoor setting you can play around with the materials you use. Perhaps use fire bricks to set up a hibachi grill in your garden - the normal kind will crack, flake, and eventually fall apart from the heating and cooling. You can follow this guide from Food Wishes to help you out.
Where to buy a hibachi grill
If the DIY method isn't your style, you can buy a hibachi grill instead. Simple.
Visit Catch.com.au to buy the hibachi BBQ table grill (round) for $79.
Alternatively, you can visit Ebay to buy a large hibachi grill in gold for $129. This is a good option if you have a big household and you like grilling frequently.
Here's what you can cook on a hibachi grill
The most common foods you'll find being cooked on hibachi grills are meats including beef, prawns, fish, quail and all sorts of vegetables. The key things to play around with is how long you cook your food for (no one wants a rubbery, overcooked prawn or a well-done slice of beef) and how to amplify the flavours with more than just the basic salt and pepper seasoning.
If you're struggling for ideas and would like to do something a bit different, here are a few recipes you can use to get going to enhance the flavours of your meal even they don't explicitly mention being cooked on the hibachi grill. Otherwise, watch MasterChef Australia (Sunday to Thursday) and you're going to bursting with your own ideas.
Tadashi's Grilled Tomatoes This recipe from Saveur uses ripe tomatoes which are grilled with a soy marinade for an umami-rich flavour. Mitsuba, a Japanese relative of parsley, adds a mild freshness to the dish. Visit Saveur for the full recipe
Hibachi-Style Steak This recipe from The Spruce Eats starts on the grill to enhance the flavour of the steak and finishes in a yummy soy-ginger sauce. It's a great option for dinner. Visit The Spruce Eats for the full recipe
Balsamic, Honey Roasted Cabbage Steaks This a winner of a side dish from Eat Well 101 to go along with your meat. The cabbage is brushed with a sweet-savory balsamic and honey glaze, and although the recipe mentions broiling them in the oven, the hibachi grill is perfect to give it that charred finish. Visit Eat Well 101 for the full recipe
Japanese Grilled Chicken Meatballs This is another recipe from Saveur that you're going to love. The chicken and ginger meatballs are dressed with sweet and salty sauce. Visit Saveur for the full recipe
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