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Chicken Yakitori

Justin Fox Burks

Now that grilling season is here, I have been looking for new chicken dishes to try on the grill. Flipping through old cookbooks, I was reminded of Chicken Yakitori – a dish I haven’t made in way too long.

These kebabs are a popular item on the menus of Japanese restaurants and are very simple to make at home.

Yakitori is a traditional Japanese cooking method. In fact, it is one of the fastest and easiest grilling preparations there is. 

Your favorite chicken part is cut in small pieces (I prefer chicken thighs because the meat stays juicy and flavorful), skewered, and then lacquered with a sweet, syrupy sauce while grilled over direct heat.

The emphasis on this dish is the sauce … which is both sweet and savory at the same time. 

It’s made from a combination of Asian ingredients such as soy sauce, mirin, sake, and fresh ginger.  I also add a bit of garlic to enhance the flavor and red pepper flakes for a kick.

No need to worry about serving this to little ones. Most of the alcohol in the sake evaporates when the sauce is brought to a boil. But if you prefer, unseasoned rice wine vinegar can be substituted for the sake.

And also know that while Mirin may sound exotic, it is easy to find. This sweetened rice cooking wine is found in the international section of most larger supermarkets.

For maximum flavor, marinate the chicken in half the sauce for about 30 minutes. Reserve the other half of the sauce to brush on the chicken at the end of the cooking process.

To complete the meal, serve the skewers with a bowl of hot steamed rice and a crispy Asian slaw.

This is Jennifer Chandler with The Weekly Dish. Bon Appetit!

Chicken Yakitori

  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/2 cup sake
  • 2 tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • Skewers (if using bamboo, soak in water for 30 minutes)
  • Vegetable oil, for the grates

In a medium saucepan combine the soy sauce, mirin, sake, ginger, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Put the chicken in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the marinade and toss to coat. Cover, place in the refrigerator, and marinate for 30 minutes.

Preheat a clean grill to medium-high with the lid closed for 8 to 10 minutes. Lightly brush the grates with oil.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off the excess. Discard the marinade. Thread the chicken onto the skewers.

Place the chicken on the grill. Close the lid and cook, basting with the remaining marinade and turning frequently to prevent scorching, until no longer pink the middle, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side.

Serves 4.

Printed with permission from Simply Grilling by Jennifer Chandler.

Jennifer Chandler graduated at the top of her class from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She is a full-time mom to two daughters in Memphis, Tennessee, and is a freelance food writer, restaurant consultant, and author of four cookbooks The Southern Pantry Cookbook, Simply Salads, Simply Suppers, and Simply Grilling.