For those who find traditional North American barbecues too large and unwieldy, there are alternatives for a more intrinsic and intimate grilling experience. Perhaps you still want to use skewers yet do not want to get a full barbecue going.
Either charcoal or propane can take a long time to heat up and you may only want a small space to operate with.
Traditional barbecues can take some planning. From cleaning the grill to preparing the charcoals and giving them a few hours to get the temperature just right.
If you only want a limited space to work with, you may be seeing half the surface area going heated and unused.
All that preparation can take hours while a smaller grill can deliver a more tailored, exotic experience.
You can still grill meat and vegetables, yet there is one type of grill that is designed especially for petite skewers of chicken that are brushed with a wonderfully flavored glaze.
Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? There are several Japanese food trends that we know and love. You can say that for sushi and ramen yet what about Yakitori?
Yakitori grilling is well worth trying at home and there are many grills available. In this guide, we will review and rank five of the best ones out there.
If you prefer your grilling without propane tanks or charcoal, then go electric with the Zojirushi EB-DLC10 Indoor Electric Grill. This is a tidy, compact design that can still impress by directing the oil from your food which could be important when cooking meats.
With less oil, you can enjoy some deliciously clean and healthy food. You can even vary the heat by simply going from low (176°F) to high (410°F) simply by turning the knob.
Most of the ease with which you can grill with this design comes from the ceramic nonstick surface that can deal with all types of food.
The 1500-watt heating element also helps by producing an even heat distribution.
Even without charcoal, there may still be some smoke so best to keep the doors closed and the ventilation on when cooking indoors. However, once you are finished grilling, the grill can be easily stored so it won’t dominate your cooking area.
Also Available At: Zojirushi
At 32 inches in length, the Party Griller Yakitori Grill is ideal for large dinner parties and provides a large enough surface area to rival a traditional barbecue. That’s the length yet the 11 inches in width is also well measured.
Just enough space to ensure that your wooden skewers hang delectably on the edge keeping the ends intact while the meat grills. Turn them over with ease and enjoy how well-cooked each skewer is.
The charcoal-holding grill sits at the bottom and should prove durable as the ashes are far enough away from the burning hot charcoal.
Even if it does get a little too hot, the airflow and heat can be controlled by the air ventilation design that is available on the top and bottom end of the grill.
Stainless steel is also one of the more effective materials to grill with and proves rust-proof and warp-proof while remaining light enough to be effortlessly portable.
If you have had a traditional charcoal barbecue then this should prove a simple design to work with.
Also Available At: Party Griller
If you are looking for a tabletop grill for the occasional meal between two people then the Noto Dia Table-top Charcoal Grill should be top of your shopping list.
This is a Yakitori grill that comes with character that will undoubtedly make your grilling experience truly unforgettable each time you use it. Simply by looking at each inch of its design, you can see the artistry of skilled professionals.
From the Chinese characters that cover the diatomaceous earth shell to the appreciation that stains or discoloration adds to the grill’s identity.
You could also expect the grill to be featured in many Japanese restaurants, such as the exceptional design, and it is.
In your home, it should be noted that not only does the grill merely weigh 4.8 pounds, but the 11.4 by 6.3 inches of surface area can also cook enough skewers for a romantic dinner without wasting too much space.
When off on a trip, you may want a gas grill that you can set up quickly. The NOMADIQ Portable Propane Gas Grill can be set up in less than a minute by just unlocking it, then connecting to your propane tank, and pushing the ignition to start grilling.
Make sure that your skewers are ready to go on with all your meat and vegetables as 10,000 BTU can come from dual burners for a spacious grill that has an even heat distribution.
There is also versatility as you can use just one of the grilling sides as they can be used separately. If you do decide to use both sides, you have 226 square inches to work with.
This is a durable design too with a steel, powder-coated finish construction that still only weighs 12 pounds. Even in the most challenging conditions, the grill comes with cast-iron grill plates to stand up to the outdoors
Also Available At: Nomadiq
For a traditional style grill, you should opt for an unfired-clay construction. One of the best designs comes from Fire Sense and their Large Yakitori Grill has a cooking surface that measures 17 x 10 inches.
More than enough to experiment with whatever meat and vegetables you want to grill. That size is easily portable too with a stand that includes handles so you can move it indoors for an intimate grilling experience.
Safety clips also ensure that the grill and your food remain in place and do not spillover. Though there may always be smoke and certainly delicious smells, the four adjustable ventilation doors are there to let you control the heat.
The ceramic inner lining means for even cooking and the unfired clay showcases that gorgeous authentic look. Simply keep it dry and you can be entertaining guests with it for years.
Also Available At: Fire Sense
Our love for grilled foods likely goes back to before prehistoric times. Over time, grilling has become more sophisticated with the available materials and fuel sources.
While some grills may still be designed using authentic unfired clay, you can also get stainless steel designs for durability and then choose from propane, electric, and charcoal.
