I first discovered yakiniku, or Japanese BBQ, at a friend’s house several years ago and was wowed by the delicious meat flavor. Since then, I’ve visited countless Japanese restaurants and tried making my own Japanese barbecue until I’ve perfected the recipe.
Today, I’ll explain everything you should know about this barbecue and give you all my tips and tricks for a successful Japanese grilling session.
- Japanese style BBQ is called yakiniku.
- You need thin slices of beef for yakiniku.
- You can enjoy yakiniku at home.
What Is Japanese BBQ?
Japanese BBQ is grilled meat, mostly beef. Different cuts of beef are used, including expensive Wagyu cuts. Other kinds of beef commonly used include Yonezawa, Sawa, Matsusaka, and Mishima.
This BBQ is called yakiniku in Japanese, and there are special yakiniku restaurants where families and friends usually sit in a booth.
There’s a grill of some sort in the middle of the table with an extraction system above it . Most often, the grill is either gas or charcoal. The people use a grill for cooking the meat themselves.
The beef is the highlight of the menu, with other items included as well. You can most commonly find vegetables, chicken, and some seafood options.
Yakiniku was created to resemble Korean BBQ, as it was imported to Japan by Korean immigrants. Over time, Korean BBQ evolved to suit the taste of Japanese people.
What Do You Need for Japanese BBQ?
You need special equipment, utensils, meat, vegetables, and yakiniku sauce for Japanese BBQ at home.
1. Equipment and Utensils
The most important item you need is a portable grill that can be used indoors. For example, you can get an indoor electric grill.
Yakiniku is cooked either on amiyaki (a grill over a wire net) or teppanyaki (a grill over an iron plate). These are charcoal grills.
Tip: If there are any Japanese stores near you, buy binchotan charcoal. This white charcoal is used in Japanese cooking, so you’ll get a more authentic flavor. Binchotan charcoal burns longer and has minimal smoke.
In terms of grilling tools and utensils, you’ll need tongs for grilling. Tongs make it easy and safe to turn the food.
Note: Japanese beef comes prepared and cut into thin strips or slices so you can toss them on the grill right away. But, if you can’t get Japanese beef, you’ll need a carving knife to cut the meat into small portions before grilling.
Finally, you’ll need small side plates for each person eating the BBQ, sauce dishes for dipping the meat into, rice bowls if you serve meat with rice, and chopsticks.
2. Japanese Barbecue Meat
Technically, you can use any kind of meat when cooking yakiniku, but beef is the traditional choice, and you’ll find it in yakiniku restaurants.
You can use these beef cuts:
- Short ribs — Are marbled, which makes them full of flavor. Short ribs cook quickly, are tender, and taste best when cooked from medium rare to medium.
- Roast and rib roast — Comes from the shoulder, while rib roast is the meat from the back of the ribs. The rib roast has more marbling. These are served in thicker slices and take longer to cook.
- Skirt steak — Comes from the diaphragm. It should be marinated in miso sauce or soy sauce. It’s leaner than other cuts, so you should cook it for longer.
- Sirloin — Is tender, juicy, and flavorful. The fat gives it extra flavor.
- Beef eye fillet (tenderloin) — It’s low in fat but still tender. It grills quickly.
Apart from beef cuts, other kinds of meats you can use include pork belly, chicken breast, chicken thighs, sausages, and shrimp.
Horumon means discarded goods. This refers to the meat cuts often thrown away, such as organ meats, intestines, liver, and heart.
Almost every part of the cow is used in yakiniku. One of the most popular horumon items is beef tongue. The beef tongue can be served sliced thin or thick. It has cross marks for better tenderness and is cooked rare and served with a sauce.
You should cook the beef tongue first so its flavor isn’t affected by other kinds of meat.
Apart from the beef, you can serve some vegetables.
Some of the most popular options include:
- Corn on the cob
- White and yellow onion
- Mushrooms, including shitake mushrooms and oyster
The Best Side Dishes and Drinks to Serve with Japanese BBQ
Here’s what you need to add the final touch to the Japanese BBQ experience.
