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Need small indoor charcoal grill.

Pepper Jun 3, 2006 04:21 PM

I am looking for a small basic charcoal grill to use on my stovetop. Picture a big coffee can (big grocery store style), with a small grate on it. I just want to be able to grill things easily indoors.Little chicken on skewers and things like that. I want the nice chargrilled flavor but don't have room outside for whole barbeque set-up. Thanks in advance....Pepper

  1. b
    breadchick Mar 22, 2011 04:53 PM

    Nooooo no no, please. Use one of those stovetop grills, and if you really want ot get the sear you need, use a cast iron grill pan, crank it up, and set your vent to super high. Open a window.

    26 Replies
    1. re: breadchick
      WraithX Mar 22, 2011 05:03 PM

      You can of course do that too - but I was just pointing out that there is a special type of charcoal which is safe for indoor use - it has been used for thousands of years in Asia and is found in many Korean and Japanese restaurants around the world (including the United States). There are at least two Korean restaurants in California that have 100% charcoal grills on every table inside. I have attached a photo of a man cooking on charcoal in a Korean restaurant. Just remember though - it HAS to be white charcoal (binchotan) - black charcoal releases toxic fumes.

      1. re: WraithX
        paulj Mar 22, 2011 05:12 PM

        I bet those restaurants have good ventilation systems. A older home with open windows probably has enough ventilation as well. A hood over the stove that vents to the outside may be enough. But be extra careful in house or apartment that is well insulated and sealed to keep heat or AC in.

        1. re: paulj
          WraithX Mar 22, 2011 05:15 PM

          Yes I agree - I would definitely not recommend using even white charcoal indoors unless you have very good ventilation - my dining table is beside french doors and there is a second door on the other side of the room so it has a constant flow of fresh air.

        2. re: WraithX
          breadchick Mar 22, 2011 05:22 PM

          Aha, WraithX, I was responding to the original poster, it just happened to land under your post. :-) Crazy how that happens!

          We're dedicated charcoal/smoker users outside, so that was my first go-to answer. No to the outside-use charcoal.

          1. re: WraithX
            kaleokahu Mar 22, 2011 06:39 PM

            Aloha, WraithX:

            Thank you! I learned something today reading your old post. I knew nothing of white charcoal.

            I have read some links, but am unable to find any authority for the indoor safety of white charcoal. Do you know of any places I can look?


            1. re: kaleokahu
              ms. clicquot Mar 22, 2011 06:55 PM

              I wasn't really planning to get involved in this discussion but I was curious so I googled about white charcoal and found this page from the CDC which states: "Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal - red, grey, black, or white - gives off CO".

              1. re: ms. clicquot
                kaleokahu Mar 22, 2011 07:12 PM

                Aloha, ms. clicquot:

                Thank you for the information. I was having a hard time imagining a solid carbon-based fuel that would not produce carbon monoxide.

                BTW, I love your Champagne.


                1. re: kaleokahu
                  paulj Mar 22, 2011 07:53 PM

                  However CO isn't a problem with adequate ventilation.

                  WraithX's appears to claiming that the 'white charcoal' produces less of other toxic chemicals; or at least it burns cleaner. I don't know. I have seen Morimoto use charcoal like this on Iron Chef America. I have couple of small bags of Korean oak charcoal (from HMart) but haven't tried them yet.

                  In any case, for most of us, a patio or fireproof porch is better than inside.

                  1. re: paulj
                    WraithX Mar 22, 2011 07:59 PM

                    You are right - the process of making the white charcoal reduces much of the other toxins produced by black charcoal. This is part of the reason that it is virtually smokeless - it doesn't have the impurities which are what causes smoke in normal charcoal.

                    1. re: paulj
                      soupkitten Mar 22, 2011 08:05 PM

                      cooking on a tiny grill with white charcoal in a huge, ventilated restaurant with 30'ceilings, or a cavernous studio with seating for 200 or so. . . is not so stupid.

                      doing the same inside a regular house or apartment is a very good way to take your own attributes out of the gene pool. i thought this thread had to be a joke :( guess not.

                      1. re: soupkitten
                        WraithX Mar 22, 2011 08:09 PM

                        You had better race of to Korea and Japan and stop them all doing it in their homes then - it is amazing they lasted the last two thousand years without wiping out their races :)

                        1. re: WraithX
                          soupkitten Mar 22, 2011 08:21 PM

                          nice, but as others have mentioned, contemporary american home construction is designed to be well insulated. so read, "airtight." i'm sure there isn't anything wrong with idling an F150 in your living room, and that nothing bad will happen, but you may want to look up some stats on carbon monoxide poisoning and death rates. btw carbon monoxide has nothing to do with clean burning fuel or visible *smoke*-- it is an odorless and colorless gas, which can kill you.

