I miss my weekly yakitori (grilled chicken) at Shin Sen Gumi yakitori in Los Angeles because all I have where I am at now, they think yakitori is teriyaki chicken on a stick #SMH, I need a grill (these are the four best yakitori grill brands, along with the best chicken).
If you work back-of-the-house (BOH), and you need to come up with a menu, and you have never had yakitori before, please do not add yakitori to your menu. So far, I have had yakitori that was ridiculously plated (so foo-foo, it just needed a sprig of parsley), the moronic chicken teriyaki on a stick (WTF), to the only legit version which has not been on the menu ever since the pandemic. Having had these horrendous experiences, I hope none of you will have to go through it either (especially you Nancy O.). That is why I need to take charge of my predicament by buying a yakitori grill (and some chicken) and getting down to business.
If you are wondering who Nancy O. is, she is one of the cool people in Colorado I met at a local Japanese market in Denver. She has led the way in making me realize I need to do my own yakitori, especially since my only spot has not been doing yakitori ever since the pandemic.
What is and What Does Yakitori Mean in Japanese (Most of You Already Know This)
- Yaki (grilled) tori (chicken). Yup, it just means grilled chicken and that is almost as exciting as mount Midoriyama simply meaning green (midori) mountain (yama), for you American Ninja Warrior fans.
- If you are new to yakitori, please watch this video by Eater of “The Only Michelin-Starred Yakitori Restaurant in America.”
Going in, This Is What I Want to Know:
- What type of yakitori grills (brands) are available in the United States?
- What makes a great yakitori grill?
- What other equipment will I need aside from just the charcoal?
- Does the quality of chicken vary/matter much?
- What are the types of yakitori, along with a few of my favorites.
- How hard is it to break down a chicken?
The Top 4 Yakitori Grill Brands (the Only Legit List)
Why is it specifically a “yakitori” grill? Well, it does not have to be, and you can grill not only skewered foods (kushiyaki) from shish kabobs to satay, but anything that will fit on a narrow grill such as fish to veggies. I will also point out, this list is not motivated by only selling you on Amazon products, and I am listing vendors and products that are “authentic” or yakitori specific products. If you want a good laugh, go look at the other lists with any and every grill (konro) to BBQ grills listed.
The Bincho Grill is the only company not reachable, so product information or additional insight is not available (only the information provided online).
ABOUT THE COMPANIES
- The Bincho Grill (www.binchogrill.com) – “The Bincho Grill™ was created from my passion to outdoor grilling. Japanese style grilling always interested me as a homemade chef and a master griller. So I basically combined my profession experience in steel fabrication and design with my passion and love for cooking and grilling which made me invent The Bincho Grill.”
- Kaginushi Kogyo (sold by multiple vendors: Knifewear/Canada, Korin/New York, Nishikidori/France) – The Kaginushi family is made up of fishermen, from generation to generation. During the winter – off season for fishing – members of this family make barbecues made from diatomaceous earth. When it was created in 1932, the winter season was used in the manufacture of traditional bricks and tiles. In 1953, in collaboration with the company Insolite Industry Co., Ltd., the company created its first workshop specializing in the manufacture of diatomaceous earth bricks in the city of Suzu. In 1961, the company evolved into Kaginushi Industry Co., LTD, specializing in the manufacture of refractory insulation bricks, diatomaceous earth products, Noto tiles. Led by Mr. Sunao Kaginushi, chaired by Mr. Tetsu Kaginushi , the company has 25 employees nowadays.
- Teruhime Koukaseki (www.nymtc.com) – Teruhime (Japanese language only) is a kitchen equipment manufacturer and designer of Teppanyaki, pottery, utensils and other kitchen miscellany used for Okonomiyaki, Teppanyaki, Yakitori and various other styles of Japanese restaurants. Japanese Mokutan Konro (Charcoal Stove) have been gaining traction in Western kitchens in a big way in recent years, being used as a neat, portable and affordable option for charcoal cookery in some of the top restaurants in the US and elsewhere. We’re excited to bring you this fully stainless option alongside our standard fired clay grills.
- Yak Grill (www.yakgrills.com) – extremely pleasantly surprised to have chatted with David, the founder of Yak Grills, and I am impressed on so many levels. I will go as far as to say, he is one of the easiest people I have worked with in decades. The reason that is, this product is not David’s first rodeo, and he has been a leading innovator in the athletics footwear industry.
