How to Make a Japanese Yakitori Grill

Karren Doll Tolliver

The word “yakitori” in Japanese means grilled poultry. The dish called yakitori refers to skewers of small pieces of marinated chicken grilled over charcoal. It is popular in Japan to drink beer with yakitori meals. Genuine yakitori grills can be hard to find. Even if you find one, it may be out of your price range.

Convert a small grill into a yakitori grill.

If you want to try grilling yakitori yourself without investing in an authentic yakitori grill, you can make your own.

  1. Wrap two or more ordinary clay bricks in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Use as many bricks as necessary for two rows of bricks, each extending the length of your hibachi or one-use grill.

  2. Place a hibachi or a small, one-use charcoal grill on a heat-proof surface such as a concrete patio. The grill must have a grate. However, the grate should not be more than a few inches above the charcoal.

  3. Remove the grill grate, add charcoal if necessary, and light the charcoal. Wait until all the charcoal is coated with gray ash and the temperature is evenly distributed. Place the grate on the grill.

  4. Place the foil-covered bricks on the grill grate. Make two rows of bricks along each side of the grill lengthwise. Leave a space between the bricks down the middle of the grill. When you place a skewer of chicken across the grill the bricks will hold up the ends of the skewers. The chicken will be suspended across the middle space over the heat to cook. The bricks keep the chicken high enough above the grill so that flare-ups do not burn it.


Supermarkets and discount stores sell disposable charcoal grills with the charcoal already inside. Traditional Japanese yakitori grill fuel is charcoaled wood, otherwise known as natural charcoal. This type of charcoal has not been pressed into briquettes. To further protect the skewers from burning, soak them in water before skewering the chicken. A basic yakitori marinade consists of mirin, sake, soy sauce and sugar.


Do not use a small, electric kitchen grill to make yakitori because the heat will not be high enough to cook the chicken properly.