Konro Grilling

Konro Grilling


How bad did I want a Japanese konro grill? Let's just say I had a picture of one tacked up on the refrigerator of my Manhattan apartment for at least five years in the hope, the hope, that someday that I'd have a backyard or rooftop where to use it. So when my wife and I scored a garden apartment in Brooklyn last year, I knew I'd buy one come spring. What I didn't expect was that my friend Saori Kawano, the founder of Korin Trading and the nonprofit Gohan Society, already had one set aside for me and my wife as our wedding gift. Whoa. Saori is a trailblazing entrepreneur who built the largest independent Japanese restaurant supply company in America; aside from being exceedingly kind and gracious, add "mind reader" to her prodigious talents!

So on Friday, Saori handed me the konro and a box of binchotan, called a car service to haul everything to Brooklyn, and moments later I was rolling across Roebling's bridge. An hour later I was setting up my grill. My konro is a rectangular grill about two feet long. The firebox is made from porous ceramics. It's narrow, so I can hang skewers over the fire without burning my hands. It has two wire grates but these are removable, and that's the beauty of this thing: Without grates, and by skewering your ingredients, you can grill in three dimensions -- that is, move the ingredients around on an angle to cook evenly. Last year when I apprenticed in the kitchen of Ryugin in Tokyo, I watched a masterful chef named Seki-san grill fish, meat, duck, chicken, fighting cock and veggies this way, angling the foods over the blazing fire. I wanted to try this myself, and now I had my chance.

The first thing I did was light the binchotan charcoal. The top grade of this traditional oak charcoal is naturally shaped like the branches that it's made from, and is so hard it clinks like glass when you whack pieces together. I used a lesser grade, but one that works great, too. It takes about an hour to get the charcoal going, which I did on my stove (with the doors open). Once the fire was going, I marinated shiitake mushrooms with a 50/50 mixture of olive oil and soy sauce; brushed parboiled fingerling potatoes with sesame oil, and seasoned with salt; brushed another batch of parboiled fingerlings with vegetable oil and sprinkled shichimi togarashi over them (Saori's suggestion, terrific); ditto for pearl onions; and got my shell steaks ready (also known as New York strip -- my favorite steak). For the steak, I took a page out of my pal, coauthor and grilling fanatic Tadashi Ono's playbook: dunk in 2 parts soy sauce to 1 part olive oil, plus grated garlic and black pepper -- Tadashi's all-purpose, go-to meat marinade (which we're featuring in our upcoming grilling book!). I skewered everything with metal skewers (tanegushi) and was ready for action.

I grilled by feel, touching the foods, angling them like Seki-san did, watching carefully. I was amazed by the intensely concentrated heat produced by the binchotan, which burns smokeless and odorless, and how the ceramic firebox held that heat and spread it throughout the rectangular grill -- so even though I was just grilling in one corner, I was able to indirect grill without coals, too, and also keep my cooked foods hot at the farthest reaches of the konro. The food tasted uh-mazing. My darling wife was smiling (and not just because we recently adopted an adorable puppy). Can't wait to grill with my konro again: Thank you, Saori-san! Check out the pictures below-including a photo of our pup, Ben (part Rottweiler, part Chow, part monster, totally sweet):

4-27 UPDATE: Today I got a few inquiries about where to buy this incredible grill. Click here to check out Korin's konro.

Posted by Harris Salat in Grills | Permalink | Comments (16) | Email | Print

Comments (16)

Very nice!

I have a shichirin that we use inside our Brooklyn apartment, I think it's made of the same kind of stone but it's much smaller. I like your charcoal starting technique, I'll definitely use that in the future.

Here's some shots of the shichirin in action:


I stumbled on the konro and the binchotan charcoal last year on Korin's website and have been fantasizing ever since. You've inspired me to buy one of the small ones and grill away. Please explain how you started the charcoal in the oven. Thanks!
I started the binchotan on a wire mesh over a burner on the stove. See the photos for a close up!
can you explain the difference in taste of this barbecue to say a regular barbecue with briquettes...where the bricks are started on fire in a chimney. Don't the skewers get hot and have to be handled with gloves?
What's the brand of your Konro grill? I like the size.
Thanks for this post--I've always had trouble trying to light binchotan, so I'm glad you mentioned how long it takes. Once lit, how long does it burn for?
That's nice! Can you rent us the Konro for a night? The other question. Can you reuse Binchotan for many times?
come borrow it any time, neighbor -- if you give ben his 7am walk! :) the binchotan burns up, but it burns hot for a long time -- a few hours, at least -- considerably longer than conventional charcoal. to answer other questions in the comments: the binchotan envelops foods with a thicker heat, if that makes sense, so it grills ingredients differently than regular charcoal (but don't get me wrong, i love my weber, too!). the metal skewers don't get hot where you hold them, they're pretty long (about 18 inches or so). i got a few requests about info for buying one, see above. -- thanks for all your comments, harris
I love my konro and I'm glad you posted your technique on heating the coals as well. I wasnt sure if there was something i was missing given how long it takes to catch. Another technique which is interesting, sometimes i like to boost the heat intensity on some items i want a quick sear on by using a hair dryer to blow oxygen on the coals to really wake them up.
I like this idea! Maybe I didn't think of it myself because I'm... hage (bald). :) Hey, Jeremy, do you use the little sliding vents on the bottom of the knoro, too? I forgot to mentioned these in my post, but they let in air (just make sure they're not clogged up with ash). Thanks....... Harris


I was born in the US but my family is turkish. Every time I return to visit, we always have to go to our favorite kebab places. In turkey, kebab is grilled very close to the coals as is done in japan. Wanting to bring the flavors back home, i always tried to peek into the kitchen to learn what i could. One of these times i saw the grill master taking a hair dryer to the coals ... so i cant take all the credit for the technique though it is very effective and i certainly would like to ;)

I do play around with the vents as well. Im not sure i know what the best way is to use them, but currently i always keep them open for more airflow and when i use the hair dryer i use the vents to direct the air so the ash blows out the vents.

BTW keep up the great work, love this blog.


Harris, do you know if Korin Trading ships to Germany? I couldn't find enough information.I would love to have this small table konro they have. I also would like to include this shop into my small shopping site,the have great assortment. Your konro is amazing, I´m jealous! ;-)
Hi, I'm afraid I don't know what Korin's policies are regarding international shipping. Maybe email them? I've been enjoying grilling with mine... Thanks, Amato,
I want to learn this grilling technology.Where can i learn?
Excellent website! Are these grills able to be used inside? I know it goes against logic. Our family in Tokyo took us to a Korean BBQ place last time we were there. They had large circular charcoal grill they set in a hole in the middle of the table. Similar to this, we cooked our own items before eating. It was a great experience!
Harris, I guess you don't need that Shichirin now! Jealous.... BTW, I light the B-Charcoal the old fashioned way, with Map Gas and a torch! Guarantee it wont take but 5 minutes to light. This link is to buy a case, I think. http://www.amazon.com/Bernzomatic-16-9OZ-Map-Gas-Cylinder/dp/B001H1HM8Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=hi&qid=1277221082&sr=8-1

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