Yakitori is a Japanese dish traditionally involving skewered meat cooked on a Japanese Yakitori grill. This traditional Japanese plate is then served as a kabob.
The traditional dish was not always welcomed in Japan. Based on an article published by the Japan Times, yakitori was considered a distasteful dish, a taboo food, but later became a typical dish in Japan and the US.
Yakitori grills are fun small grills meant to cook skewers on a tabletop. Besides their Japanese origins and purpose, these grills are also portable, available in charcoal and electric models, and can be used outdoors and indoors.
So if you are looking for a new fun dish to share with your friends and family or want a small portable indoor grill for your kitchen, these yakitori grills are a great option. A Yakitori grill can unlock the door to learning new Japanese cuisine-inspired recipes and add a great cooking grill for home grilling or an add-on to your outdoor kitchen.
Now that we know what this small but mighty cooking machine can do. Want to know which grill can bring Japanese yakitori flavor to your home? Let’s jump in and see the list of yakitori grills you can buy today.
What is a Yakitori Grill?
Yakitori translates to “grilled skewered chicken in Japanese.” It means grilled chicken but it is often associated with other foods and dishes in the United States.
Yakitori is grilled chicken skewers. You can find beef and other meats offered in Japanese restaurants as Yakitori menu options.
Yakitori grills are small, compact, and portable grills and suitable for most tabletops. A traditional Yakitori is only a few inches long, but there are bigger Yakitori available. Yakitori grills do not operate as a typical charcoal grill does. These grills are meant to prepare small dishes and thin cuts of meat that don’t require much heat and time to cook well.
A good yakitori grill has a few fundamental features. First off, you want to make sure your grill is rectangular but compact. A rectangle shape will allow for the most efficient use of the surface area when preparing your skewers. Yakitori is prepared and served tabletop, so you don’t want a grill that’s too big.
Traditional Japanese grills can be used inside as these are small and burn charcoal. This type of charcoal burns extremely clean, is very hot, and light up red like a glow stick. Of course, use caution and make sure you are using your kitchen’s hood to exhaust any charcoal carbon fumes or are in a well-ventilated room. I wouldn’t suggest using any charcoal grill indoors. If you really want to use your Yakitori inside, look into an electric grill.
If you opt for an electric tabletop grill, your indoor cooking experience will be much more comfortable and cleaner.
How to Choose A yakitori grill and Features You should look for
A great Yakitori grill has a few key features. First off, you want to make sure your grill is rectangular but compact. A rectangle shape will allow for the most efficient use of the cooking surface area when grilling your skewers. Yakitori is prepared and served at the table, so you don’t want a grill that’s too big.
Given that yakitori grills are mainly used for grilling skewers, I prefer the long, traditional yakitori grills as these fit skewers better than square or round grills. Think in advance about the type of cooking or meals you will be preparing to ensure you pick a grill with a cooking surface area that fits your needs. A good-size grilling surface should be able to feed 2 to 4 people.
Traditionally, Yakitori is grilled and served at the table, so you don’t want a grill that’s too big. Yakitori grills are meant to be used as a tabletop cooking grill. These grills are all about entertaining. Some of these grills do not offer many square inches of cooking space but pay attention to the size specs to be sure the grill’s size will work for you.
Take your time, prepare some great skewers, bring them to the table, and let everyone take a turn at cooking their skewers to their liking. This is a lot of fun but make sure you don’t buy a Japanese grill that is too big. You need some table space for drinks!
These are small grills and you might think that moving them around or transporting these small giants to the beach is easy but think again. Some of these grills such as the Fire Sense are made out of clay and other materials that can easily crack or break if dropped.
If you consider transporting your grill around, take it on camping trips or hiking; consider something made of steel, not clay or stone like the Fire Sense.
Build Materials Found In Yakitori Grills
We prefer ceramic Yakitori grills as ceramic is an excellent heat conduit and does a great job with heat retention. Although a small ceramic Japanese style grill might be fragile, it will not rust and last you years. Think about ceramic kamado grills. Ceramic is very heat resistant and does well with heat retention.
Some Yakitori Charcoal grills are handmade out of clay, which absorbs and radiates heat well. A Ceramic and Clay grill resembles the original and traditional Japanese grills of the past. If you are trying to enhance your cooking area’s aesthetics, a clay or ceramic-built grill will bring a more authentic Japanese look. Clay is also heat resistant.
Metal or Stainless Steel
Metal or stainless grills work great but are more susceptible to rust, scratches and will not do as great as ceramic when grilling low and slow. However, keep in mind that certain materials will increase the cost of any grill. If you plan to take your grill backpacking or camping trips, metal or stainless steel grills will hold up better than a clay grill. One drop, and you just got yourself and nice plant pot, if you get that lucky.
What kind of charcoal do you use for Yakitori grills?
