Intro: Charcoal Grilled Yakitori
Yakitori is a Japanese cuisine consisting of various cuts of skewered meat (often chicken) with simple seasonings The meat is skewered and then grilled over charcoal. The two main ways to season yakitori are Shio and Tare. Shio Yakitori is usually seasoned just with salt and sometimes pepper. Tare Yakitori is seasoned with a sweet and salty sauce. I didn't have all the ingredients for the Tare sauce so I made some substitutions. Hard to go wrong with grilled chicken seasoned with soy and sugar.
Step 1: Tare Sauce
Before starting the sauce, I placed some bamboo skewers in water. The helps to reduce the burning/charing when the skewers are on the grill. To make the Tare Sauce, I combined all of the ingredients below into a sauce pan and simmered until the sauce thickened. This was enough sauce for around 3-4 chicken thighs. I didn't have mirin on hand so I used some sushi seasoning. This is a premixed sauce of vinegar, sugar, and salt. I also increased the amount of sugar since mirin is fairly sweet. For a little extra umami, I threw in a kelp knot and some fish sauce. I would imagine these could be left out and it would still come out great. After the sauce thickened, I kept 1-2 tablespoons in a small bowl for dipping later. The rest was used to glaze the chicken.
- 1/3 Cup Soy Sauce
- 3TB Brown Sugar
- 1/3 Cup Sushi Seasoning
- 1TB Fish Sauce (Optional)
- 1 Kombu Knot (Optional)
Step 2: The Chicken
Yakitori can be made with all different cuts. It showcases the various textures and flavors of the different parts of the animal. When you cook a whole chicken, everything kind of mixes together and you really only have dark meat and light meat. With Yakitori, each flavor and texture is isolated and kept separate. For this recipe I chose to keep it simple and used boneless skinless chicken thighs. They go on sale fairly often and the meat is packed with fat and flavor. The fat also allows the chicken to crisp up very nicely. I remember hearing that chicken thighs are actually more expensive than chicken breasts in Japan.
I started by trimming off large bits of fat and cutting the thigh meat into bite size pieces. I saved all the trimmings and made a separate skewer of that meat/fat. I then placed all the pieces on skewers. I was able to fit about 1 thigh per skewer. I didn't have the traditional Yakitori skewer type on hand so I just used regular bamboo skewers. I seasoned one thigh skewer and the chicken fat/trimmings skewer with salt and pepper. The other three I brushed with the Tare sauce.
Step 3: The Charcoal Grill
I fired up my weber grill with a chimney full of charcoal. I cooked these over direct heat since the skewers are thin and I was after the crispy finish on the chicken. I used the remaining sauce to baste the three Tare skewers 2 or 3 more times during the cooking process. I rotated the Yakitori every few minutes keeping a close watch. When cooking directly over charcoal, it's very important to keep an eye on your food. A grease fire can ruin your dinner very easily, especially with meat with higher fat contents.
The end result was delicious. I served it with a simple cucumber salad and some rice. The last picture shows the Shio Chicken Fat Yakitori at the top, the Shio Yakitori in the middle, and the Tare Yakitori at the bottom. The chicken trimmings Yakitori was my favorite. Incredibly crispy and salty, even better when dipped in Tare sauce. Next was the Tare Yakitori. The glaze provided a sweet and salty flavor almost like teriyaki chicken. The Shio Yakitori just seemed a bit bland and I found myself dipping it into the Tare sauce. I saw another recipe that serves it with a slice a lemon. I think Shio Yakitori with chicken breast meat with a squirt of lemon would be very tasty. This meal is fairly quick to cook, easy to prepare, and super delicious!