If you’ve never had the pleasure of trying teppanyaki, let us illuminate you. You are sat along a long bar. In front of you is a large metal hot plate upon which a chef is cooking you several delicious-looking portions of sizzling vegetables and meat (if you partake). You are enjoying a delightful cocktail as the chef tosses his spatulas and knives around in a jaw-dropping display of skill and acrobatics. The food is excellent, the experience sublime and you thoroughly enjoy your meal, leaving the restaurant full and smiling.
Teppanyaki is a relatively new type of Japanese cuisine. Introduced after World War II and made popular by westerners who preferred the more familiar style of the dishes than the traditional fare of sushi or noodles, the cooking style was invented in the city of Kobe in 1945 by the restaurant Misono. Since then it has become a popular way of eating all over Asia and across the rest of the world!
Stemming from the combination of the words ‘teppan’ which relates to the flat metal grill plate and ‘yaki’ which means fried or grilled in Japanese, these metal hotplates have become an extremely popular way of preparing food and eating out. It is a very versatile and social way of dining, with customers typically sitting around a communal grill where a chef will cook their food right in front of them. Because of the flat surface, all of the juices from your wagyu steak or prawns won’t drain away and makes your food extra delicious. Japanese teppanyaki chefs pride themselves on their high quality dishes and skills, making the dining experience relaxing and high-end while still being casual. In the west, teppanyaki chefs are usually equal parts cooks and entertainers, doing tricks and manipulating the food as it cooks to entertain clientele. Imagine a bartender tossing bottles while making a cocktail but add in knives and fire and you’re pretty much there. But no matter where you find yourself eating teppanyaki, you are sure to come away having had a wonderful experience.
How to choose the right teppanyaki grill for you
So what do you do when you are craving some good ol’ teppanyaki but want to enjoy it at home in your pajamas or don’t want to spend the money on a restaurant meal? Take a teppan grill home, of course!
A traditional teppan hot plate is heated using gas but thankfully for those of us who want to enjoy teppanyaki in the comfort of our own homes, electric grills are an affordable, safe and very accessible option. They all plug into the mains and have a thermostat so you can select the level of heat you want. So, despite it being a popular option for a social dinner date or meal out, you can also enjoy the experience of teppanyaki cuisine at your own dinner table.
But how do you decide which grill to get? Imagine how you will be using your teppanyaki grill plate. Are you a single pringle who is looking to enjoy a chill solo dinner or with one or two others? Or do you have a big family or group of friends and are looking for a fun, communal way of eating together?
If your plan for your hot plate is to use it alone or as a couple, you may like to go for a short, compact option which can comfortably sit in the middle of a made-for-two table but still have enough room on it for everything you want to cook. A compact-sized grill will also lend itself well to taking with you on camping or beach trips and is easy to store away when not in use. If there are more than two of you eating, such as a family or small group of friends, then a slightly longer hot plate may be in your best interests to ensure everyone can cook together at the same time.
If you are the type of person who enjoys hosting big get togethers and want to try a new, fun way of eating with your guests, then a 90cm long teppanyaki grill plate would be an ideal size to opt for! Everyone along the table can have their own spot on the grill to use and as everyone will be gathered around the table all at once, you won’t have to worry about dashing back and forth to the kitchen all evening, leaving you free to enjoy the company of your guests.
What can you cook on a teppanyaki grill?
All kinds of food and dishes can be prepared using a teppanyaki grill plate but beef, shellfish, chicken and vegetables are among the most common. They are usually fried with noodles or rice and served with some kind of sauce. Other dishes such as okonomiyaki (a type of savoury pancake filled with cabbage and other fillings), yakisoba (fried noodles with pork, cabbage and pickled ginger), and the infamous Kobe beef can also all be prepared on the flat teppan grill and are all popular options when eating out at a teppanyaki restaurant in Japan.
To enjoy teppanyaki at home, you only will need a few easy-to-find items. The first is obviously the teppan. Second, the foods you would like to cook and the dipping sauce which is most commonly known as ‘yakiniku’ (literally translated to ‘fried meat’) sauce. Third, utensils such as chopsticks or tongs and plates!
You can serve pretty much anything for teppanyaki. Thinly sliced meats such as pork, beef and chicken, or seafood such as scallops or prawns, make delicious options. Any kind of vegetables can be cooked as well such as mushrooms, onions and bell peppers, and you can also grill eggs. Simply heat a little cube of butter or a neutral oil of your choice over the hot grill and cook whatever morsels you like. Once cooked, dip your pieces into your own personal bowl of dipping sauce and chow down!
Eating this way makes a brilliantly fun dinner party idea - simply set your hot plate up in the centre of your dinner table and serve the ingredients raw (make sure you keep any raw meat separate from other foods!). Encourage your guests to use the hot plate to cook any pieces of food that they fancy and enjoy!
If you want to expand your horizons, why not give okonomiyaki a try? With a name literally meaning “whatever you like fried”, okonomiyaki is a very affordable and delicious dish that can be found everywhere in Japan but originated in the Osaka region. You usually cook it yourself at your table where there is a teppan grill set into it. It is also very easy to make at home! All you need is a simple batter mixed with lots of shredded cabbage and any toppings you want (bacon or seafood are some of the most popular toppings). Mix it all together and cook on a well-oiled teppan. When cooked through and golden brown on each side, top with okonomiyaki sauce and Japanese mayonnaise and enjoy! It is hearty, warm and perfect with a nice cold beer.
Not just for Japanese food though, your teppanyaki grill can also be used as an extra cooking surface if your stove top is full, for keeping dishes and plates warm on the table, or used as a fun way to cook Sunday breakfast for the kids - perfect pancakes and beautiful bacon are just a grill away!
So whatever you like to cook, pick up your very own teppanyaki grill plate today and enjoy delicious cuisine from all around the world. And as the Japanese say before enjoying a meal: “Itadakimasu!” (Thank you for the food!)