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Simple indoor grilling on a budget

Barbecue is a delicious style of cooking, but it can be time-consuming and expensive. On top of that, weather conditions need to be right.

What if there was a way you could do just a little barbecue in the comfort of your home or dorm room without dropping hundreds of dollars?

Imagine no more. In this article, I will show you a small kitchen item that you can use to open up your cooking possibilities without spending a lot of money.

The product we used:

Meet the Mannen

Empty Mannen being held

This is the Mannen Woven Wire Rack Ceramic Far-Infrared Cooking Barbecue Grill Mesh. It is designed to be used on small, portable gas stoves popular in Japan. Simply place it on top of the stove, put food on it, and start barbecuing.

According to the product description, a key feature of the Mannen is the ceramic powder coating found on one side of the mesh. The fire of the stove heats the ceramic mesh, and the ceramic mesh heats the opposite mesh that you place food on. This means you aren't cooking directly with the heat of the fire, but instead cooking with the heated ceramic mesh.

Considering the Possibilities

Mannen Grill Mesh with thinly sliced meat and vegetables

Before we continue, it's important to keep a few things in mind. The Mannen is small, designed for use with a gas stove, and is very affordable (¥1,500, or roughly 10 American bucks). As such, you can't compare it to a regular-sized outdoor grill that you and your families and friends might gather around on summer weekends. As such, it's a niche item and should be considered a tool in your kitchen toolkit.

Since you are cooking food using a gas stove, your choice of foods you can cook are fairly limited. You're not going to grill any of the typical fatty foods you might want to grill on a normal barbecue. I wouldn't recommend hamburgers, fatty chicken, or meats with sauces or marinades that can drip down. It's probably dangerous and will leave you with a difficult-to-clean mess.

I see you eyeing the back button. But before you go, let me tell you what foods you can cook with the Mannen grill at home.

  • Hot dogs
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Quesadillas and other texmex food
  • All kinds of vegetables
  • Grilled rice balls
  • Grilled fish
  • Aluminum foil-wrapped chicken
  • Pizza
  • Smores and other heated sweets.

Although the Mannen isn't going to be replacing your frying pan, it can certainly supplement it, especially if you're on a tight budget.

Considering these more niche uses, I see the Mannen grill mesh as a useful tool for three kinds of people:

  1. College students
  2. Parents
  3. Japanese food enthusiasts

For college students

Most college students (men especially) don't know how to cook. They often have no experience with grilling food. However, the Mannen provides an affordable way of learning how to grill certain kinds of simple foods. Simple foods, like hot dogs or grilled cheese sandwiches, can be cooked in a frying pan. However, college men can impress their college buddies or the girls by cooking normal foods in an unorthodox way.

For parents

As a parent of picky daughter, I can tell you that children enjoy things that are familiar, but with a slight twist.

This is something my 2 1/2 year-old really said.

"Rice, hamburger steak, and broccoli on a plate? Don't make me laugh, mother. You'll serve it to me in a bento box or I will drop it on the floor."

She really said that.

If you need help convincing your children to eat something, the Mannen might be the tool for the job. Given how affordable it is, you have nothing to lose but your sanity.

For Japanese food enthusiasts

Onigiri is a staple of Japanese cuisine and a fan favorite, especially for college students in western countries. But few fans know that you can cook onigiri. It's called yaki onigiri (焼きおにぎり for your Google image search). Yaki onigiri are nearly as simple to make as normal ones, but for a genuine Japanese experience, you need to make them on a grill. The Mannen makes it possible for Japanese culture enthusiasts to experiment with yaki onigiri and other delicious (grilled fish with rice for breakfast) Japanese foods.

I think now you're ready to see the Mannen in action.

Cooking with the Mannen

Mannen Grill Mesh with onigiri, sandwich, and burrito.

With the above three groups of people in mind, I decided to cook four things with the Mannen:

  1. A convenience store sandwich
  2. A convenience store burrito
  3. Yaki onigiri
  4. A pizza

After I show the results, I'll go over the experience.


Toasted sandwich on Mannen

The bread is well toasted, but the meat was still a bit cool. Recommend microwaving for a short time before toasting.


Toasted burrito on Mannen

Perfectly toasted outside, hot and melted cheese on the inside. Very happy with results.

Yaki Onigiri

Yaki Onigiri on Mannen

One onigiri turned out well, but the other one stuck a bit to the mesh. Be sure to season and oil the mesh well before cooking yaki onigiri with the Mannen.


Pizza on Mannen

This store-bought pizza was partially frozen when I began cooking. The cheese and toppings were hot thanks to the aluminum foil I wrapped it in.

The Experience

Gas stove set to low heat

Here are some things I thought of while cooking with the Mannen.

  1. It's small and heat is generally focused in the middle.
  2. It's best to use edges to stage or keep food warm and cook with the middle area.
  3. I felt comfortable using my hands to handle food for short bursts.
  4. The fire doesn't need to be turn up very high
  5. Similar to a yakiniku or other barbecue experience, I enjoyed the experience of managing the food with another person. Good for group cooking.

The Mannen can get messy, no doubt. The yaki onigiri we made stuck and burnt to the mesh. The mesh on both sides was discolored after one use. My mom wouldn't like that, but in my college days, I could live with it. Plus, the Mannen needs to be seasoned (meaning it needs to have some oil cooked onto the mesh like cast iron frying pans do), so a bit of grime and grease left on the mesh is necessary.

After cooking

Stuck-on rice

I noticed that the ceramic coating developed small cracks. This is expected and normal. My guess is that the coating will fall off with use. According to the product description, you should avoid washing the ceramic coating in order to increase its lifespan. My wife cleaned it before she read the instructions on the package. Whoops! But, we were able to use it again without any problems.

The cooking-side of the mesh is discolored and has a bit of rice burnt to it, but I would feel comfortable using it again.

Final thoughts

Ceramic side of Mannen after use

At only around $10, the Mannen Grill Mesh is a decent specialty cooking instrument. Although it can never replace a full-sized grill, if you work within its limitations, you can find surprising results. College students on a budget, parents, and Japanese culture enthusiasts are people that will likely find the most value from it.

The product we used: