Hibachi Grill


After World War II, many newly affluent Americans had the means and desire to travel. They flocked to the tropics, visiting Pacific islands, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia, as well as warm places closer to home, including Mexico, California, Hawaii, and Florida. People developed a taste for casual living and the distinctive local foods and drink. Returning home, they re-created these experiences in their new suburban backyards, with patios, tropical drinks, and the grill, where they cooked meals craved by a postwar meat-mad America.

The brick fire pits, huge in-ground pits, and giant community-sized grills used for traditional western and southern barbecues were not compatible with the new suburban yards. Backyard barbecuers favored smaller, more portable tools like the new covered patio grills and Japanese hibachis. By the 1980s and ’90s, they were buying more elaborate grills and smokers, as well as specialized tools, serving paraphernalia, decorative items, and furniture for the outdoors, made by American and Canadian manufacturers. By the late 1950s, American manufacturers and retailers were promoting a huge number of goods made to prepare grilled meals on the patio.

First imported from Japan and Hawaii, and later from Taiwan, this small charcoal-fueled hibachi was perfect for preparing skewered meats and vegetables, perhaps made popular in tropical-themed tiki bars, where customers often grilled their own food at the table. Because of its size, the hibachi was much favored by apartment dwellers that didn’t have big outdoor spaces for the larger grills. As use by Americans grew, so did the size of the hibachis. This double-grill version, made primarily for the U.S. market by the Hibachi Company of Taiwan, was better suited for the enormous steaks favored by American backyard cookout fans over the small pieces of meat or vegetable on a bamboo stick as typically used in Asia.

The hibachi was not the only Asian cooking tool (or foodstuff) adopted by post-war patio cookout fans. The expanding American market for backyard cooking paraphernalia let those fans buy hibachis to use at home for their Americanized versions of newly popular Asian street food.

Location: Currently not on view

Subject: Food CultureCamping


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Domestic Life, Food, FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000


Exhibition Location:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2012.0139.01Accession Number: 2012.0139Catalog Number: 2012.0139.01

Object Name: hibachi grillgrill, hibachigrill

Physical Description: metal (overall material)Measurements: overall: 6 in x 17 1/2 in x 11 1/4 in; 15.24 cm x 44.45 cm x 28.575 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746ad-9f5a-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_1424246

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