                          1. re: soupkitten
                            WraithX Mar 22, 2011 08:37 PM

                            I realise that there is still carbon monoxide - I was making two points - perhaps not clearly :) - that the white charcoal emits very little smoke, and that an adequate amount of ventilation (ie, don't do it with all the doors and windows closed) should be sufficient to give you safe air around the bbq (presumably that is why people don't die all the time cooking BBQ in Korea) :)

                        2. re: soupkitten
                          la2tokyo Mar 22, 2011 08:28 PM

                          There are quite a few Japanese restaurants that serve individual portions of food on a small shichirin burning binchotan, and high-end sushi bars will do the same for small pieces of grilled fish, but the amount of food they can prepare on those things is very small. Those shichirin typically burn two pieces of white charcoal about the size of a golf ball. Even though the charcoal doesn't produce much smoke, most of the food will smoke, and if you cook meat on it the drippings will smoke a lot too. I use one at home, but I keep it outside my kitchen door because the food (not the coal) smokes too much. If you have a strong hood that vents outdoors you could probably use one without problems, but if you want your food to have the smoky flavor of charcoal there is not really any way around the smoke. If you are somebody that sears steaks on a smoking hot cast iron pan in your kitchen then maybe you won't mind, but if I do that kind of thing in my apartment someone would probably call the fire department.

                          1. re: la2tokyo
                            WraithX Mar 22, 2011 08:36 PM

                            I do quite a lot of very hot cooking of meat on the hottest griddle possible - so much so I had to have a heat detector instead of a smoke detector in the kitchen because it would be going off all the time :) I also do a lot of Korean BBQ at the table with a portable gas stove and BBQ pan - when you do pork belly on it the smoke is quite unbelievable. I evacuate the birds :)

                            1. re: WraithX
                              kaleokahu Mar 22, 2011 08:55 PM

                              Aloha, WraithX"

                              What is your basis for saying burning white charcoal gives off less CO than "black"? Is all the charcoal used in Korea white?


                              1. re: kaleokahu
                                WraithX Mar 22, 2011 08:59 PM

                                Hi Kaleo - I don't mean it gives off less CO - I mean that there is less smoke and other toxins because they are produced by impurities in charcoal of which there are far fewer (if any) in white charcoal because of the rapid cooling. The white charcoal rings when struck like metal and is incredibly hard - compared to the very soft black variety. White charcoal is very prized for authentic Korean cooking but these days many housewives cook on a gas burner as it is far more convenient (white charcoal takes a long time to set alight).

                                1. re: WraithX
                                  c oliver Mar 22, 2011 09:04 PM

                                  So the CO will kill you quickly but the "other toxins" will take longer??? I just don't see this as a good argument. Also where's a retail outlet in the US that sells this white charcoal please?

                                  1. re: c oliver
                                    WraithX Mar 22, 2011 09:11 PM

                                    When the coals are lit outside and then taken inside to a well ventilated room, there should be virtually no danger. It doesn't take many of the coals for cooking and the heat lasts much longer.

                                    As for a US vendor - here is one: http://brentwoodtradinggroup.com/tabi...

                                    1. re: WraithX
                                      c oliver Mar 22, 2011 09:17 PM

                                      I think it's pretty serious stuff to advise someone to burn charcoal indoors so I'd like a citation that supports "there should be virtually no danger." Please.

                                      1. re: c oliver
                                        WraithX Mar 22, 2011 09:20 PM

                                        I understand your concern - I guess the only evidence that it is safe is (as I have said previously) it is not at all uncommon in Korean and Japanese homes and it is found all over the world (including in the US) in many Asian restaurants.

                                        1. re: WraithX
                                          c oliver Mar 22, 2011 09:31 PM

                                          I'm not a particularly cautious person (just read me about food safety!) but I'm going to stick with the CDC on this one:


                                          1. re: c oliver
                                            WraithX Mar 22, 2011 09:38 PM

                                            You certainly should be making the decision based on your own environment - there are likely to be many people who definitely should not cook over charcoal in the home. But, as always, I believe the CDC (and other food authorities in the US) are always overly cautious. The same is true in NZ - in order to help against whaling it is illegal to important ambergris - but if you kill whales you will never get ambergris. It is like a law to make it illegal to import golden eggs because it may lead to the golden hen being killed. Ridiculous stuff sometimes occurs when committees make laws :)

                                            And perhaps worse is the hypocrisy of advising against this mostly safe cooking technique but allowing the use of viruses as a food additive and other things like coal tar and borax - more on that here: http://listverse.com/2009/03/10/top-1...

