Shichirin Review (Yakiniku) met diverse Yakitori spiezen
Boys and there toys… Don’t speak my wife about it or I’m afraid half the terrace I managed to grab, might be picked bare. If you’re asked if you want to test a new BBQ, you can’t say no, can you? Certainly not when it comes to a model that is not yet in my collection. The emerging Kamado Brand: “Yakiniku” dives further into the history of Asian cooking techniques and this year brings its own “Shichirin grill” on the market. As a fan of Asian cuisine, I want to put it to a thorough test. Together with some friends we make several yakitori skewers to take a closer look at the working of this table BBQ. In this post I will tell more about the origin of the Shichirin and our first experiences.
Disclaimer: The product reviewed was given for free by Yakiniku for a non-sponsered collaboration. All opinions shared are personal and honest.
The name Shichirin might sound unfamiliar to you? Admittedly, I myself didn’t know it under this traditional Japanese name either. However, this type of BBQ is better known under it’s original Chinese name “Hibachi”. But are these actually the same. The Dutch website: “Japansenoodles.nl” teaches us more about it and I find similar stories on the net. This type of BBQ has its origin in the Chinese culture where it was used as an open stove. A round, oval or rectangular container made of (cast)iron or ceramic was filled with coal to heat the houses or huts. Its small size made it easy to move, so soldiers often took it with them on missions. In the 8th century the Hibachi made its appearance in Japan where it was originally used as a stove. It took a while before people started to cook on these charcoal stoves, which gave them the name “Shichirin”. So the only difference in name is in the way the stove is used.
A Shichirin is in itself nothing more than a portable open charcoal grill. They come in different sizes, shapes and price ranges. Logically, the solid materials such as cast iron are a lot heavier in weight, which makes the ease of moving the Shichirin lower, but the durability of the model higher. The Yakiniku Shichirin made of ceramics with Quartz and Cordorite has a middle weight. As long as you do not bump or drop it, the Shichirin will be very durable and you may enjoy it for the rest of your life. They are not very light, but on the other hand, Ceramics has the property of better heat retention and distribution which is less the case with thinner cheap metal models. In addition, the ceramics can withstand a lot of heat, allowing the appliance to radiate heat above 900°C (not yet measured from personal experience).
In addition, these appliances are characterized by the fact that the grate is very close to the charcoal. This means that indirect grilling is not really efficient on this appliance. You can make two zones (1 part with and 1 part without charcoal) but because of the limited size (400 x 200 mm) of this model makes the cooking surface very small. Moreover, this appliance is not intended for this use. Traditionally in Japan, thin pieces of meat are prepared on the Shichirin with or without skewers, where they are scorched briefly at a very high temperature.
This last characteristic immediately poses a challenge in our regions. In a first test I quickly made some sausages and snacks on regular charcoal. Because the grill surface is barely a few centimetres above the charcoal, dripping fat can quickly cause flames. If you haven’t thought of creating 2 zones (which I fortunately did) you soon threaten to see your sausage cremated. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean it’s unusable (otherwise they wouldn’t make such good food in Japan). The solution lies in finding the right fuel, of which fortunately I got a 5kg pack. Traditionally these Shichirin grills are heated with Binchotan charcoal. This charcoal is known to have the highest calorific value due to the highest charcoal purity (95%) in the product.
To achieve this, however, craftsmanship and patience are required (15 days of time to make them). This is because this charcoal is charred for two weeks at 200°C with a very low oxygen content and then maximum oxygen is added until the charcoal reaches a temperature of +-1000°C. Once the coals are red-hot they are extinguished with a mixture of sand and ash which gives them their white dusty colour. This complex process unfortunately makes the price of this charcoal very high (54.99/5kg for the Lychee binchotan I used). On the other hand, however, this charcoal produces virtually no smoke/ashes and does not burn as hard when grease is dripping over them. If you don’t have the money to buy this charcoal (We don’t… So I’m glad I could test them) then you have to choose between high temperatures and therefore regular charcoal, with the risk of flare-ups that are difficult to control. Or the use of coconut briquettes which cause less smoke and flare-ups but usually are more difficult to obtain high temperatures. The ideal solution (not yet tested) could be to use the type of greek fire briquettes.
