By Steven Ziegler
Disclaimer: The WEBstaurantStore strongly recommends that you never modify our equipment! If you are a knucklehead, like the writer of this blog post, just please understand when we are unable to give you advice on modifying the equipment that we sell. When you choose the path of knuckleheadedness, you go it alone.
Sometime in the middle of Winter, I had this craving, as I often do, for meat on a stick. Specifically lamb with a Middle Eastern Marinade. I didn’t act on it for a few weeks, but then I watched an episode of No Reservations where Anthony goes to Turkey. At that point the craving became a need, and I resolved to take care of it the next day. But I wanted to do these right, and even though I have always cooked on a gas grill, I really wanted to use charcoal with the never-used hibachi that I found in my garage when we moved in 10 years ago. The next day I bought my lamb, picked up a bag of our natural lump charcoal, made a marinade, and grilled on charcoal for the first time in at least 15 years. It was amazing. And now I cannot go back to gas.
I have been grilling on that little hibachi ever since, which is challenging considering I have a family of five. I needed something bigger. But I couldn’t find a hibachi that was bigger, or a large grill that I wanted that was in my price range. And then, looking at my hibachi one day, it struck me that a hibachi is built a lot like a chafer. And I just happened to have a scratch and dent chafer that was a customer return that had been taking up room in my garage. Not only was it a chafer, but it was a big, fancy Supreme Roll Top chafer. I had tried giving it away to people, but it is too fancy for someone to want with a dent in it. So I resolved to turn this into to something useful--I resolved to make the World’s Fanciest Hibachi Grill!
Doing so was incredibly simple. The first thing I did was remove the food pan and replace it with a 2.5" deep perforated pan to use as the charcoal holder. I then went to the big box store, and got an adjustable/universal grill grate. I also bought a new drill, and in doing so, I grunted with macho pleasure. Fortunately, I had a gift card. When I got home, I drilled a few 1/4" holes into the sides of the stainless steel water pan. This is not fun. You have to tap in some starter divots with a hammer and nail, and lube when you drill. I didn’t have a vice (I am really not handy at all), so I had to use a cargo strap to secure the water pan to the bench. I actually had to sit down the upside down water pan on the bench when I was doing the hammering, which caused all my neighbors to come out and look at me very strangely. Luckily, I am used to it and I don’t care. Once done, I put it all back together, and stretched the adjustable grate across, which just happened to fit perfectly.
Awesome Fancy Hibachi Facts:
One of my concerns with doing this is not being able to adjust the grate height. But with the extra space, I can adjust the coal height and that will work out fine. I can use the same amount of charcoal as my little hibachi, and still have room for some indirect grilling. What is more is that this has a dome cover, and the dome cover has holes in the sides to let out steam. But in what is now a grill, they work perfectly to allow in enough air to let the charcoal keep burning low, while smoke envelops the food. The pix that you see are the first meal: Steak and potatoes. But I cannot wait to try "Leaping Frog Chicken" on this thing, now that I have the room. And I cannot wait to put a few hickory chips in the water pan and see how that works out!