Hot stone cooking has probably been around since the first caveman decided that he didn’t like his food burnt to a crisp over an open flame. In any case it has been a popular cooking method in many cultures for centuries. In Japanese this method of cooking is called Ishiyaki and can be used to cook almost anything from steaks to vegetables. Though stone grilling steaks is quite popular, it probably began as a way to cook freshly caught fish or seafood.
When fishermen would dive to catch fish or gather shellfish, some of their catch was cooked right on the boat by boiling it in wooden buckets that had been heated with hot stones. Native Americans cooked in much the same way by heating rocks and placing them into soups and stews. The hot rocks would almost instantly bring the liquid to a boil and cook the contents. Whatever you choose to cook using a cooking stone will not only taste delicious, but this method of cooking is fun for everyone involved.
Ishiyaki has become popular with many restaurants and specialized stones are available for both commercial and home use. Since very little oil is required for hot stone cooking, it is a healthier alternative to frying. Using a Japanese cooking stone requires little or no cooking experience aside from normal safety precautions so even beginners can have fun with this unique cooking style.
Using a Japanese Cooking Stone
Some hot stone set ups come complete with a stand and a spot to place burners underneath them, but for the traditional style stones some preparation is needed.
Before using the stone, wipe the surface using a damp sponge or cloth and make sure it is completely dry. Since most hot stones are porous, soap should not be used.
Slide the stone onto the center rack of a cool oven. Never put stones into a preheated oven because it could cause cracking.
Heat the oven to 450 F. Once the oven comes up to temperature, heat the stone for 25 to 35 minutes.
While your stone heats, prepare the table by placing a stand or heatproof pad in the center of a sturdy table and make sure that it is level. If your stone has a stand and alcohol burners, don’t ignite them until the stone is ready to be placed on the stand.
When taking the stone out of the oven, be sure to use thick, dry oven mitts because the stone will be very hot.
Place the stone directly onto the stand or heat proof pad and if burners are being used, light them. Make sure that the stone is level and secure before beginning to cook.
A Japanese cooking stone should maintain an adequate temperature for cooking for around 45 minutes and using burners will add another 30 minutes to the time. If desired, a bit of salt can be sprinkled on the stone before you cook. This will not only season your food, but prevent sticking.
For best results, meat should be cut into thin strips while vegetables or fruits can be a bit thicker for a crisp-tender result. Simply lay whatever you’re cooking onto the surface of the stone and remove it when it is done, which generally takes just a few minutes.
Allow stone to completely cool before removing for cleanup with hot water and a soap less scouring pad.