When I was leaving home as a youth, this is one of the first recipes I copied out of my mother’s card file. When Dad returned from Japan in the early ‘50s, he brought back a love of all things Japanese and many Japanese recipes. Mother was making chicken teriyaki when it was still an exotic foreign food in California. When most American families were getting hamburgers and hotdogs, we were getting chicken teriyaki and rice once a week. This is one of the comfort foods of my youth.
I am really surprised that I have not posted it before. Mother’s recipe was very basic—soy sauce, sake and lots of sugar. I have tinkered with the recipe over the years, adding marinating time, reducing the sugar and a tough of vinegar to tenderize the meat. Mother usually baked this dish, but I am going to fire up the barbecue.
When I barbecue, I prefer to cook the meat in large pieces. This reduces the surface area which allows moisture to escape. After barbecuing, I cut a large breast into three pieces, wing and a bit of breast, a breast slice or two—depending on the size of the breast—and a triangular breast tip. Other cooks may decide to cut the pieces into individual portions before marinating to have the maximum area covered with the sauce. It is a choice.
To go with my chicken I am making fresh tofu, and pickles, a Shiitake mushroom dish, and of course steamed rice. This is not an overly creative meal, this is more “Lueck family home cooking.” Reminiscent of the meals I remember as a child—mom would make the chicken and dad would make the pickles—that was one of the few dishes he would make on special occasions.
Karl’s Chicken Teriyaki
1 large roasting chicken (4-5 lbs.)
¾ cup light low sodium soy sauce
5 Tbs. sake
3 Tbs. mirin (sweetened rice wine)
3 Tbs. sugar
1½ Tbs. grated fresh ginger
1 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 tsp. corn starch mixed with water
1. At least six hours before cooking, cut the chicken into four quarters.
Tip: I cut out the backbone and the breast bone. Cut the bird in half and then separate the legs from the breasts. I also remove any large lumps of fat and I trim off the rib cage—these poky little bones have very little meat on them and they tend to puncture the marinating bag. The neck, backbone and any scraps are frozen for making chicken stock another day.
2. Mix the remaining ingredients in a small pot and bring it just to a boil. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and remove the pot from the heat. Let the teriyaki sauce cool slightly.
3. Place the chicken in a sealable gallon plastic bag and add three quarters of a cup of the teriyaki sauce. Reserve the remaining sauce.
4. Place the bag of chicken in the refrigerator and flip it over about every two hours.
Tip: Turning the bag over allows the sauce to reach all parts of the chicken. Six hours is a minimum marinating time, but overnight is better.
5. Half an hour before cooking, start your coals. When ready pour the coals along the back of the barbecue, leaving the front of the grill bare (a bi-level fire).
6. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat the pieces dry. Let them air dry for 30 minutes.
Tip: Discard the marinade or heat it and then filter out the clotted chicken juices.
7. Lay the chicken pieces skin side down close to, but not directly over the coals.
Tip: You what to place the thickest part of the breasts and legs nearest the heat. You also do not want the chicken directly over the coals, the rendering fat would drip onto the coals and cause flare-ups and scorched meat.
8. Close the lid on the grill and walk away for 15 minutes.
9. While the chicken is cooking, reheat the remaining teriyaki sauce. Add the corn starch and stir until the sauce has completely thickened.
10. Brush the chicken pieces with the sauce and turn them over a bit farther from the coals—toward the front of the barbecue.
11. Brush the second side of the chicken and insert a constant read thermometer into the thickest piece of chicken. Close the lid of the barbecue.
Tip: Set the thermometer to 160° F, about 40-50 more minutes.
12. Line a tray with a large piece of aluminum foil. When the alarm rings transfer the chicken to the tray. Loosely tent the chicken and let it rest for 10 minutes to redistribute the juices and to finish cooking.
Tip: When the heat is enclosed in foil the internal temperature in the center will rise to 165° F.
13. Cut the chicken into portions and brush the pieces with the last of the teriyaki sauce. Serve with steamed rice.