The most important sauce is the yakiniku. No Japanese barbecue is complete without a yakiniku sauce. Combine sake, mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, white miso, chopped garlic, and roasted sesame seeds to make yakiniku sauce.
Simmer all the ingredients in a saucepan for about two minutes. Make sure to whisk well to dissolve the miso paste, then transfer it into a bowl and serve it as a dipping sauce for meat and vegetables.
“The Japanese don’t marinade the meat for the barbecue. They pour the sauce over the meat. This way, you can taste the meat and how fresh it is.”
- Seonkyoung Longest, YouTube Channel
Alternatively, you can make tare, which is a salt-based sauce. This is a good choice if you’re serving miso soup with the BBQ. This sauce has a thick soy sauce flavor and includes salt, sake, and mirin.
If you don’t want to make any sauces, Japanese recipes also have versions where you can use rock salt to bring out the beef’s flavor, mustard, rice vinegar, or lemon.
Tip: Lemon pairs especially well with beef tongue.
Other Side Dishes
There are several other sauces that pair well with Japanese barbecue. These include oiled or steamed edamame pods with salt, potato salad, lettuce wraps, steamed rice, miso soup, kimchi, and edamame.
Tip: Barbecue is a hot dining experience. After all, this food comes from the grill, so ice cream or chilled fruits are a great dessert.
Japanese beer is a popular alcoholic drink with this barbecue. You can also try other Japanese drinks, such as chuhai, which is a fruit-flavored drink mixed with shochu and soda, plum wine, and whisky and soda.
If you prefer non-alcoholic drinks, you can go for soft drinks such as soda and fruit juice. If you have a favorite yakiniku restaurant or a Japanese grocery store, try to get Calpis (a sweet drink).
7 Japanese BBQ Tips & Tricks
Here’s what to keep in mind for the best Japanese grilling experience:
- Cook only a few items at a time, and eat as you cook. This allows you to enjoy the grilling and the company of the people around you. Also, this is how the Japanese do it. If you can’t eat while cooking, eat immediately after serving.
- Use pieces of beef to grease the grill, so the ingredients don’t stick.
- Buy enough grilling tongs or metal chopsticks so everybody can cook their meat at the same time. Otherwise, you risk having overcooked beef while you wait for your tongs.
- Cook lean cuts first so the meat retains its pure flavor and the cuts aren’t contaminated by leftover fat from thicker cuts.
- Cook lean cuts for a short amount of time, so it isn’t tough.
- Cook fattier meats for longer, until the fat melts, so they become tender.
- Cook the first pieces of meat with lighter flavors. Don’t season them with sauce. Save stronger flavors for later. This way, the meat won’t be contaminated, and you can clearly taste each cut.
Finally, this is a great meal for up to eight people. It requires minimal preparation, and people can spend time together while cooking.
Also Read: Best Hibachi Grills
What Meat is Used for Japanese BBQ?
Thinly sliced ribeye, short ribs, and skirt steak are most commonly used for Japanese BBQ. Overall, beef cuts are commonly used, but you can also use pork belly and chicken breast.
What Do You Need for Yakiniku?
You need yakiniku meat, such as wagyu beef pieces, pork, and chicken, for yakiniku grilled meat. You also need ingredients for the dipping sauce. These include onion, sesame seeds, sake, miso, and garlic.
What are Japanese BBQ grills called?
Japanese BBQ grills are called hibachi and shichirin. These are small, portable grills made of cast iron, and you can make yakiniku at home or on the road. They usually use charcoal as a heat source.
What is the Difference Between Korean and Japanese BBQ?
The difference between Korean and Japanese BBQ is that Korean BBQ uses marinades to add flavor to the meat, and Japanese BBQ doesn’t use marinades but sauces for dipping grilled meat.
Should You Try Japanese Style BBQ?
Japanese-style BBQ is a great way to gather your loved ones around the table and enjoy some delicious meat. Make sure to use soy or sesame oil for meat dipping, or make your own yakiniku sauce. Finally, don’t forget to grill thin slices of beef.
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