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The Best Fuel for Hibachi
What you use as fuel is a matter of personal preference. Chef Keller runs through several options including aged hardwood, such as oak, and any number of fruit tree woods.
Different fuels burn at different temperatures and impart different flavors. Go with what appeals to you, though Chef Keller urges you to shy away from the cheap charcoal briquettes of his childhood, which are made of compressed scraps of wood and sawdust.
Chef Keller’s personal preference is for binchotan, a Japanese charcoal that burns at a lower temperature than hardwood charcoal but lasts much longer. Chef Keller tests the charcoal’s readiness by holding his hand six inches above the grill; the heat should be intense enough that he has to pull his hand away in two seconds or less.
The Pros and Cons of Indoor Hibachi
As with so much cooking, patience and attentiveness are key to grilling; keep a close watch on your ingredients as they grill. Safety is also crucial. Although grilling shouldn’t produce more smoke than other techniques, such as sautéing, it pays to take precautions. Make sure you’re working directly beneath a hood in a well-ventilated kitchen. Chef Keller always keeps a spray bottle of water nearby, which he uses in case of flareups.
The small grates of a hibachi will not leave grill marks on your food (those are more common when you’re cooking on a covered grill with larger grates), but the binchotan will impart a wonderful woodsy flavor.
Chef Keller seasons these meats lightly, finishing them with salt, olive oil, and lemon.
Chef Thomas Keller’s Hibachi Chicken Recipe
Mise en place
- Yellow and red onions
- Boneless chicken breast, skin on, 6 to 7 ounces
- Chicken tender
- Chicken drumstick
- Canola oil
- Kosher salt
- Olive oil
- Sel gris
- Hibachi grill
- Flexible spatula
- Spray bottle
- Large serving spoon
*Equipment note: Use whatever tongs you feel comfortable with that won’t damage the product—the smallest size possible that will protect you from the heat and hold the meat securely without damaging it.