I miss my weekly yakitori (grilled chicken) at Shin-Sen-Gumi yakitori in Los Angeles, and since I can not get it, I researched which yakitori konro/grill to buy. From that research, I realized all the other yakitori lists are just trying to sell you a bunch of BBQ grills.
Originally posted on March 12th, 2021. Updated on August 2nd, 2022, Sept 23rd, 2022
It is becoming too common for all these online lists to be as credible as Dr. Nicks’ credentials on the Simpsons because his tagline is “if I kill you, you don’t pay.”
This list is the only one that does not tout every cheap Amazon product made for Bubba’s American backyard BBQ as a “yakitori grill” because those lists are out to cash in as an Amazon Affiliate (shiesty focks).Oh, and I am also listing the best chicken to buy too (yea, bruh).
Yaki (Grilled) tori (Chicken) is “Grilled Chicken,” Not Barbecue
Too many media outlets and bloggers are all trying to make a buck from hustling every product on Amazon, which comprises of every generic barbecue grill they can throw at you (all from Ghina).
By the way, barbecue is low and slow (low temps and a cooking times of a couple hours to over 24 hours) versus grilling which is at high temperatures with shorter cooking times (seconds to several minutes).
The TL;DR (“Too Long Didn’t Read” aka Summary)
Scroll no more because I have listed the five most dedicated American and Japanese yakitori grills, this is the short list for all of you with little to no attention span:
1. Kaginushi is a popular yakitori konro for commercial to home use, 2. Teruhime is commercial/restaurant grade konro (used by Japanese yakitori restaurants), 3. Bincho Grill is an American company with a lot of the characteristics and looks of a Japanese yakitori grill, and the 4. Yak Grill is another American company that offers up a versatile grill.For 2022, I added 5. Iwatani as a gas grill option for comparison sake (also ease of use).
JAPANESE YAKITORI KONRO
These are all earthen insulated grills that have been traditionally used in Japanese grilling (even the Big Green Egg and other kamado’s in the US use a ceramic or an insulated outer jacket. On the flip side, a YETI cooler has a thick jacket of insulation to keep things cool).
Highly recommended: Japanese products with an earthen insulation intended for yakitori.This is just a summary, the ranking and all the details on why the product is recommended is listed below.
Probably the most popular Japanese yakitori konro/grill used in commercial and home use (outdoor). This konro utilizes diatomite bricks to insulate and direct heat.
A Japanese commercial yakitori konro/grill and my favorite although this product is only sold through a restaurant distributor/retailer (MTC/MTC Kitchen).
AMERICAN GRILLS (“YAKITORI LIKE”)
These bandwagon brands have all the looks or imply they are yakitori-specific grills like the Japanese products, but they contain no earthen insulation, yet Bincho Grill charges just as much or more (poor on value). They are like the live-action adaptations of anime.
No specialized material for thermal insulation which makes them poor on value.This is just a summary, all the details on why the product is not recommended is listed below.
An American iteration with all the looks/utility of a Japanese yakitori grill, but it has no earthen insulation, is just a metal shell, and is also the worst due to the pricing.
Is also an American company with a yakitori-inspired grill with no insulation although costs the same price as the 18″ Bincho Grill and Kaginushi Kogyo. Also if you care, like Batman’s preference, it also comes in black.
JAPANESE GAS GRILL (“YAKITORI LIKE”)
A portable Japanese gas grill designed for yakitori/kushiyaki and is not intended to be a comparable product to charcoal or Japanese-specific grills.
A gas grill iteration not comparable at all to earthen or charcoal grills.This is just a summary, all the details on why the product is only recommended for convenience.
Iwatani Portable Gas grill
this is the newest addition to the list and it was only added as a convenience option since it is a portable gas grill.
They all range in price from $122 to $484, and if you want to know why I say “yakitori like,” keep reading because you will want to know before you buy (in the near future, I will be providing more links on where to buy).
