When I make teriyaki chicken I usually use the traditional Japanese (and my mother’s) simple recipe—soy sauce, mirin, saki, ginger, and sugar. Years ago—like 30—I had a friend who added wasabi and brown sugar to his teriyaki sauce. For this meal, I decided to go a bit less traditional and do a variation of my friends recipe.
When I make barbecued chicken, I generally prefer to keep the pieces of meat large. This prevents the meat from drying out. This time, I decided to make skewers with thin slices of chicken and hope that the short cooking time and the glaze would keep the meat moist.
I could have started with boneless chicken breasts and thighs, but buying a whole chicken is much cheaper per pound. Sometimes, I am very fussy about getting all of the meat off when I debone a chicken. This time, I quickly took off the best bits—the breasts, much of the thighs and leg meat, and the wings—and I left plenty of meat on the bones.
Note: Later, I broiled the carcass, bones and skin to a rich brown in the oven. This went to making a beautiful chicken stock for a soup the next week.
I made a double portion of the sauce. Half is used to marinating the chicken overnight. The rest I thickened with corn starch to baste the chicken while it was in the barbeque. I served these skewers with carrot and daikon pickles, celtuce pickles, fresh tofu, and onigiri.
Karl’s Barbecued Chicken Teriyaki Skewers
1 large roasting chicken (5 lbs.)
½ cup light low sodium soy sauce
½ cup dark soy sauce
¼ cup sake
¼ mirin (sweetened rice wine)
¼ cup brown sugar
2 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
1 Tbs. wasabi paste
1 Tbs. rice vinegar
1½ tsp. corn starch mixed with water
1. At least six hours before cooking cut the best bits from the chicken.
Tip: Six hours is a minimum, I almost always do this the day before.
2. Slice the large pieces of chicken into long strips.
Tip: The breast meat should be cut along the long axis into ⅜-½ of an inch thick slices. Putting them in the freezer for half an hour will make them firmer and easier to slice. Cut the thigh meat into 3-4 pieces from top to bottom.
Note: I always add the wings—the chef’s portion.
3. Mix the sauce ingredients (except for the corn starch) in a small pot and bring it just to a boil.
4. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and remove the pot from the heat. Let the teriyaki sauce cool.
5. Place the chicken in a sealable gallon plastic bag and add three quarters of a cup of the teriyaki sauce. Reserve the remaining sauce.
6. 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.
Note: You will be cooking the chicken directly over the heat. If using a charcoal grill, start your coals a half an hour before you are planning to cook and spread the coals evenly over the grill. For a gas grill, oil the grate and start your burners five minutes before cooking, turn on as many burners as you need so that all of the chicken will be directly over the flames.
7. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat the pieces dry.
Tip: Discard the marinade. I have tried to recover this sauce, but usually there is so much chicken juice in it that it just turns into an unappetizing sludge when you heat it.
8. String the meat on bamboo skewers and let the pieces air dry for 30 minutes.
9. Reheat the remaining teriyaki sauce and add the corn starch.
10. Stir until the sauce has completely thickened and remove it from the heat.
Tip: Line a tray with a large piece of aluminum foil to receive the chicken when it is finished cooking.
11. Lay the chicken skewers directly over the coals.
12. Close the lid on the grill and walk away for 5 minutes.
13. Turn the skewers over and brush the chicken pieces with the sauce.
14. Cook the chicken uncovered for 3-5 minutes more.
15. Turn the skewers over and brush the second side of the chicken.
16. Cut open the thickest piece of chicken to check for doneness.
17. If done, transfer the chicken to the tray and brush the skewers with any remaining sauce.
18. Loosely tent the chicken and let it rest for 5 minutes.
19. Serve with a selection of pickles, fresh tofu, and onigiri.