                                    2. re: c oliver
                                      WraithX Mar 22, 2011 09:17 PM

                                      Oh - and more pertinent to the original question: here is a grill (the photo of which clearly shows it being used inside) that comes with free bichotan charcoal :)


                                    3. re: WraithX
                                      kaleokahu Mar 22, 2011 09:27 PM

                                      E, WraithX, Tena Koe:

                                      Thank you for the clarification. With great respect, I am no combustion chemist, but the method of making white would seem to preserve carbon, which would seem to mean *more* CO when burnt. I also think that the absence of smoke is not necessarily indicative of safety (cf., automotive exhaust v. diesel).

                                      I am new to the concept of white charcoal, but it seems that the lower burning temperature may have culinary advantages over the hotter-burning black. Is this true?

                                      Hangi, like imu in Hawai'i nei, are covered outdoor pits, right?

                                      E Haere Mai,

                                      1. re: kaleokahu
                                        WraithX Mar 22, 2011 09:33 PM

                                        You are correct about the hangi pits - they are fueled by incredibly hot rocks and then when the food is added it is all buried. It is very tasty! And you are also right about the culinary advantages of white charcoal - it is a lower burning heat and has no flames (unless the meat drips onto it). In some cases when preparing food over it the meat is moved away from the charcoals when it begins to drip. I believe in Korean cooking (though I might be wrong) that the meat would be considered overcooked or spoilt if a single drop of juice comes out of the it. But that is not likely the case with home cooking :)

                2. w
                  WraithX Mar 22, 2011 04:37 PM

                  Despite what every other commenter here has said, you can safely cook on a charcoal grill indoors but ONLY if you use white charcoal (binchotan charcoal). It is very commonly used indoors in Korean restaurants and because it is different from black charcoal it doesn't release poisons.

                  1. f
                    fishspeaker Oct 10, 2007 09:53 PM

                    Hello, again! I just remembered that the shichirin I posted earlier is more of a portable stove, but still has a grill that would work just as well. What would really work for your needs is a "hida" grill, specifically made for tabletop cooking and I last saw one being used in pubic on Iron Chef America by Iron Chef Morimoto. A small hida grill can cost about $15-40. Also seen as a shabu-shabu/hibachi grill:

                    1. r
                      RGC1982 Oct 8, 2007 08:34 PM

                      Very dangerous. The carbon monoxide can kill you. Don't even think about it.
                      As a matter of fact, you are not even supposed to grill anywhere with a covered top, such as in the garage with the door open when it is raining, for the same reason.

                      1. f
                        fishspeaker Oct 8, 2007 12:22 PM

                        I know it's been over a year, but have you ever tried looking up Japanese "shichirin"? For cooking, it uses "sumi", a natural hardwood charcoal. In Japan I went to a couple of restaurants where you kind of did your own cooking of small items on tabletop shichirin.

                        1. monkeyrotica Sep 21, 2007 06:44 AM

                          Unless you plan on cooking in your fireplace, indoor hibachis are a bad idea.


                          1. n
                            Niki Rothman Jun 4, 2006 02:17 PM

                            Carbon monoxide is never your friend, it's very toxic. Do Not put a charcoal grill in your kitchen unless suicide, and possibly taking close relatives with you is the objective. Otherwise, get one of those Lodge Logic heavy cast iron flippable combo grill-griddle things. Mine was $35 in a kitchen out let - it covers 2 burners. You will get a nice char and grill marks, but sorry, no pronounced charcoal flavor or "smoky" flavor. You see them using them on food network all the time.

                            You don't say why you don't want to grill outside. Lately, I've developed a plan to put a hibachi out on my apartment's back landing where it's in the open air. I've been craving BBQ myself have never had a backyard - being a confirmed city person. So, I can tell you I've put a lot of thought into this very question lately. How to BBQ without killing myself or anybody in my building, or having to call the Fire department? Here's what I think: Hibachi on a cookie sheet, outside your back door on a level surface, at least 3 feet away from anything remotemly flammable, no children or pets anywhere near, fire extinguisher that you've practised with at the ready. I got one from QVC.COM that all you have to do is aim and shoot - no removing pins on a chain - idiot proof. Really, BBQ aside, EVERYONE needs an easy to use fire extinguisher right near their stove at all times anyway.