Whatever material, simply creating a skewer of meat, onions, peppers, and tomatoes then placing it on a hot grill is such a familiar thing to do on a barbecue.
While we may be aware of satay from Thailand which is food that is dipped in a peanut sauce then grilled, in Japan, they do things a little differently.
Yaki means grilled and tori means chicken and the best Yakitori grills are ideal for glazed, grilled chicken that should not take that long.
Despite the specificity in the name, you can use Yakitori grills for all sorts of meat and vegetable combinations though it does work incredibly well with chicken.
It is more about how you use the space, rather than feeling limited by chicken as these grills are designed for wooden skewers. The process of cooking on a Yakitori grill is typically to grill the meat and vegetables on a relatively low heat over slow-burning Binchotan charcoal.
The smaller size should mean you can move the skewers on the grill without burning your fingers while the skewers should stay intact from the heat. You can still cram several skewers onto a Yakitori grill which should mean it can prove ideal for entertaining guests.
A lot of the variation for the cooking comes from the type of dipping sauces used on the chicken, though you can also use beef and pork. You can try rice wine or soy sauce for your twist on a delicious piece of grilled meat off a skewer.
While the Japanese tend to frequent Yakitori places on the street, you can use your Yakitori grill in the backyard or even indoors, perhaps with a gas or electric yakitori grill.
This can mean a fun grilling experience with tasty, flavorful, and healthy finger food.
Let’s take a look at some of the features you want to consider when purchasing your Yakitori grill.
Yakitori grills should be relatively easy to use as they come with such a simple design. There are features to look out for which can make it even easier including foldable legs, built-in fans, an electric fuel source, and large handles.
Typically, a Yakitori grill does not require a huge amount of maintenance as it can be cleaned easily and set up quickly. Some grills may prove difficult to clean yet some of the stains simply add to the grill’s character.
The typical fuel type for a Yakitori grill is top-grade Binchotan charcoal which is made in Japan specifically for barbecues.
Binchotan is made from Japanese oak which is known for its excellent properties as natural charcoal which can also be referred to as ‘white charcoal’.
When used in a Yakitori grill, the Binchotan can still produce a familiar charcoal flavor that you would expect from a barbecue, with a hint of some soy sauce.
Such ‘white charcoal’ is typically produced from hardwoods such as coffee trees and oak wood.
These hardwoods go through a hydrolysis process and unique charcoal carbonization before being covered in ash, sand, and soil for their particular white color.
Coal that has a high carbon content should burn better and purer. You may soon note the difference between using Binchotan charcoal with typical charcoal briquettes in how it burns and for how long.
The white charcoal burns well in a Yakitori grill which relies on clean and hot cooking in such a small grill.
If you are struggling to locate Binchotan charcoal then good lump charcoal will also work well though typical briquettes will contain chemicals that can contaminate your food.
Should you want to get enough use out of your Yakitori grill then ensure you get a decent supply of Binchotan charcoal.
For an alternative to Binchotan charcoal, you can find an electric grill that uses a heating element for that reliable heat. You will not have to worry about lighting up charcoal then waiting for it to hit a designated temperature.
Just push the button and the grill should hit up fairly quickly. While Binchotan charcoal benefits your cooking when fat drips onto the hot coals and delivers smoke, you would need a drip tray to deal with any grease or oil from your meat and vegetables.
Most Yakitori grills are small in size and light in weight so they should be easy to carry and transport around.
Several manufacturers have developed their Yakitori grills to be available in different sizes so you could find one for occasional use while still finding one for a large dinner party.
A Yakitori grill should weigh between 4 pounds (1.8kg) for a petite model and 46 pounds (20.9kg) for a large model which you may not want to transport.
Yakitori grills tend to be smaller than most which make them ideal for taking to campfires and on road trips. A lot of grills tend to come with handles too which should make them easier to hold.
Especially if you are carrying a large amount of charcoal underneath your grill. Some of the joy in a Yakitori grill comes from bringing it with you on trips as they are so easy to transport then set up.
The Japanese are known for their use of natural materials such as clay which may make for an eye-catching yet traditional design though make sure you keep it dry.
One stunning design comes from Noto Dia Shichirin Hida Konro which includes Chinese characters on the earthen walls of the grill that would look great in your backyard, whatever the occasion.
However, for durability, you can always go for another material such as stainless steel which will also be relatively easy to look after and still easy to transport. The heaviest of all materials that a Yakitori grill can come in is going to be ceramic.
Ceramic works as a material for a Yakitori grill as it proves to be such a great conduit for heat and has excellent heat retention properties.
The material should be handled carefully as it is considered fragile though treated well it should last for a long time.
A typically quaint Yakitori grill design is handmade from clay as it absorbs heat then radiates it well.
If you wanted your grill to have a traditional construction then either clay or ceramic should retain that rustic and authentic Japanese look. The only concern is cleaning it as you cannot get it too moist or wet.
