When learning about traditional Japanese cooking, you will invariably come across various terms; hibachi and teriyaki are two more common ones when talking about local cuisine. Both indicate certain cooking methods, and people also use the terms to refer to the dishes made with these methods. But what are the differences between teriyaki and hibachi, and which is better?
Teriyaki is a cooking technique where you glaze the food in a teriyaki sauce, while hibachi refers to a traditional Japanese heating device that you can also use to grill food. The core component in teriyaki dishes is the sauce, whereas, in hibachi cooking, it is an open-top grill that burns charcoal.
In this article, we will take a deeper look at both of these cooking methods. We will discuss their origins, their use in other parts of the world, the ingredients typically used in them, and so on.
Teriyaki vs. Hibachi: Differences
When delving into the invention of the hibachi, you may be surprised to know that it has little to do with cooking. The term “hibachi” (火鉢 – ひばち) translates to “fire bowl.” It refers to a cylindrical or round pot with an open-top inside which you place charcoal and ash. It can also indicate a box lined with fire-proof material.
In both cases, the main purpose was to use it as a heating device for a room. They can range from vase-shaped flower pots to decorating furniture with a central hibachi pot. You can trace the roots of this device back to the Heian period in Japan.
However, centuries after its inception, the hibachi pot was also used as a cooking tool, although they mostly used it to heat tea or water. It was also used as a grill to cook traditional Japanese snacks that frequently accompanied the tea.
Of course, in modern times, the term hibachi is loosely used to describe any open-topped grilled used in a Japanese-style restaurant. Grills such as shichirin and teppan are commonly confused for hibachi. This is not a grave mistake, but it can cause some confusion in a Japanese area.
So, when people say about going to a “hibachi grill house,” they are most likely referring to a Japanese teppanyaki or shichirin house.
The term teriyaki has been much more faithfully adapted in the west. It comprises two Japanese words – “Teri” (meaning luster) and “Yaki” (meaning grilled or broiled). This is referencing the fact that teriyaki dishes, which often require grilling, have a shiny look as if glistening.
While teriyaki comprises an entire cooking style, the sauce’s key component here. This sauce is fittingly called “teriyaki sauce.” This method became popular during the Tokugawa or Edo period in Japan. After Japanese immigrants settled in different parts of the modern world, this sauce and its associated cooking method followed suit.
The thing that makes a teriyaki dish is the sauce. And traditionally, this sauce is a mixture of 3 simple ingredients – sugar, soy sauce, and mirin. Mirin is a type of rice wine prominent in Japanese cuisine. It is similar to sake, although mirin has noticeably less alcohol (about 14%) and more sugar.
The actual dish can include a diverse set of ingredients. There are different types of vegetables, frequently with a type of meat.
There is no list of ingredients that you can point to in a hibachi dish as the device was not meant for cooking initially. However, people most commonly brewed tea and grilled various Japanese snacks whenever they surrounded such an establishment.
Modern Japanese hotels with hibachi allow you to cook Japanese hot pots for dinner. Typically, these hot pots comprise an assortment of vegetables, often accompanied by some form of meat. They are usually made as a type of stew or soup right around the dinner table. So, the food keeps warm as you continue eating it.
Hibachi grills are also commonly associated with yakitori, a skewered chicken. Similarly, you can also skewer prawns, beef, and other meats on a hibachi grill. You can pair these meats with vegetables that are easy to skewer, such as onion, zucchini, mushrooms, eggplants, etc.
Taste and Flavors
Teriyaki is more than just its gloss. It has a distinctly sweet yet savory flavor profile. The sweetness comes from the caramelized sugar and the sugar present in the mirin. But it also has an umami flavor with a touch of saltiness, thanks to the soy sauce.
And since this sauce plays such a fundamental role in any teriyaki dish, these flavors also take center stage. All of these flavors go especially well with some sort of animal meat. That is why most teriyaki recipes will specify some sort of meat or stock.
In contrast, hibachi or a similar Japanese grilling gives the food a natural smokiness. This is expected as the source of heat is coming from burning charcoal.
So, it is fairly easy to identify a teriyaki dish and a dish made on a hibachi grill. Thanks to their trademark sauce, Teriyaki dishes will have a very familiar luster or sheen to it. The shine is similar to that on honey-glazed ribs or pork. A teriyaki dish, be it chicken, pork, or vegetable-based, will have shiny, sticky aesthetics.
Hibachi dishes are often presented near the actual grill. So, you can spot a hibachi dish instantly by the setting, even though the technique may not be traditional hibachi. These dishes are often in the form of a skewer or a hot pot.
Typically, teriyaki sauce marries fish and meat, giving the dish its glossy look and endowing it with tremendous flavor. The sauce frequently goes with dishes such as stir fry and grilled chicken. But you can easily use the sauce when cooking in the oven or on a stove-top.
You can marinate the meat in this sauce a little bit before cooking it. Or, in the case of stir fry, you can apply it at a particular stage of the cooking process. There is another way you can enjoy teriyaki sauce. Simply drizzle some of it at the end of the cooking as a glaze.
The old-school hibachi setting has become a tourist attraction rather than a regular practice. Though many settlements, particularly those in Japan, feature a more traditional hibachi pot in the center of a large table as a type of fireplace.
Patrons can gather around the hibachi to keep themselves warm. Meanwhile, their food, such as Dango or hot pot and tea, slowly simmer in the heat of the hibachi.
When used in a more encompassing term, hibachi can refer to any open-topped grill that utilizes charcoal. These grills are often used for cooking skewered meat and vegetables and many typical Japanese snacks.