The above sums it up but for the rest of the details like price comparisons and where to buy, read on.
A Word to All My BOH Brethren
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.
Outside of Los Angeles, I have had the worst interpretations and attempts at yakitori. They range from the ridiculously plated (so foo-foo, it just needed a sprig of parsley), the moronic chicken teriyaki on a stick (we Muricans love the sauce), to the only legit version which I had, except it has not been available since the pandemic.
What Is and What Does Yakitori Mean in Japanese (Most of You Already Know This)
Yakitori is various small cuts of a chicken (thigh, gizzard, heart, liver, cartilage, to skin) grilled at high heat. The seasonings are minimal, usually either a salt (shio) or a soy sauce basting sauce (tare).In the US, we are all about the boobs and wings of a chicken, but Japan goes all in.
- 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.
- Aburu means “to grill,” so you will often see a restaurant or business with “ya” in it such as “aburiya” which means grill shop/restaurant (along with ramenya or sushiya).
- Konro: is a small portable gas or charcoal grill, and they range from a shichirin (circular), hibachi (small rectangle), to yakitori specific (long rectangle).
- Kushiyaki: skewered grilled meat and vegetables although another variation is kushiage wich is skewered deep-fried foods (some of which are DYI at your table, but in Murica, we call that legal liability).
- For the yakitori noobs: If you are new to yakitori, give this video a watch by Eater of “The Only Michelin-Starred Yakitori Restaurant in America.”
Going in, This Is What I Want to Know About Yakitori:
- 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 (also what is the best yakitori 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 5 Yakitori Grill Brands (the Only Legit “Best Yakitori Grill” List Updated on August 2nd, 2022)
I will also point out that this list is not motivated by selling you on Amazon products, and I am listing ALL vendors and products that are “authentic” or yakitori-specific products.
Why is it specifically a “yakitori” grill? Well, it does not have to be, but it is ideal for skewered foods (kushiyaki) from shish kabobs to satay, basically anything that will fit on a narrow grill such as fish to veggies.If you want to know all the Japanese grills, I have a blog post listing all the types of Japanese grills here.
If you want a good laugh, go look at the other lists with any and every grill (konro/hibachi/shichirin) to BBQ grills listed.
A little about the five yakitori konro/grill brands
- The Bincho Grill (www.binchogrill.com) – “The Bincho Grill™ was created from my passion for 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.”
- Iwatani (iwatani.com) – As an integral part of one of the leading global Japanese conglomerates, Iwatani Corporation of America has been steadily broadening its’ horizons to new markets throughout The Americas in the fields of cooking products, industrial gases, ceramics, electronics, plastics, chemicals, metals, and agri-bio for the past 30 years.
- 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) has 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 athletic footwear industry.
If you are wondering where Kinka, Co., Ltd is at? I left them off because they primarily specialize in shichirin grills, and I have a separate article on Japanese grills and “barbecues.”Bincho Grill is also the only company not reachable, so product information or additional insight is not available (only the information provided online).
If you are wondering “should this list not be longer?” 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 US-based companies.
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).
- The basic design, a lot of products will say they are a “yakitori” grill, but many are just basic generic grills (the Yak and Bincho Grill all have indentations for the skewers to not roll around).
- 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 the inside temps 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 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.
How the Yakitori Grill Brands Stack up From One Another on Construction/Price
This is the part that separates a Japanese yakitori grill from an “inspired by” (has the looks of a yakitori grill).
From the outside, the American grills (Bincho and Yak) may look the same as the Japanese products, but they fall way short. Basically you are only getting an empty shell, whereas the Japanese grills come insulated with diatomite bricks or igneous rock (rhyolitic)Yet, these “look-a-like” products sometimes charge you just as much or more which makes these grills the worst value.
|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).|
|Iwatani||Body: Steel plate (powder coating), Grill net: stainless steel, skewer stays: steel (plating processing), U burner: steel (plating processing), tray receiving tray (water tray): steel (Enameling processing), Instrument sewing knob: ABS resin|
|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’s 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 paying for a base grille. 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.