The best charcoal for yakitori grills is good-grade Japanese Binchotan BBQ charcoal. Japanese Binchotan BBQ charcoal is made from Japanese Oak, known to produce high-quality 100% natural charcoal. Yakitori grilling is similar to cooking with a larger barbecue charcoal grill and produces that familiar charcoal flavor with a touch of soy sauce.
What makes yakitori grilling work has to do in part with using binchotan.
Binchotan charcoal is also referred to as “White Charcoal.”
What is white charcoal?
White charcoal is produced by the hydrolysis of hardwoods such as oak wood and coffee trees. This charcoal carbonization process is unique, and white-hot coals are removed and put into the earth, sand, and wet ash. This process yields coal high in carbon content, meaning a purer, better-burning coal.
Using this type of charcoal to cook in a Yakitori grill is not only preferred but recommended for yakitori cooking. White charcoal burns thoroughly, clean and hot, which is essential when cooking in these small grills. Your grill will not have a lot of charcoal area, so using it efficiently is vital.
If you don’t have access to white charcoal or binchontan charcoal, you can use lump charcoal or even briquettes. However, keep in mind that binchontan charcoal will burn the cleanest, good lump charcoal will work well but might not be as efficient, and briquettes can have chemicals that will contaminate your food.
Electric Yakitori Grill
Electric grills use a heating element to produce heat and cook your food. Unlike charcoal grills, electric grills do not require you to light up charcoal and wait. Instead, you push a button, and the grill is on.
You will also have to deal with a catch tray to catch grease and oils just like any electric grill or smoker.
Can you use a Yakitori grill inside?
Well, Yes and No
You can use electric small grills inside, exercising caution since you are cooking food, and just like with your home stove, supervision is required. However, electric small grills are safer to use indoors than charcoal grills.
Top Yakitori Grills Ranked and Reviewed
1. Fire Sense Large Yakitori Charcoal Grill – Best Overall
The Fire Sense Large Yakitori Grill resembles classic Japanese tabletop grills and is handmade using ceramic. This is a larger tabletop Japanese yakitori charcoal grill ideal for cooking skewered meats, grilled chicken, and vegetables tabletop.
Japanese chefs for years have preferred ceramic to build cooking girls. The kamado ceramic grills originated from Japan, and we all know how useful, versatile, and efficient those grills are. The Fire Sense Large grill is an excellent clay grill with many practical features. This grill includes a one-year guarantee and 157 square inches of cooking surface.
We like that the grill grate clicks in place for added safety, and the ceramic material distributes heat well. We also like the adjustable ventilation system in this grill as it helps to control and manage heat when things fear up a bit.
What we like:
- Compact and portable tabletop Grill.
- Large surface, good square inches, giving you cooking flexibility.
- Adjustable ventilation windows allow you to control the heat.
- One year satisfaction guarantee
- Classic Japanese craftsmanship
What we don’t like:
- This grill is built out of clay. It is delicate and does not like to get wet!
- This grill can easily crack if exposed to the elements.
- This grill is a delicacy and meant for table entertaining, use with care.
- The grate is chrome plated; it will not stand well to high temperatures.
2. Livart LV-982 Electric Grill – Runner up
The Livart LV-982 is an electric Yakitori grill. Instead of charcoal, this grill uses an electric heating element with a total power output of 1450 watts. This grill is excellent for those wanting to cook indoors.
The Livart electric grill is simple to use and does not require any assembly. Just plug in the grill to a power outlet and press the on button. This grill is made using metal and includes a stainless steel grate, which should very well hold to time.
This grill has a collector tray, which will catch grease and other debris. It is easy to remove and clean.
What we like:
- Compact and portable design.
- Lightweight and easy to transport.
- Easy to clean removable tray.
- Electric grill – safer for indoor use
What we don’t like:
- The electric heating element can yield uneven heating.
- The heating element temperature in this grill is not adjustable. Temperature control can be challenging.
- Some users have reported this electric grill might not be powerful to cook certain foods.
- This is a portable grill, so the cooking area is small.
3. ISUMER Yakitori Charcoal Grill Barbecue Portable – great for outdoor use (portable)
This grill is not your traditional Yakitori grill, unlike most yakitori grills made from either clay or ceramic coating, this grill is made out of metal, but it follows the concept close enough. Nevertheless, its versatility and convenience make it worth including in this review. This, in my opinion, is a modern reproduction of a classic yakitori. This is a large yakitori charcoal grill offering 175 square inches of grilling area.
The ISUMER Charcoal grill is portable, offers many features, and is built to last. The detachable leg design means you can bring this grill with you anywhere you go. This is great for backpacking, tailgate parties, and camping.
Remember that these grills are small and will not cook a tomahawk steak perfectly as their cooking surface and charcoal area are small. However, it will cook many dishes well, especially Yakitori traditional meals.
The stainless steel is easy to clean and built from stainless steel means no rust and durability. The adjustable legs in this grill mean you can use this grill tabletop on the back of your pick up truck or set it on the ground.
What we like:
- A modern take on this style of grills using stainless steel great for Outdoor Grilling.
