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The Top “Japanese Barbecue” (Grill and Grilling) Brands for Indoor and Outdoor Use

Photo by Super Overdrive: Kodaira Furusato Village. Left two cook tops cook rice and soup. On the right, the large stove can boil noodles and vegetables. Bamboo sticks in front of the kamado are used to stoke the fire.

Most Koreans, Japanese, and Americans are not aware of the differences between “grilling” and “barbecue,” and they are used interchangeably (like a clip vs. magazine). As for why that is, well, we humans are lazy and the struggle is real with language (like the struggle of finding affordable ammo).

There is no barbecue pit, smoker, mesquite wood chips, slabs of pork shoulder/butt, or a dude named Bubba at a Korean barbecue, but bro, they think it is “barbecue.”

That mischaracterization is most likely due to a “lost is translation” issue, along with us humans unfortunately being extremely stupid with no end in sight either (well, except for the possibilities of Neuralink and you being here and reading this).

Barbecue is “low and slow” (low temps and long cooking times) with slabs or large cuts of meat suited for BBQ. Whereas grilling is “hot and quick” (high heat and short cooking times) with small cuts of meat (that sounds like some innuendo).

If you want to know the origins of barbecue, it comes from the Caribbean and Africa, and you can read more about it via the Smithsonian Magazine “The Evolution of American Barbecue.”

Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission.

Photo Description: picture is a Japanese konro on a tatami mat. In the pic is a dual chamber rectangular grill with a dark reddish finish with two slots on the bottom to adjust the air. In the foreground are the grates that come with the product.
Like a bougie YETI cooler, you want thick insulation for a cooler to maintain low temps, and for a grill, you want it to retain and direct heat where you want (also notice the dual charcoal chambers).

Grilling may be confusing if you grill like you are barbecuing by dumping all your meat on the grill to let it sit there till it is a dry and a rubbery chewy finish.

On your next 4th of July outdoor barbecue or grill outing, you can think of the contributions made by Caribbeaners, Africans, and Asians to the United States food culture.

The United States food culture is barely 247 years old.

Every Japanese’ee hibachi’ee, grill’eee, fire’ee words

So that we are all on the same page, I will provide Japanese grilling words and their definitions. That way, we can avoid the creation of more Americanized words like hibachi and ramen, meaning “instant noodles,” to most Americans.

Styles of Japanese grilling cuisines

  • Kushiyaki: Anything and everything grilled up with skewers from seafood, meat, to vegetables (like China and chuanr, SE Asia satay, or kebabs in the Middle East).
  • Teppanyaki: is an iron griddle (the stuff you see in an American diner with a dude in a wife beater cooking on), but it is also a style of cooking/dining in Japan (if you go and eat Wagyu in Japan, it will most likely be at a teppanyaki restaurant, just do not wear a wife beater). In the US, most Americans call it “hibachi.”
  • Yakiniku, means “yaki” (grill, broiled, or pan-fried) and “niku” (meat), and I hope you see a trend going on here with the use of “yaki” to denote the grilling styles and types of meats (it will help you to identify cooking styles/types).
  • Yakitori: “yaki” means grill and “tori” means chicken. A yakitori-ya or yakitori restaurant will grill up various small cuts of the chicken (thigh, heart, gizzard, cartilage) on skewers.

A hibachi in Japan is a room heater and has nothing to do with food or cooking.

Benihana is a teppanyaki restaurant started by a Japanese dude who qualified for the olympics for wrestling.

A Japanese word that is often used that has nothing to do with food or cooking

  • Hibachi: if you are in the midwest, hibachi is what many of the non-Japanese owned or operated will call teppanyaki, but in Japan, it is a heating device used to heat homes (not for cooking).

Basic grilling terms

  • Binchotan: lump charcoal that goes through a process of pyrolysing (is the heating of an organic material, such as biomass, in the absence of oxygen) wood in a kiln. The result is a hot burning charcoal with little to no smoke.
  • Kamado: an earthen/ceramic stove top often fired with charcoal, and they are used for direct or indirect cooking. Kamado is a Japanese word rooted in Korean (agungi/firebox and buttumak), but the style of the cooker, like a lot of things, originated from China.
  • Mushikamado: a steam cooker as in rice cooker.
  • Konro: another term for a cooker/stove top that is either gas or electric.
  • Shichirin: a small charcoal grill which are typically produced from blocks of diatomaceous earth mined from deposits.
Photo Description: Vermicular kamado and cast-iron waterless/steamer cooker. This is a 2-piece system and you do not have to purchase both pieces together (the cast-iron pot and the induction cooker).
Since kamado means a stovetop in Japanese, the bottom half of this two-peice cast-iron induction cooker is called a kamado. It is sort of like the modern day high tech version of a kamado (like Komodo Kamado, you do not want to know the price).

Here are the three types of grills and one Japanese(Asian) inspired barbecue grill

There is already a comprehensive yakitori grill write-up, so in this post, I will be covering every outdoor (charcoal) and indoor (electric) grill.