As well as being susceptible to rust, metal or stainless steel grills are prone to scratches and are not as great at heat retention when compared to clay or ceramic.
The metal materials do prove more sustainable for long trips and transport though maybe more temperamental when grilling low and slow.
The size of your yakitori grill can largely depend on the number of people you are entertaining. For a dinner party, several units include a large grilling area fit for dozens of kebabs for all your guests.
A tabletop grill will be one of the smaller models which are great for romantic meals for two while a rectangular model will be more ideal for more people.
There are various metal cooking surfaces to choose from, each with its properties. The most popular surfaces tend to be chrome, stainless steel, or iron grates.
At the top end of the budget will be chrome-plated grates for their durability.
However, stainless steel is also relatively easy-to-clean without the worry of rust at a lower price. Iron grates may need more care as would need to be dried completely after washing to prevent rust.
The traditional shape of a Yakitori grill is narrow and long to fit the dimensions of your many skewers when lined up against each other. The grills themselves are relatively small in size so should be easy to fit in a cabinet and store away.
These grills are also increasingly portable so you should be able to take them with you on a camping trip instead of a barbecue for a lightweight grill. However, if you did want to cook a wider variety of foods then you may want a grill with a larger size.
The sizes of Yakitori grills can vary wildly. For a small one, you can expect a size of as little as 12 to 17 inches in length. Medium-sized Yakitori grills tend to range from 18 to 24 inches in length with large sizes ranging from 25 to 31 inches long.
Extra-long grills tend to be any that measure over 32 inches in length and you could find one that is even over 36 inches long.
As with any grill, an element of ventilation and airflow is ideal for the Binchotan charcoal to fire. There are Yakitori grills that contain adjustable vents so you can control the amount of airflow when you need to.
Other grills will simply have a few holes on the front and rear of the grill which allow for airflow yet these are not adjustable.
For using your Yakitori grill indoors, you would need at least three or four vents as there is naturally less ventilation indoors compared to outdoors.
When using your Yakitori grill outdoors, only small holes are necessary with the increased airflow. If you were worried about the lack of airflow then you could just use a small fan to blow some air into the charcoal fire to increase the heat.
Get your last-minute questions answered here!
The traditional Yakitori grills were designed for cooking chicken (Yaki means grilled and tori means chicken) but their versatility has since developed. Though it may not be as intended, you can also cook beef and pork, as well as vegetables, on your Yakitori grill.
However, the main use of a yakitori grill is the dripping as it drops from the meat onto the white-hot charcoal to create flavor-infused smoke. This smoke then filters back into the meat or vegetables to add even more flavor complexity.
If you want to create a truly memorable dinner party experience or a romantic dinner for two then bring the Yakitori grill indoors. You should be pleasantly surprised at how little smoke the grill can typically produce despite its high heat.
Allow your guests to prepare their own meal and meats from their tabletop grill. Japanese restaurants do feature Yakitori grills and these will be kept indoors, even if it does mean a deliciously smoky interior.
Compared to other barbecue grills, a Yakitori grill can cook on a mere 200 to 250˚F. This is largely done by using specific white coal known as Binchō-tan, also known as white charcoal.
The coals are made from hardwood, such as oak, to provide a long burning time which can be between four and five hours. Such a svelte design can prove an intimate grilling experience.
The most important tool that you should consider to go with your Yakitori grill is a ready supply of Binchotan charcoal which will be the ideal fuel source.
Bamboo skewers are also essential for that quintessentially Japanese grilling and to fill with your favorite meat and vegetable combinations.
You may also need a collapsible charcoal chimney fire starter to get those coals going and a Japanese fan, known as an uchiwa, to improve the airflow. Once you are finished grilling, you could also use a scrubbing brush to get it clean and ready for next time.
There are some typical Japanese seasonings and sauces that you should find to enjoy your Yakitori grill.
These include tare which is a soy sauce-based sauce used for basting. Then there is the Japanese salt known as shio, yuzu kosho which are chilies, and yuzu zest.
You could also hope to use shichimi togarashi which is a seven-spice powder with some added hemp seed. Finally, try to find some sansho which is a citrusy powdered Sichuan peppercorn.
As with any grill, the quality of the meat is all-important when you get to cook it. If the chicken meat is too fatty then you may find it too smoky when you get to start cooking.
You can also experiment with various meats or vegetables on your Yakitori grill so you do not feel restricted with just chicken.
Should you want to use other parts of the chicken then you could use chicken tail (bonjiri), chicken thigh (momo), chicken heart (hāto/hatsu), and chicken gizzard (sunagimo).
In terms of vegetables, you could try to find a shishito, which is a mild pepper and Shiitake mushroom. There are other meats you could try too which include pork belly (butabara), beef tongue (gyutan), and wagyu which is highly marbled beef.
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