- Large yakatori charcoal grill can be used as a regular barbecue grill.
- The detachable leg design is very convenient and the foldable legs makes for easy transport and storage.
- This is a portable unit.
- This grill can be used as a conventional yakitori grill but also as a camping or backing grill.
- The adjustable legs give you good flexibility when setting this grill on uneven surfaces.
What we don’t like:
- This is not a traditional-looking Japanese grill.
- Some surfaces will get very hot.
4. The Bincho Grill GR915L Yakitori – Tabletop Charcoal Griller Japanese Style Robata, Binchotan 36 – Larger option
This is a beautiful-looking grill constructed of stainless steel with a wood base. This grill has an elegant small grill.
This Banchino Grill is built using high-quality stainless steel and can be used with Binchotan or lump charcoal. This grill looks beautiful, and the steel used to build this grill is of good quality. It will not rust.
It’s important to mention that this grill is meant to be used traditionally to cook chicken, vegetables, steak, and seafood on skewer bars. Please note that a stainless steel grate can be purchased separately, as well as the skewer bars. If you are only going to cook skewered meat on this grill, you do not need to purchase the grate.
This grill includes an extra aluminum insert for extra heat insulation. We like that no assembly is required, and this grill also has two adjustable vents for airflow, which help you control the coals and heat. The wood leg handles should stay cold to the touch while giving this grill a contemporary look.
What we like:
- High-grade stainless steel makes this grill looks fantastic, commercial-restaurant ready.
- Some assembly is required but not complicated.
- This girl has two ventilation windows, which is excellent for controlling heat and coal-burning rates.
What we don’t like:
- The stainless steel material can get a bit hot to the touch.
- This girl was built to be used with skewers sticks, which means no grill grate, but you can purchase one separately.
- This grill’s narrow design limits how you can arrange your food; it’s intended to be used with four and a half-inch skewer sticks.
5. Tabletop charcoal grill, Shichirin Hida Konro, with Wire mesh grill and Wooden base (Rectangular) – Great for table tops
This Yakitori Grill is as traditional as it gets. This grill is made in Japan, and it is built using traditional materials. This small grill has a beautiful Japanese design, but it also is fragile. Being constructed using traditional materials means that this grill is susceptible to cracks and damage if exposed to water.
If you are looking for a traditional looking grill and are not concerned with its traditional built meaning, it will crack if dropped and you can get damaged with water, this is a good option for you. This grill will look great as a tabletop, and it will enhance any theme or decorations related to Japanese culture. The grilling area is 70 square inches.
What we like:
- Beautiful traditional looks are great to enhance home decorations and Japanese themes.
- This grill is built from traditional materials, which means that it can radiate and retain heat efficiently.
- This is a charcoal grill, which means you can use it with binchotan.
- Made in Japan.
- Beautiful design.
What we don’t like:
- This handmade traditional Japanese charcoal grill is not cheap
- Its traditional build means that this grill can be fragile.
This Yakitori Grill also incorporates Japan’s traditional yakitori look. This is a charcoal grill, and you can use lump or white charcoal. This grill is easy to clean and can cook food pretty evenly.
The black bowl of this grill is built out of ceramic, but it also has a metal tray to hold your charcoal.
What we like:
- A good option for those wanting these small tabletop grills.
- Easy to clean
- Airflow holes
- Made of metal
What we don’t like:
- Small grill
- The charcoal tray can get very dirty.
How to Cook Yakitori at home
Yakitori is a Japanese skewered meat cooked on a grill and served as a kabob. The foundations of a good yakitori recipe are chicken, sweet soy sauce, and seasoning which can be a simple mix of salt and pepper. You can create your own concoctions of herbs and sauces too including rice wine dipping sauce.
You can mix different chicken cuts but chicken tights and chicken breast are popular. Use small yakitori skewers and grill tabletop. Cooking authentic yakitori takes practice but using the right grill is a start.
Which Skewers Should I Use for Yakitori?
Both metal and bamboo skewers are popular and good to use. What’s important is that the length of the skewer works with the yakitori grill you choose.
Yakitori is a popular dish in Japan and is now taking over US restaurants and food festivals. This is a unique “new thing” to try and very entertaining. There are tons of great recipes and methods possible, and lots can be done with these grills.
Yakitori restaurants offer pork and other Japanese barbecue dishes. Go out and explore, find what you like and crank up your grill, get the grill grates hot and try the recipe at home.
Yakitori dishes include everything from vegetables to fish and everything in between. Just keep in mind that these grills are mainly meant for entertaining and tabletop gatherings. Consider what grill build material works best for the type of cooking you will be doing and get ready to have fun yakitori lovers.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the Japanese cuisine of yakitori cooking. It’s a great way to enjoy some tasty food with your friends or family while practicing an ancient art form!
I recommend trying Japanese barbeque. The food is amazing and flavorful.
Let’s eat yakitori!
Enjoy, have fun, get grilling!