If you are wondering “should this list not be longer?” Only if I am an Amazon ho (I’m not, but you know who you are), and I am not which means I left off several products and brands that you would find on AliExpress, Amazon, to eBay. The products I have listed above have a focused and vested interest in producing a yakitori/grill specific product (not a grill sold under the guise of being a yakitori grill). These companies also have an established and extensive distributor network, or are a US based company.
How the Brands Stack up From One Another
|The Bincho Grill||“Made from heavy gauge stainless steel with double wall construction with additional 3/16″ thick aluminum insert for heat deflection and easy cleaning. The wood handles and wood base- legs will stay cool to the touch so it can be moved around and can be set on a table. The adjustable vent widows will help with air flow to keep the coals vented for optimum performance.” Pricing does not include grates and bars (sold separately).|
|Kaginushi Kogyo||“Stacked piles of diatomite bricks move along a conveyor belt on their slow journey through the factory’s long kiln. Afterwards, a workman hits each fired piece with a hammer to judge by its sound whether there are any cracks within. Whereas some makers join bricks with mortar to form their cooking grills, at Kaginushi the workmen use carpentry skills to fit each unit together meticulously by hand, for a stronger, tighter, more fire-resistant product. Because diatomite grills have superior heat-insulation properties, charcoal used in them starts easily and burns longer than in conventional cookers.”|
|Teruhime Koukaseki||Fully stainless steel with a koukaseki (meaning anti-fire stone) refers to igneous rock (rhyolitic), and an iron grate insert in the middle of the grill to lay charcoal on providing superior air flow, providing a more efficient and clean grilling experience.|
|Yak Grill||100% stainless steel and grills up to 750ºF. It’s simple to use, easy to clean, dishwasher-safe, and grills at up to 750ºF. The 15”x7” stainless grilling grate serves up 105 sq. inches of cooking area, enough 4 burgers, 12 hot dogs, 2 steaks, or 9 large skewers. Outdoor use only.”|
PLEASE NOTE: For comparison sake, I came up with my own size parameters (S, M, L, XL) which will make product comparisons slightly easier although keep in mind you are not paying for the base grill. Many of the products below will come with or without accessories or components necessary for your intended use such as with the Bincho Grill. The base price does not include grates ($22) and bars ($32) because it is not necessarily required for yakitori. So the total price per inch is just a rough metric, depending on the previous details.
All the grill brands are very competitively priced, so it just comes down to which grill best matches your needs. Although the most competitively priced/value would be the large (30″) Kaginushi Kogyo grill.
|Brand||Size in Inches |
|S(12-17), M(18-24), L(25-31), XL(32+)||Price||Price Per Inch|
|The Bincho Grill||24.0″||M||$319||$13.29|
|The Bincho Grill||36.0″||XL||$399||$11.00|
|Kaginushi Kogyo||18.0″||M (wide)||$220||$12.22|
Why no links to the Kaginushi Kogyo products? Well, for one I do not make a single cent directly from supporting these vendors, which means I leave it up to you to select from the top 3 vendors of (Knifewear/Canada, Korin/New York, Nishikidori/France) Kaginushi Kogyo.
Bincho Grill (Yakitori in the U.S.A)
If you want to buy from an American-based company that has a yakitori specific grill, the individual behind this product is the person you want producing this product (passionate about yakitori with a skillset in metal work).
Kaginushi Kogyo (a Yakitori Grill by Japanese Craftsman and Fisherman)
There is a reason why this is sold
outby so many different vendors, and if you want an experience as close to what they would use in Japan, this is the one to go with (other lists will to you to buy a Weber).
Teruhime Koukaseki (the Obvious Choice for Commercial Grade)
This is the one that restaurants in Japan (yakitori-ya) and throughout the globe would use because of the sturdy frame and the stainless steel cladding which make any necessary clean up slightly easier. If you want that sort of durability, this is the one you want to go with.
If you want to know which one I am going to go with, this is the best yakitori grill for me. After all, I have commercial meat slicer, sous vide, noodle cooker, and several induction stove tops, so I thought this will round out all my excessive amount of equipment.