The three grill/cooker categories:

  1. Kamado (from China, Japan, to now we here, the Americanized iteration): originally a Japanese/Asian stove top and now it is a ceramic barbecue cooker.
  2. Shichirin/konro: typically an earthen and some were historically ceramic charcoal Japanese grill.
  3. Electric Grill: Japanese grill for indoor use which is extremely convenient and compact compared to a charcoal grill.

The top Japanese and Japanese inspired cooker brands

If you are looking for the top brands, I have them listed by category and the brands’ heritage. I have also sorted out and not listed all of the deceptive Chinese branded products marketed as Japanese products. BTW, there is nothing wrong with Chinese-made products, just a problem with the brands that utilize deceptive marketing.

Why is it for outdoor use? Something most wood burning and cold wintery states know of which is you can die from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning (released when charcoal is burned).

“If the carbon monoxide concentration in the air is much higher, signs of poisoning may occur within 1-2 hours. A very high carbon monoxide concentration can even kill an exposed individual within 5 minutes.” – MedicineNet.com

The traditional style Japanese charcoal cookers (shichirin/konro) and the one Japanese/Asian inspired cooker (kamado) all have one thing in common, which is that the heat source is insulated. They all have a jacket of earthen materials such as stone, brick, or in the case of the Americanized kamado, ceramic (clay, fired, and glazed).

Photo Description: traditional Japanese kamado's in Japan; In this picture, the floor looks to be dirt, with wood beam and the large concrete looking hearths, have wooden tubs and lids sitting on top the two burners.
In Japan, a kamado like the above were stovetops used for cooking food such as rice. In the US, it is now part of the great American pastime, barbecuing (the land of opportunity even for a rice cooker). Photo by Tanaka.

Kamado (Japanese/Asian Inspired Barbecue Grill)

Ed Fisher, a Navy lieutenant in Japan in the 50’s introduced the kamado to Americans in 1974, and if you want the full story of how he also sold pachinko machines to founding the Big Green Egg, read the full New York Times story (John T. Edge did a good piece).

Ed Fisher is the founder of the Big Green Egg and who introduced the mushikamado styled earthen rice cooker to Americans.

Walmart chick (content contributor) did not cite her source for the various materials a kamado is made from: “high fire ceramics, refractory materials, traditional terra cotta, or a mix of Portland cement and crushed lava,” but it is via Wikipedia.org.
Photo Description: the Big Green Egg kamado barbecue grill (with it's "golf ball" looking dimpled look and green enamel).
If you ever dutch oven a significant other or hot boxed it, you will understand why Kamado’s are popular.

Since this product was kicked off by Ed Fisher in Atlanta, GA, there are a lot of producers residing there. Although, the mind blowing thing is the MASSIVE AND DEVOUT fan following kamado’s have online from blogs to forums worldwide.

It is “super fresh excellent ichiban cool” that Ed Fisher introduced kamados, and I suppose to a lesser extent, pachinko to the US. If it were not for him, those other companies would not have their Japanesecentric marketing narrative of a barbecue grill that originated out of China with its Korean influences. Unfortunately, some of these companies rely too heavily on associating their product with Japan and the Japanese, but I will not list those/that brand®.

BRAND/
COMPANY
IS BASED
MADE ININSULATOR/
PRICE RANGE
Big Green Egg
Atlanta, GA
Monterrey,
Mexico
The ceramic of the Big Green Egg consists of a unique and carefully balanced fine composition of clay, and they are the originators who introduced kamado style cookers in the U.S.

$750-$2,350
Find an official Big Green Egg dealer
Kamado Joe
Atlanta, GA
Yixing, ChinaCeramic (yea, that is all they tout cuz Ghina?).

$800-$2,800
Amazon
Komodo Kamado
SE Asia?
IndonesiaDirect quote: “a Komodo Kamado is not a ceramic pot, it is made of refractory cements which is what industry uses for high-temperature containment in everything from blast furnaces and nuclear facilities. It is a multi-layer design with a dense, durable hot face jacketed with a vermiculite and aerogel insulating outer layer.”

$2,400-$10,000
Direct (the only option)
Primo
Belleville, Illinois
Murica b*tches aka
Poplar Bluff, Missouri
Ceramic with domestic raw materials (the Greek economy may suck, but this Greek American owned business is killing it).

$900-$2,700
I am going to direct you to the BBQ Guys and to my self-serving link, Amazon.
The earthen construction of a kamado yields better heat retention, fuel efficiency, and smoking ability.

The BS brand in the market: is Kalamazoo which has their South American product called the “Gaucho” (a South American cowboy), and now they have a “ching chong” line of products called the Shokunin, which means “craftsmen” or “artisan” (in Japanese). The product is touted as kamado-style because they have a 2″ gap of air sandwiched between stainless steel (what a reach), not ceramic or an earthen material which is more like a bunch of cultural appropriation BS for $10k. What next? An African line of grills?

Earthen Charcoal Japanese Grills (Shichirin/Konro)

Unlike the stainless steel cans sold on Amazon and elsewhere, these Japanese grill (shichirin/konros) producers are made up of earthen materials which yields better heat retention/direction and fuel efficiency.

