South Africans and Americans grill on large, kettle-type barbecues, some Indonesians cook skewers on grills with resting places only for the ends of the skewers, and in Japan, hibachi grills appear in restaurants, public parks and private homes. You’ll find teriyaki cooking on hibachis in Japan and in the United States, where chicken teriyaki is very popular. The Japanese began making teriyaki in the 17th century, and it’s still popular in today.


Hibachis, Japanese for “fire bowls,” are very small barbecue grills. Frequently made of cast iron so they radiate heat and stand up to being toted here and there, hibachis can be square, rectangular or round, but typically are no longer than 12 to 20 inches and no wider than about 12 inches. In Japan, restaurant employees use long-handled stiff fans, called uchiwa, to fan the coals.


Referring to either a sauce or a dish marinated in the sauce, teriyaki is a sweet glaze that traditionally relied on three popular Japanese ingredients: soy sauce, used for its saltiness and umami, or meatiness; sake, a yeast-based rice wine; and mirin, a sweet rice wine. American contemporary teriyaki typically just contains soy sauce, mirin or sherry, sugar and perhaps other seasonings such as ginger and garlic. Teriyaki sauce works well for chicken, beef or seafood.

Cooking With Teriyaki

Teriyaki comes from the Japanese words for “teri” meaning “gloss,” and “yaki” meaning “grilled,” referring to the hibachi cooking method. In Japan, the teriyaki glaze goes on the food during the last stages of grilling while in the U.S., the glaze sometimes is used as both a marinade and a glaze. To use a marinade for glazing, save some separate from the portions that have come into contact with raw meat, fish or chicken, or thoroughly boil the marinade before using it as a glaze to kill harmful bacteria.

Using a Hibachi

A hibachi works the same way as a charcoal grill does, but with a smaller capacity. Simply place a bed of charcoal, light it, and wait for the pieces to become hot and ashen. Rather than leaving teriyaki chicken or meat in large pieces, cut it into smaller chunks and use skewers to make better use of the limited space. If you have a choice, opt for the largest hibachi you can find to give yourself more cooking options, and choose a sturdy model.