Foods grill best on the hibachi when they're cut in small pieces.

How to Cook With an Hibachi Barbecue

by Fred Decker

Hibachis are small, portable charcoal grills, traditionally used for cooking and for heat in China and Japan. They use a relatively small amount of charcoal compared to larger American-style kettle barbecues, but produce the same intense cooking temperatures. They work best with kebabs and small pieces of meat, vegetables and poultry, but they're also suitable for traditional family fare such as hamburgers and hot dogs.

Build a small pyramid of charcoal in the hibachi. Lift the grate or remove, according to your model. If your model is divided into two smaller fire bowls for coals, you can choose to fill one or both, depending on the size of your meal.

Slide open the draft at the bottom of your hibachi, and light the coals with an electric barbecue lighter, a solid fire starter or liquid fire starter. Wait until the charcoal has fully ignited and subsided into a bed of pale gray coals with an even coat of ash on the top.

Replace or lower your hibachi's grates, according to your model. Lay your meats, vegetables, fish or skewers on top.

Control the cooking speed by raising and lowering the grates, if your hibachi has multiple heights. Otherwise, you can increase and decrease the heat moderately by opening and closing the draft at the bottom of the hibachi.

Turn your foods when the first side is well-browned and they're visibly cooked on bottom. Continue cooking until the pieces are done, basting occasionally with a sauce if you wish.

Items you will need

  • Charcoal
  • Electric barbecue lighter, solid fire starter or liquid fire starter
  • Pan spray (optional)
  • Meats, vegetables, fish, poultry or kebabs as desired


  • If the coals are still burning when you're done with your meal, cut sticks and let the kids toast marshmallows or make s'mores for dessert. It's great fun for the kids, and means no extra work or cleanup for you.


  • If you use a starter, be sure to let the fumes burn off before you begin cooking so foods won't have an unpleasant chemical flavor.
  • Burning charcoal gives off carbon monoxide, so your hibachi should only be used outdoors. If you begin yawning, or if family members tell you you look flushed, you should walk away from the hibachi and set up a fan to help circulate the air.
  • Children should be kept away from the hibachi until they're old enough to understand the dangers of hot metal, and should not be permitted to play in the area while the hibachi is burning.
  • Never apply a nonstick cooking spray to a hot grill or near an open flame. To prevent sticking, lightly rub the grate of your hibachi with cooking oil before you light your coals.

About the Author

Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

Photo Credits

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