Photo Description: the shichirin is a round cooker that flares outwards at the top. The earthen "barbecue" cooker has a metal grate on top, along with what looks like steel vent doors at the bottom.
A shichirin grilling up some sanma and it is not broiling (broiling is when the heat is coming from above).

Take your pick, round (Kinka shichirin) or rectangular (Kaginushi Kogyo, Kinka, and Sanwa Kinzoku) and till somebody comes out with a triangle, you only have two choices. As for which is best for you, keep in mind everything is tinier in Japan, so the shichirin make a great small portable tabletop grill, but not expect them to be big Bubba in size.

Photo Description: Both Kaginushi Kogyo and Kinka produce earthen rectangular konro's. The earthen brown look is offset with a frame that looks to be made of steel, along with handles, vents, and the metal grate that sits atop the konro grill.
Grilling and beer.

Kaginushi Kogyo grills are extremely popular, and due to a number of circumstances (post covid issues, the aging Japanese population, to massive demand, means you probably will have to wait for the product to be in stock).

What is diatomaceous earth (DE) you ask? It is ground up fossilized remains of a type of phytoplankton called diatoms. Those diatoms are not only great for producing grills, but this all-natural material is also used for pest control.

For more information, Farmers Almanac has a good write up.
BRAND/
MADE IN
DIMENSIONS/
INSULATOR/
APPROX PRICE RANGE
RECOMMEND
SELLERS
Kaginushi
Kogyo

Suzu, Ishikawa
Japan
Rectangular
• Material: diatomaceous earth
• Various sizes: 12″ (S) to 36″ (XL).
• $150-$470
Amazon
(expensive air freight)

Korin, NY, USA
(restaurant and retail)

Nishikidori, France
(well written content)
Kinka
Aichi,
Japan
Round
• Material: diatomaceous earth
• Various sizes:
Large 11.2″-12.2″
$64.99-$169.90
Small 8.6″-10.2″
$53.99-$58.99
Nishikidori, France
(well written content)

MonotaRO
(Large Japanese Global Vendor)
Kinka
Aichi,
Japan
Rectangular
• Material: diatomaceous earth

Small (2-4 People)
• Dimensions:
310×230×200 / 12.2″x9.0″x7.8″
• $329+
Medium (4-8 People)
• Dimensions:
18.1″ or 21.2″
• $389-$479
47 x 35cm / 18.5″x13.7″
• $439+
Large (6-12 People)
• Dimensions:
770×230×200 / 30″x9.0″x7.8″
• $699+
Amazon
54x23cm (21″x9″)
77x23cm (30″x9″)

ShoranJapan, Japan
(newly added vendor)

MonotaRO
(Large Japanese Global Vendor)
Sanwa
Kinzoku

Japan
Rectangular (Only One Option)
• Material: diatomaceous earth.
• Twin chambers that you can cook separate items on.
• Dimensions:
410×240×170 / 16.1″ x 9.4″ x 6.7″
• $89.99+
MonotaRO
(Large Japanese Global Vendor)
Supply is difficult with these products because of the popularity, so they are often out of stock.

Electric Japanese Grills for Indoor Use

It is easy to take hot water for granted when it is available at the turn of a knob, and having the ease of an electric grill without the hassle of charcoal is also a modern day convenience.

Ideal for placing directly on the dinner table.
Photo Description: Zojirushi electric Japanese grill.

Like with rice cookers, there is one dominant leader in Japan for indoor electrical grills, and that brand is Zojirushi. A brand I am familiar with for electric grills because I own the EB-CC15, but I wish I went full baller mode and purchased the EB-DLC10 because it is 200 watts more (for a grill, I wish it got hotter and that extra 200w might do it).

BRAND
PRICE
PRODUCT
MODEL #
WATTAGE
Zojirushi
$99.99
Electric grill
EB-CC15
1,300 watts
Zojirushi
$130.99
Electric grill
EB-DLC10
1,500-watt
Zojirushi
$184.49
Gourmet d’Expert®
Electric Skillet for
Yin Yang Hot Pot
EP-PFC20
1,300 watt
Prices and availability are subject to change.

Not much difference than my grill

According to Amy, “meh, it’s ok.”

Photo Description: Amazon konro review by Amy (3-stars).
There you have it folks.

Japanese cuisine is not known for Brontosaurus like large slabs of meat (especially beef in Asia) or roasting/barbecuing (also, try finding an oven in Japan). The closest thing I can think of are braised dishes like rafute/chashu.

You can search for yourself on Just One Cookbook.
Photo Description: a picture of ogatan charcoal being heated (burning).
Here is my full article on binchotan charcoal and why you should also consider ogatan.

References

  • This is such an amazing resource by Dr. Mary Parent, the JAANUS on-line Dictionary of Japanese Architectural and Art Historical Terminology
  • The term kamado was used interchangeably with a home/house in Japan, and you can read all about it on Wikipedia.org.
Photo Description: it looks like an oil drum with a lid on it, but it is a traditional Japanese kamado. In the pic, it is being stoke with 2x2 and other pieces of lumber .
From humble stove top origins to a place in American backyards and patio decks. Image by katorisi

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