Bento booster /Use grills, pans to shorten cooking time

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Bibimbap, left, is made with a single pan and several dishes simultaneously cooked using a fish grill

The Yomiuri ShimbunThis series introduces everyday techniques to make bento lunches.

On busy mornings, you may struggle to find enough time to make dishes for bento lunches. Satomi Sugiyama, manager of the Tokyo Gas Co. Food communication Center, suggests saving time by using pans and the fish grills commonly found in Japanese gas ranges.

One of the characteristics of built-in fish grills is that the inside temperature rises quickly. The temperature in grills with top and bottom burners reaches over 300 C in about a minute after turning it on. Food can be heated thoroughly in grills and charring ingredients adds a bit of color. “You don’t need to do much prep, such as preheating the oven, which also helps shorten cooking times,” Sugiyama said.

A built-in fish grill can be used not only for broiling, but also for simmering, steaming and boiling. For example, you can make boiled eggs and simmered hijiki seaweed by using aluminum foil. It’s also possible to make meat-wrapped vegetables at the same time.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Fish grills can be used to cook many kinds of bento fillers at the same time.

“You can increase the number of dishes with very little effort,” Sugiyama said. If you use a grill with top and bottom burners, you can make all the dishes in about 15 minutes. When using a grill with only one burner, cook food for about 1.5 times longer than when using a two-sided grill.

If you want to make many things at the same time, place ingredients requiring a shorter cooking time in the front of the grill and those requiring a longer cooking time at the back.

When using a pan, Sugiyama recommends using a deep one, about 20 centimeters wide, with a cover. A cover is useful when boiling water or steaming ingredients.  

To make bibimbap, boiling and stir-frying ingredients is required. Following Sugiyama’s method, it can be made using just one pan. If you boil the vegetables in a pan first, you don’t need to preheat a pan before cooking the meat. “This allows you to save energy, so you can lower your water and gas bills,” Sugiyama said.

Also, if you make dishes that do not use oil first, you don’t need to wash the pan during cooking either, which shortens the cooking time.

Ingredients and directions:

(Each recipe serves one. A double-sided grill is used.)

Meat-wrapped vegetables

3 slices of pork belly / 1 grape tomato / 1 asparagus / aburaage deep-fried tofu

1. Separately wrap a grape tomato, asparagus and a small slice of aburaage (about a sixth of a piece) in pork belly, and season with salt and pepper.

2. Place them on a fish grill and heat for seven minutes.

Boiled egg

1. Wrap an egg in tissue paper that has been soaked in water.

2. Cover the wrapped egg in a 15-centimeter-square sheet of aluminum foil.

3. Place on a fish grill and cook for 10 minutes.

Simmered hijiki seaweed

20 grams rehydrated hijiki seaweed / the desired amount of carrot / ⅛aburaage deep-fried tofu / the desired amount of chikuwa fish paste / 2 tsp mentsuyu noodle soup

1. Cut carrot and chikuwa into slices and then quarter them. Cut deep-fried aburaage into thin strips.

2. Put the ingredents, hijiki, mentsuyu soup and two teaspoons of water on aluminum foil and wrap it up.

3. Place them on a fish grill and cook for seven minutes.


160 grams cooked rice / 50 grams beef / the desired amount each of spinach, carrots and bean sprouts / 2 tsp yakiniku sauce / 1 tsp vegetable oil / 1 tsp sesame oil / 1 tbsp ground sesame

1. Cut spinach into three-centimeter-wide pieces. Cut carrots into thin strips.

2. Put water in a pan and boil. Put the vegetables and bean sprouts into the pan. After removing the vegetables from the pan, remove excess water by gently squeezing them.

3. Mix the ingredients with sesame oil, ground sesame and a pinch of salt.

4. Put vegetable oil in the pan used in step 2 and stir-fry beef and yakiniku sauce.

5. Put cooked rice in a bento box and place the vegetables and beef over the top.

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