October 06, 2021 2 min read
The word ‘konro’ was originally used to describe a portable heat source for cooking, but these days in Japan, ‘konro’ describes a household gas burner like this one. That said, the ceramic charcoal grills that we sell at Knifewear are also referred to as ‘Konro’. The highly portable Shichirin Konro are perhaps the most popular shape of konro grill in Japan.
They’re so well-loved because you can grill vegetables and meat as you typically would over charcoal, but also you can use them to heat pots and pans! The Kanji for Shichirin (七輪) means seven rings, but when Japanese folks see these kanji, they only think of the konro. When Ariana Grande tried to get a tattoo saying seven rings in Japanese, it didn't go as planned.
The Konro grills we carry at Knifewear are made with diatomite. This sediment of diatomaceous earth forms after a huge number of phytoplankton die and sink down to the bottom of the ocean. During the sedimentation process, any organic matter from the phytoplankton is degraded, leaving glass-like shells. This resulting diatomite possesses a very porous texture. In Japan, this unique sediment can be found in the Noto peninsula, Ishikawa and some parts of Hokkaido.
A diatomite mine, the material konro grills are made from.
There are two different methods to make konro grills: Kiridashi and Nerimono.
In Japanese, Kiridashi means to ‘cut out’. Highly skilled craftspeople go into a diatomaceous earth mine and cut out the diatomite in cubic or cylindrical blocks. Back at their workshop, they carve the blocks into the konro grill shape, then bake them in kilns. Check out this video of the process. These types of Konro grills are about 2-3 times more expensive than our konros, due to the workmanship and effort that goes into making them. They’re also more durable because they are one piece, but they’re very hard to come by.
Our konro grills, on the other hand, are called Nerimono or ‘made from paste’. Basically, they are made with the same material but they grind the diatomaceous earth up, mix it with water, put it into molds, and bake it into blocks. The craftspeople then assemble them into the shapes that we carry. The big advantage of this method is that they can produce them much faster and a lot more affordably than the kiridashi konro. Our konro grills are made by the company Kaginushi Kogyo.
Blocks of Diatomite, used for making konros.
These Kaginushi-made konro grills are probably the most popular ones you will see, from retailers of Japanese cookware like us, to restaurants that cook over charcoal daily. I hope you enjoyed learning about this process, if you’d like to learn more about Konro grills we have a ton of other articles about them and how they work!
Naoto came to Canada in 2007 and we aren't letting him go back. After getting angry with his roommate's dull knives, he started to dream of sharp Japanese knives. Naoto graduated from the University of Calgary with a bachelor degree of art, majoring International Relations and finds that selling Japanese knives is his own way of doing international relations. Naoto is our Cultural Ambassador bridging Japan and Canada. You can also see him in SpringHammer looking cool and holding it all together.