A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 24, 2007
Texas Hibachi

"Hibachi” is a Japanese word that literally means “fire bowl.” The “Texas hibachi” is a large-sized hibachi grill, usually a 55-gallon drum set on its side and with a grate placed inside of it. Stores began to sell “Texas hibachi” in the 1960s.

Some of the best Texas BBQ masters won’t barbecue with anything else.


Wikipedia: Hibachi
The hibachi (Japanese: 火鉢, literally “fire bowl") is a traditional Japanese heating device. It consists of a round, cylindrical or a box-shaped open-topped container, made from or lined with a heatproof material and designed to hold burning charcoal.

In North America, the term “hibachi” is used to refer to a small cooking stove heated by charcoal (actually called shichirin in Japanese), or to an iron hot plate (teppan) used in Teppanyaki restaurants. 

History
Although the word is Japanese and the device is strongly associated with Japan, the hibachi originated in China as a type of portable charcoal brazier used to heat the homes of the nobility. It is not known when the hibachi was first used in Japan; however written records suggest that it was used by the Heian period (798-1185AD). Owing to the low availability of metal in China and Japan, early hibachis were made from dug-out cypress wood lined with clay. However, craftsmen soon began to make more decorative versions with lacquered finishes, gold leaf, and other artistic embellishments. Stronger materials such as metal and ceramics became popular over time. Traditional hibachis can be very attractive objects in themselves and are today sometimes sold as antiques. They were originally used mainly by the samurai classes and aristocrats but gradually spread among ordinary people. Their design developed throughout the Edo period. It is a flat surface of heat, to be more specific.
(...)
The use of the word Hibachi in the English language
The traditional Japanese hibachi is a heating device and not usually used for cooking. In English, however, “hibachi” often refers to small cooking grills typically made of aluminium or cast iron, with the latter generally being of higher quality. Owing to their small size, hibachi grills are popular as a form of portable barbecue. They resemble traditional, Japanese, charcoal-heated cooking utensils called shichirin. It has been suggested that these grills were confusingly marketed as “hibachi” when they were introduced to North America because that word was easier than “shichirin” for English speakers to pronounce. click here to listen to the pronunciation of “shichirin” (help·info)

Alternatively, “hibachi-style” is a North American term for Japanese teppanyaki cooking, in which gas-heated hotplates are integrated into tables around which many people (often multiple parties) can sit and eat at once. The chef performs the cooking in front of the diners, typically with theatrical flair—flipping shrimp tails into his hat, for example, or lighting a volcano of onions on fire with his fingers. The popular Japanese restaurant chain Benihana uses hibachi grill cooking as its trademark.

Texas BBQ King
Texas Hibachi aka drum cooker; aka barrel grill; aka hobocue grill

It’s exactly what it looks like - a 55 gallon drum/barrel more or less cut in half with four spindly legs welded on and an ash flap cut on one end.  The ultimate stop-gap solution for someone who wants a cooker that can burn stick wood.  Cantankerous, difficult to manage, prone to catching on fire, and generally the most labor-intensive way to bbq.  But a Texas hibachi is cheap, versatile, and can produce world-class results.

It’s all about how and what you cook rather than what you cook on.  I want to upgrade in part because of the “gee whiz” factor.  Who doesn’t want a pit that turns your friends and neighbors green with envy?  Still, the drum is limited when you want to do more than two briskets/butts at a time and requires constant attention to maintain a steady temperature.  Definitely not the lazy man’s way to bbq.  And I am a lazy man.  So lazy.  I want an easier way to cook.

Then again, there’s something satisfying about hearing people go on about how delicious the bbq you whipped up in drum turned out.  Master the Texas hibachi and a reverse-flow will seem like cheating. 

(Oxford English Dictionary)
hibachi
[Jap. hibachi, hi-hachi, f. hi fire + hachi bowl, pot.]
A large earthenware pan or brazier in which charcoal is burnt esp. in order to warm the hands or heat a room.
1863 R. ALCOCK Capital of Tycoon II. xvi. 379 There were also some fifty Hebachis, or vessels for burning charcoal and warming the rooms, corresponding with the Spanish Brazeiro.

6 February 1865, New Orleans (LA) Times, pg. 2:
This fuel is the general fire wood of the farmers and countrymen, with the exception of a little charcoal for the hibachi or brazier around which the family gather in doors as we around our fireplaces and grates.

3 February 1872, Nagasaki Express, supplement to pg. 432, col. 2 (From Hiogo News of Jan. 20):
We have often reflected on the extreme unhealthiness of the national hibachi.

Google Books
Japanese-English and English-Japanese Dictionary
by J. C. Hepburn
New York, NY: A. D. F. Randolph & Company
1873
Pg. 172:
STOVE, n. Hibachi.