The Japanese grill brands are very competitively priced, but the American brands are similarly priced for a far lesser product. Although the most competitively priced and best value is the large (30″) Kaginushi Kogyo grill.You will also have to pay more for a Bincho Grill for all their added accessories.
Where to buy a yakitori grill and the pricing
I will be reaching out and vetting vendors to add to this list because I want to make sure they come through.
|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|
|Iwatani Gas Grill||16.0″||S||$122||$7.63|
|Kaginushi Kogyo||18.0″||M (wide)||$220||$12.22|
|Kaginushi Kogyo||26.77″||L||Amazon seller|
air shipment from Japan
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.
How the Five Brands (from the BEST’EST’ESS’SESS to the GOOD’EST) Stack Up From One Another for Yakitori
Kaginushi Kogyo (a Yakitori Grill by Japanese Craftsman and Fisherman)This product is one of the most popular for commercial and home use.
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 tell you to buy a Weber).
Teruhime Koukaseki (the Obvious Choice for a Japanese Commercial and Home Use Yakitori Grill)If you want durability and an easy clean up for commercial or home use, this is the one you want to go with.
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 easier.
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.
Bincho Grill (A Product That Looks the Part)A design that is not ambiguously generic.
If you want to buy from an American-based company that has the looks of yakitori grill, the individual behind this product is the person you want producing this product (a skillset in metal work).
Yak Grill (An Extremely Versatile Portable Grill)A brand to support over the countless generic products listed on Amazon.
If you love grilling, and you want the versatility to do more (like grilling a yak), 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.
Unlike the other four products, this is the only one I have listed that is gas powered. I added it for comparison sake on how the range of products stack up from one another (I also added it for ease of use and convenience).If you do not want to deal with charcoal, now you have an option.
|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|
|Kaginushi 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|
Most Popular Grill by Web Traffic
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 for comparison sake, and I also like the industrial design of their portable grill design.
|Brand||Approximate Site Traffic||Rank|
|Bincho Grill (www.binchogrill.com)||53 (almost non-existent)||3|
|Nomad Grills (www.nomadgrills.com)||2.13k (21k)||1|
|Yak Grill (www.yakgrills.com)||774 (3.44k)||2|
The Tools of the Trade to the Best Charcoal for Yakitori
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 or fancy collapsible charcoal chimney fire starter.
- Japanese fan (uchiwa)
- Scrubbing brush
UPDATE: JULY 31, ’22:From my research and seeing my article, you will probably buy my recommendation and it might not be what you thought it would be.
once you settle on the best yakitori grill for your needs, I have every charcoal option for your next yakiniku or yakitori cookout (several hours of research went into this piece).
“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
Yakitori Seasonings and Sauces (Americans Love the Sauce)
Yes, I know, you want sauce, dressing (ranch), or salsa, so here you go although you might want to try natural 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 cite the biggest tell was when I to cut into the breast, it has almost no grain. It looks like tofu, and something oozed out when I sliced through it, 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 Free Range and Organic Chicken Brands
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 the differences between organic and conventional factory chickens.
Surprisingly, I can not find one reputable source that will say that there is a substantial difference from organic and factory farming chicken in regards to taste/quality. Although, it does for your conscience.
- 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.”
So Does Buying Organic Chicken Matter?
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 Horror Flick and Yakitori (a Delicious One)
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 (I have added an asterisk next to all the cuts that I love to eat rare to medium-rare).
Being able to appreciate a chicken piece or part by part seems to be one respectful way to appreciate chicken (I also never thought I would enjoy heart and liver so much).If you are only into breasts, you are missing out.
- 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
- Hāto/hatsu*, chicken heart
- Momo, chicken thigh
- Nankotsu, chicken cartilage
- Negima, chicken and spring onion
- Rebā*, liver
- 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
- 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 be sure to give him a follow on his Instagram page.