                            1. t
                              theSauce Jun 4, 2006 02:49 AM

                              Rite-Aid sells these one-time use charcoal grill. It's simply aluminum pan with a few charcoal in them and a grate on top. I think I paid $3.99 for it. It's great for little balconies where a bbq setup is not possible. Again, do not use charcoal indoors.

                              1. k
                                Karl S Jun 3, 2006 04:56 PM

                                Just to reemphasize for future readers: a fatal idea. Worse even than trying to use your gas oven to heat your house during the winter....

                                1. b
                                  Bobfrmia Jun 3, 2006 04:28 PM

                                  I've never heard of anyone using charcoal indoors. I think it would be a very bad idea.

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: Bobfrmia
                                    Bobfrmia Jun 3, 2006 04:31 PM

                                    Having just checked my Kingsford bag, it says "Using charcoal indoors can kill you. Charcoal gives off carbon monoxide."
                                    Like I thought, bad idea.

                                    1. re: Bobfrmia
                                      Pepper Jun 3, 2006 04:46 PM

                                      So much for indoor Kushiyaki! Thanks...I found a small charcoal grill that will fit on my balcony...outside. Believe it or not, I have had worse ideas! ;) Thanks. Pepper

                                      1. re: Pepper
                                        Tracy L. Jun 3, 2006 05:31 PM

                                        I can see where you got that idea. I once had a little grill similar to what you have mentioned. It took a sterno can and you basically cooked the food beforehand and finished it on the 'grill'. From the looks of it it looked like you could use it with a single briquet of charcoal but obviously no. I'd check some Japanese import stores. They might have electric or gas table top grills like you are looking for.

                                        1. re: Pepper
                                          dixieday Jun 3, 2006 10:36 PM

                                          Yep, people do die every year trying to use (usually for heat) charcoal grills indoors. BUT there is an alternative: stovetop grill pans! They are these heavy pans with ridges inside--you get them very, very hot, then drop on your chicken or asparagus or whatnot, and you'll get lovely grill marks and a grill-ish flavor, with no messy briquettes or CO2. try one! Only key is to make sure pan is VERY hot (as in heat empty over a medium flame for at least 5 minutes) before you put in the food.

                                          1. re: dixieday
                                            byrd Jun 4, 2006 01:20 PM

                                            the only problem with those griddles are that every time you use them your ceiling needs repainting.

                                          2. re: Pepper
                                            biltong Jun 4, 2006 07:26 AM

                                            Make sure you check on fire regulations when using a grill on a balcony. Many years ago when I was a teen and had just got my first apartment I had a small hibachi on my balcony. A neighbor saw the smoke from the grill and called the fire dept. I got a $500 fine.

                                            1. re: biltong
                                              chileheadmike Jun 4, 2006 10:50 AM

                                              Nice neighbor. I hope you didn't share.

                                              1. re: chileheadmike
                                                c oliver Mar 22, 2011 08:51 PM

                                                Old post, I know. But these regulations are there for safety reasons.

                                                1. re: c oliver
                                                  WraithX Mar 22, 2011 09:03 PM

                                                  Fortunately in NZ (where I live) no permit is required for small fires for cooking in non-rural areas (including the traditional Maori pit fire method called a hangi). We only get fines for setting large fires too close to the neighbours or in the countryside.

                                                  But speaking of regulations, sometimes they do go too far - in Orange County it illegal to have a 100% charcoal bbq in a restaurant - but you can use charcoal if it is sitting on top of a gas fire. The rule doesn't apply anywhere else in California and at least two Korean restaurants use exclusively charcoal BBQs.

                                                  1. re: c oliver
                                                    Jay F Mar 23, 2011 06:26 AM

                                                    Why would anyone who lives in an apartment building think to grill indoors? Her poor upstairs neighbors.

                                                2. re: biltong
                                                  paulj Jun 4, 2006 01:13 PM

                                                  I also watched the fire department put out a fire that started on an apartment balcony - caused by a small grill. It damaged that unit and the one above it.


                                                3. re: Pepper
                                                  Marco Jun 5, 2006 03:01 AM

                                                  One word of warning about small charcoal grills. If it has metal or aluminum legs that are attached to the main body of the grill, the legs can get VERY HOT while in use. Never use it on a resin table and be very careful if you are using it on a wooden surface. If your balcony is made of wood, it would be wise to place something fireproof underneath.

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