Yak Grill (Extremely Versatile, Not Just Yakitori)
If you love yakitori, but you want the versatility to do more, this is the grill for you. Not to mention, it is built sturdy with 100% stainless steel which does not make clean-up a hellish nightmare.
|Brand||Overall Material||Insulation Material||Weight|
|Bincho Grill||100% stainless steel (16 gauge), 3/16″ (1.5mm) aluminum, and poplar hardwood.||No, just the space between the inner charcoal box and outer box.||N/A|
|Kaginuchi Kogyo||Diatomite is dug out from Suzu city in Ishikawa prefecture.||Yes, diatomite bricks provide high thermal insulation.||S: 6.5kg/14lbs|
|Teruhime Koukaseki||Stainless steel, koukaseki (rhyolitic), iron bars, iron grate, and white thermal insulating plates.||Yes, rhyolite mined from Nii-jima which helps reflect the infrared heat of the charcoal directly up into the food being cooked.||S: 9.2kg/20.3lbs |
|Yak Grill||304 Stainless Steel (4mm wire), 430 Stainless Steel (body material)||No, just the space between the burn box and housing body||M: 6.89 kg/15.2 lbs|
I have reduced it down to these four yakitori focused grills because these are the best products on the market.
APPROXIMATE WEB TRAFFIC OF PORTABLE GRILL BRANDS
Like with most things Japanese, they do not do social media and most do not have websites, so I am only comparing the traffic of the companies with their own website. I also added Nomad Grills because I like the industrial design of their product and it is an innovative portable grill design.
|Brand||Approximate Site Traffic||Rank|
|Bincho Grill (www.binchogrill.com)||53||3|
|Nomad Grills (www.nomadgrills.com)||2.13k (21k)||1|
|Yak Grill (www.yakgrills.com)||774 (3.44k)||2|
What Makes a Good Yakitori Grill
From all the research I have done, and from being a grill cook at a Japanese restaurant, I would say:
- Got to get it hot because it’s not barbecuing where it is slow and low and you want a hot grill when grilling (upwards of 1200c).
- You need to be able to control that heat and several of them do that through insulated walls (Kaginushi Kogyo and Teruhime Koukaseki) which direct heat upwards to the cooking areas because without it, you are creating a lot of ambient heat (“However, it doesn’t mean it insulates 100% of Inside temp, since bincho charcoal temp easily goes up to 1800F or higher – via MTC). The other aspect is just controlling the overall temperature which I see three of them to allowing you to do, except Yak Grills. Although you can control that with a fan or manually blocking the vents.
- Durability, weight, and clean-up round out the last third of what I would deem to be factors, and from a very superficial perspective, they all seem to embody that.
The Tools of the Trade
If you are going to do something, you have to do it right with the tools that will help take your experience over the top.
- Binchotan charcoal (I find this mandatory, sumibiyaki FTW).
- Bamboo skewers
- Charcoal chimney
- Collapsible charcoal chimney fire starter.
- Japanese fan (uchiwa)
- Scrubbing brush
“Binchotan charcoal is full of surprises. It has a metallic sheen that belies its wood origins, and yields powerful heat despite burning cleanly and silently, without smoke. Though it doesn’t start easily, once ignited it burns steadily with a beautiful flame, giving those who master its use new control over the flavor of grilled foods. The lack of chemical additives and the incredibly high heat preserves the flavorful juices, adds a beautiful sear, and makes anything barbecued on it absolutely delectable. These wonderful charcoal are not limited to kitchen usages, they also have health benefits if used properly, such as air filtration and the ability to absorb humidity and bad odors.”– Korin.com, New York, NY
Americans Want Seasonings and Sauce
Yes, I know, you want sauce or salsa, so here you go although you might want to try chicken flavor:
- Tare (a soy sauce based basting sauce)
- Shio (salt)
- Yuzu kosho (chiles and yuzu zest)
- Shichimi togarashi (7-spice powder with hemp seed)
- Sansho (a citrusy sichuan peppercorn like powder)
Find a Chicken That Do Not Do Drugs and Knows How to Chill
The chicken I have had in Japan is noticeably and distinctively better than what I have had here in the states although in Wisconsin, I have had some phenomenal chicken. I just do not know why and where to track down that type of chicken, so I am going to have to do some major digging. I will tell you that cutting into the breast, it has almost no grain. It looks like tofu, and something oozed out when I sliced. It was pure golden juicy chicken goodness (my friend’s mom tired of me talking about the chicken).
When asked about deciphering labels (natural, free-range, hormone free, etc.): “However, the range of possibilities is broad, and the various distinctions can be “bastardized,” says Ariane Daguin, founder of D’Artagnan, a high-end meat company.”– Ariane Daguin, via Reuters “Is Organic Woth the Price”
The Reuters article by Mitch Lipka and crew is so worth the read, and if you do not read it, you are missing out because it just elevated my image of D’Artagnan (who by the way has their own article “Why Free Range & Organic Chicken.” It also sums up that the differences between organic and
- D’Artagnan (www.dartagnan.com) – “Organic free-range chicken, raised humanely, with no antibiotics, hormones, or arsenicals. Our farmers give the chickens non-GMO, organic feed, spring water, access to the outdoors and plenty of indoor space to express natural behaviors. Savor the buttery taste and texture of our delicious, award-winning chicken — the first chicken on the market ever to be certified by the USDA as free-range organic.”