As mentioned before, I wanted to get started with this new toy as soon as possible. I’m quite an advocate of experiential learning so I hadn’t looked up much information before the first use and immediately started working with regular charcoal (which I wanted to test anyway) and with the necessary attention and tips (see above) I succeeded quite well. 2 zones are a must so the grill surface shrinks quickly. However, I learned that with regular charcoal and the use of the looft lighter, the charcoal in the Shichirin became hot in no time. Ideal if you quickly want to grill a less delicate piece of meat. The next day I wanted to go a bit more traditional with the Binchotan Lychee and have a Yakitori party with some friends. For atmosphere and conviviality this grill gets the maximum of points. We placed the Shichirin on the middle of our lounge table with the sides and skewers I had prepared around the grill.
However, lighting Binchotan charcoal turned out to be a bigger challenge than I thought. With the looft lighter it is almost impossible to get it up to temperature, which caused some tampering in the beginning. Luckily my kamado was also lit so I could drop the binchotan between the other already glowing charcoal. After about 5 minutes they also started to glow (although I think they could stay a bit longer for an even higher heat) and this led to better results. I tried to increase the temperature by blowing and opening the ventilation at the bottom but this was not the best plan. Although there is not much ash coming from the Binchotan it threatens to fly around (not ideal for the surrounding sides).
In any case, the result was an incredibly nice evening where everyone could sit around the table and prepare the skewers according to their own taste and hunger. For the occasion I made 4 kinds of yakitori skewers (chicken thigh, chicken oyster, chicken hearts and chicken livers) with a homemade traditional Tare sauce. Despite the difficult start it was very nice to use this grill and I see the added value in it, although I personally find it on the pricey side (299 euros) given the restriction to direct grilling. Besides that, the appliance is fairly easy to maintain as the grill is also dishwasher safe and the glaze on the ceramics is easy to clean. Removing the ash, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult and a vacuum cleaner is not an unnecessary luxury.
- Nice eye-catcher/ambient experience
- Solid quality
- Easy to move
- Economical in consumption
- Easy to clean (except for the shaft)
- Traditional BBQ model
- Different models
- Quite expensive (299 euro)
- Limited possibilities (mainly direct grilling)
- Limited area (200×400 mm.)
- Ash removal requires a vacuum cleaner
Conclusion: Would I recommend this BBQ as the first BBQ to get started? No, I wouldn’t. It is too expensive and the possibilities may be a bit too limited. On the other hand, however, it is a very nice device to take as 2nd (or 3rd …) if your wallet still has some spare. This Shichirin is based on a piece of history which many a BBQ enthusiast probably will enjoy. Moreover, it is a very fun activity to do with guests! This grill has its added value in atmosphere and authenticity and I will probably have a lot of fun with it. What do you think about it? Would you buy one or would you prefer another model in this price range?
- 800 grams chicken thighs chicken hearts chicken oyster and/or chicken liver
- Spring onion thinly sliced for garnish
- roasted sesame seeds
- ½ cup dark soy sauce
- ¼ cup mirin
- 2 Tbsp sake
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 2 garlic cloves mashed
- ½ tsp of grated fresh ginger
Cut the chicken into equal pieces of about 1 cm thick and skew these pieces on soaked bamboo sticks.
Mix the ingredients for the tare in a pan and bring to a boil. Leave to thicken for about ten minutes until you get a syrupy mass.
Heat the Binchotan charcoal in a fire starter and wait until it is blazing hot. Then carefully place them in the shichirin.
Place the skewers on the hot grill and fry until golden brown (+-3 min on each side). Brush with the Tare and leave to caramelise briefly on the hot grill (+-1 min per side).