Teriyaki sauce can contain plenty of sugar, sodium, and carbs.  These ingredients can be a problem for someone looking to follow a restricted diet. The bottled versions of this sauce can often include artificial coloring and flavors.
But you can limit the calorie levels in the sauce by simply adding less sugar. Overall, teriyaki sauce is not the most harmful sauce you can consume. But it also does not have much in terms of nutritional value. You can make a teriyaki dish healthy by making a dish that incorporates highly nutritious ingredients.
How healthy a hibachi dish can depend mostly on its ingredients rather than the actual cooking method. Yes, you are using charcoal for cooking, but there is little chance that the coal will get into the food.
With the spread of Japanese cuisine worldwide, teriyaki dishes became a staple of Japanese-style restaurants and street food vendors. Eventually, the style was adopted by many home chefs. Since making teriyaki sauce is not too complicated, any people looking for a taste of Japanese cuisine could attempt to make it at home.
Many sauces similar to traditional teriyaki sauce in the USA also gained popularity, even though these sauces use alternate ingredients. For example, they substitute mirin with white wine or add extra ingredients to the mix, such as garlic paste and sesame seeds.
In the region of Seattle, teriyaki-style dishes became so commonplace that they prompted people to call it the city’s signature cuisine even though it is a foreign export. As of 2010, the city has reported over 83 establishments that use the term “teriyaki” in their name. This sample, of course, does not include other Japanese-style restaurants without this moniker.
The use of hibachi grills or similar devices for cooking is a fairly recent phenomenon. And the method necessitates a very specific type of grill. Unlike teriyaki sauce, you cannot readily make this on your own. So, hibachi and hibachi-based dishes are not as mainstream in other parts of the world as teriyaki.
In Japan, old-style hibachi grills have become a tourist attraction rather than a common sight. However, some establishments feature a hibachi setting, often in the common room. It is a place where the tenants can gather and socialize over the food being cooked in the center.
Other Japanese grilling techniques such as shichirin and teppanyaki have grown in popularity, especially outside of Asia. These grills are often confused with hibachi to the point that the word “hibachi” started to encompass any grilling machine used to cook Japanese food.
A major aspect of such restaurants is the inherent entertainment value of seeing the chef cook the food right in front of you. These places often feature a central area where one or multiple chefs cook the food and serve them directly to their patrons.
Teriyaki vs. Hibachi: Which Is Better?
There are multiple factors here to consider. First of all, if you judge based on availability or affordability, teriyaki comes out on top each time. The sauce is a simple 3 ingredients recipe that does not require any extravagant technique or tool. You can even buy the sauce ready-made from any grocery store.
On the other hand, Hibachi is much harder to get a hold of. And even if you do manage to buy one, you still have the hassle of setting it up. And hibachi-style restaurants are not very typical.
Out of all the grilling techniques to come out of the land of Japan, traditional hibachi is not that suited to cooking. You are limited in the types of dishes you can cook with it.
Hibachi has its advantages. You hardly have to worry about the food getting cold. You can eat one food while the other items cook. You can keep your drinks warm.
You can view hibachi as the better choice in terms of health because hibachi does not specify any sort of ingredients. So, you can make a dish that perfectly complements your diet without taking in any excessive levels of sugar or calories. In comparison, teriyaki sauce may be suitable for all dietary plans.
Overall, teriyaki sauce is a simpler and easier thing to make, and you can try it at home yourself. It is more affordable and can work with a host of different dishes.
But if you were looking to create a cozy and warm environment where lots of people can gather around like a fireplace and enjoy a meal, a hibachi setting can meet those requirements.
Can You Substitute Hibachi with Teriyaki?
While hibachi refers to a specific device, teriyaki refers more to a specific component in a dish. So, there is no one-to-one comparison here. But you can cook the dishes you would normally associate with a hibachi grill in other ways and by incorporating teriyaki sauce.
Can You Substitute Teriyaki with Hibachi?
Similarly, you can cook teriyaki dishes on a hibachi grill. Of course, you cannot do this with every teriyaki dish. Specifically, dishes that require you to fry them or bake them in an oven will not suit a hibachi dish.
But many dishes require you to drizzle the teriyaki sauce over the food as a glaze. And you can do that on a hibachi grill. Teriyaki also goes nicely with grilled meat, another dish you can replicate on a hibachi grill.
Hibachi vs. Teriyaki: Which Is Healthier?
Whether it be a teriyaki dish or a dish made on a hibachi, the actual nutritional value will largely depend on the dish’s other components. But generally speaking, you do have a bit more flexibility with the hibachi grill in this regard. You can cook a hot pot that comprises mostly healthy dishes without any harmful elements.
But with teriyaki dishes, the sauce remains the same for the most part. And the sugar and soy sauce present in this sauce may not be compatible for everybody.
Hibachi vs. Teriyaki: Which Has More Vegetables?
Again, it largely depends on the specific dish you will make. You can make a teriyaki dish that is mostly vegetables. Likewise, you can cook a meal on a hibachi that comprises mostly healthy plants. When cooking on a hibachi, you are very much in control of what ingredients you put in it.
Can You Use Hibachi and Teriyaki Together?
You can make a dish that incorporates a hibachi grill and teriyaki sauce. As we have alluded to earlier, several dishes require you to use the sauce as a glaze. And you can easily recreate that on top of a hibachi grill.
Alternatively, you can put teriyaki sauce on top of a dish cooking on a hibachi grill if you think the flavors will go well, regardless of whether the dish originally called for this sauce.
To conclude, if you are in the mood for Japanese cuisine or looking to give your palate something new, both teriyaki and hibachi dishes are wonderful options for you to try.