- DeBragga (www.debragga.com) – “New York’s Butcher. Amish country chickens. These excellent chickens are raised in Pennsylvania without antibiotics or animal by-products. Perfect, to roast, rotisserie, or smoke.”
- Gerber’s Amish Farm (www.gerbers.com) – “Our chickens are raised in large, spacious houses. They can roam freely and eat and drink as they wish. Gerber goes to great lengths to raise healthy chickens using improved nutrition, animal husbandry and selective breeding. Our strict standards mean the difference between our chicken and ordinary chicken products. Animal Welfare Humane Certified and Where Food Comes from source verified.
- Mary’s Chicken (www.maryschicken.com) – “Mary’s Free Range Chickens is proud to be family owned and operated since 1954. Mary’s sons, David and Ben Pitman, are third-generation Pitman farmers who lead the company today. David and Ben have been taught by their father, Rick, who learned from his father, Don, about the importance of animal husbandry and our responsibility to ensure the welfare of animals.”
- Red Bird Farms (www.redbirdfarms.com) – “Red Bird Farms has been providing fresh chicken since the 1940s. As we’ve grown and expanded to more territories, Red Bird Farms has maintained a commitment to quality and integrity. Red Bird Farms chicken is fed an all vegetarian diet. In addition, the chicken is never given any antibiotics, ever. Red Bird chicken is hand cut. Gourmet chicken isn’t run down an assembly line of robots, but rather a talented team of cutters. The chicken is truly fresh and incredibly juicy.”
- Shelton’s Premium Poultry (www.sheltons.com) – “Shelton’s Poultry, Inc. has been a family owned and operated business since 1924. Our goal is to provide the finest poultry and poultry products that are truly All Natural, without the use of Antibiotics, Artificial Growth Stimulants, Chemical ingredients and additives, or cheap fillers. Take a look at the ingredients in our products, the lists are short, simple and don’t look like a high school chemistry experiment. We like making wholesome products that you will enjoy every single day and that will make you feel good about buying for your friends and family.”
Based upon the articles, there is not much to support buying organic over your large industrial farmed chicken other than your conscience. Although if organic and free-range chicken might not be discernible, what does matter is that you will support humane, sustainable farming and eating a chicken that is not doped up and roided out like the dudes on muscle beach with large moobs (man boobs).
Tongue, Gizzards, Hearts, Liver, and a Nice Thick Juicy Thigh is What Makes a Great a Horror Flick and Yakitori (also a delicious one too)
If you did well on your SAT, you will most likely be able to pick up on the list below is not strictly chicken, and it is a mix of chicken, beef, veggies, to fish cake (all of the meat, I love to eat rare to medium rare).
- Atsuage, deep-fried tofu
- Bonjiri*, chicken tail
- Butabara, pork belly
- Chikuwa*, fish cake and cheese
- Enoki maki, mushrooms wrapped in pork
- Ginnan, ginkgo
- Gyutan*, beef tongue (I have to have it rare)
- Hāto/hatsu*, chicken heart
- Momo, chicken thigh
- Nankotsu, chicken cartilage
- Negima, chicken and spring onion
- Rebā*, liver (I have to have it rare)
- Sasami, breast meat
- Shiro, chicken small intestines
- Shiitake, mushroom
- Shishito, a real mild pepper
- Sunagimo*, chicken gizzard
- Tsukune*, chicken meatballs
- Torikawa*, chicken skin, grilled until crispy
- Tebasaki*, chicken wing
- Toriniku, all white meat on a skewer
- Wagyu*, highly marbled beef (I like it rare to medium rare)
- Yotsumi, pieces of chicken breast
I Grill and Eat Yakitori, but I Am No Authority Which is Why You Need to Seek Out the Yakitori Guy to Learn How to Break Down/Butcher a Chicken
We are lucky to have such a great resource in the U.S., and that resource, is the Yakitori Guy. I say that because I will not be able to run you through this critical step, but he will get into every and all the details regarding yakitori preparation. You can follow him not only on YouTube, but sure to give him a follow on his Instagram page.