16 December 1964, New York (NY) Times, pg. 21 ad:
Texas hibachi ($16.95).
(Abercrombie & Fitch—ed.)

28 April 1965, Fresno (CA) Bee, pg. 22A ad:
The Long-Legged Texas Hibachi...Family Size
11x17 In. Grid Area
7.88
Take it with you to back yards, beaches, boats or indoors...the legs are removable! Rugged black cast iron bowl is designed for ideal draft...handy carrying handle. 28 1/2 inches high.
(Sears—ed.)

17 May 1965, New York (NY) Times, pg. 14 ad:
Texas hibachi—big 11” x 17” cooking grid. 27 1/2” high with legs, 9 1/2” without, for fireplace. Firebox shaker, ash pit, sliding draft doors. Grill comes out. Cast Iton with steel legs. $16.95
(Abercrombie & Fitch—ed.)

8 April 1983, Frederick (MD) News, section ?, pg. 11 ad:
Texas hibachi
SALE 18.88
The hibachi that grew! Everything’s big in Texas...even hibachi’s! Durable grill features cast iron grid and aluminum legs.
(Hechinger—ed.)

Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook
by Robb Walsh
San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Book
2002
Pg. 40:
Also known as a Texas hibachi, a barrel smoker is a fifty-five-gallon metal drum turned on its side and sawed in half. The steel barrels have legs an handles welded on to make them easy to use. A barrel more gives you enough room to burn hardwood, or at least to throw a few logs onto a charcoal fire. If you get two or three years out of a barrel smoker, you’re doing fine. The tops never close evenly, the grills burn through, and sooner or later the barrel rusts out of the welds break, which is probably why they don’t ship them to other parts of the country.

Some of the top cook-off competitors in the state swear that the Texas hibachi is the perfect barbecue unit.

17 June 2002, U. S. News & World Report, “Fans of the Flames” by Nancy Shute and Marc Silver:
Author Robb Walsh dishes out a heaping serving of history in his hymn to the glories of grilling Texas-style. The newspaperman and barbecue judge is not shy about his love of fire, either. “Ever since the first time I went to [the renowned Lockhart, Texas, barbecue pit] Kreuz Market and saw those big oak logs blazing, I just kept dreaming of the day when I could start burning hardwood myself,” Walsh writes. He got his wish with a “Texas hibachi,” a smoker grill made of a 55-gallon oil drum sawed in half lengthwise.

But what about gas grills? Easier, safer, no messy ash? “Forget it,” says Walsh bluntly, noting that true Texas barbecue is smoked, an impossibility with gas grills.

Food & Wine (June 2004) - Expert Grilling Tips
Robb Walsh, author of Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook: Recipes and Recollections from the Pit Bosses

My favorite is the Texas hibachi, a 55-gallon oil drum that’s set on its side, cut in half and hinged, with a grate placed inside of it. They sell these outside hardware and feed stores here in Texas, and they cost around $60. When you can use real wood for grilling and you have enough room to cook away from the fire, you can do great stuff and get really fancy. 

Recipezar - Community Forums
Red Apple Guy
Wed Apr 18, 2007 10:30 amForum Host
It’s called various things: Texas Hibachi, Hobocue, etc… and is not designed to last long. Reinforcing the fire area prolongs it’s life, but these things have won a lot of BBQ contests. Usually they require “flipping” the meat during the long cook for consistent cooking.

Smoking Meat Forums
08-12-2007, 12:59 PM
TexasNightTrain
Just Gettin’ Started
Newbie

Hey from Texas
Hey folks! Just sayin HI to my brother smokers! I do have a little burnt mesquite under my belt, but I ain’t no professional. Been using those “Texas Hibachi” 55 gallon drum pit for most of my life. For the price, you really can’t beat them, but I really want to get something with thicker metal and a seperate firebox. Right now, my “hibachi” is fitted with a thermometer on one end of the barrel. That is usually where I set the meat at. The fire is always at the opposite end, close to the vent door. Anyway, look forward to learning something new and swappin out ideas and recipes. 

Barbecue News Forums
STS Posted - 09/29/2007
No I haven’t really considered a BDS. Heck I’m sure there are a lot of options I haven’t even thought of yet. I’m sure I could make a bunch of big drum clones for the price I’m talking about. I’m kinda partial to the offsets though. Just a personal preference.

Texas is the home of the Texas Hibachi, I bet there are all sorts of barrel type smokers down there, pits, offsets, stacked configurations. I’ll probably wait until I get there to seriously consider buying anything, like I said I’m just trying to hone my skills in finding the ‘Good” smokers that are out there.

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Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Wednesday, October 24, 2007 • Permalink