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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Teriyaki Chicken

A classic of the Japanese restaurant scene nowadays, this type of chicken is borne of the grill and is at it's best over a live fire.  The type most commonly seen in American restaurants is more of a glaze or sauce applied during and after cooking.  My families recipe uses marination of the chicken in the 'tare' or sweetened shoyu liquid.   I use a two step process now, the marinade and the glaze, with the glaze providing not only a little more flavor immedieately to the tongue, but, some nice color and shine.  That ain't no photoshop shine...

The ingredients, other than the chicken, consist of shoyu, mirin, sake or sherry, grated ginger, grated garlic, black pepper and sugar.  In our family kitchen, the shoyu (soy sauce) of choice is Yamasa brand, we like the taste and salt level of this brand.  There are more expensive brands, and I have made the same recipe with tamari, but this is our classic.  Mirin is a sweet sake that is often used for sweetening Japanese foods in lieu of, or in addition to, sugar.  it provides a complexity to the sweetness.  I would have used sake, but, I forgot to buy some, so it was what I could find, which was the marsala.  I find that the alcohol is important in this recipe as I do not heat the sauce and the alcohol helps to 'marry' the flavors.  Without the sherry or sake, I go with mild heating and a little acidity from vinegar or citrus juice.
I typically make a double recipe, what is pictured above is one recipe.  I make the double recipe to make sure I have enough for both marinade and glaze.  Once the first batch is made, I take the chicken, wash and dry it then place in a container to marinade.  I used Mary's Air-cooled Chicken for this, as I most often do for all chicken I cook.  I normally use a doubled zip closing bag for marinading, as it keeps the marinade on the chicken.  If any of the people I am cooking for are sensitive to plastic, a glass container works fine, but, the meat needs turning.  Here is the marinaded raw chicken showing the color and texture (I hope) when the chicken is pulled out.
The 'tare' marinade actually functions like a brine and has the tendency to darken the meat and draw some moisture out.  For this reason, I marinade overnight to make sure it has a chance to complete the osmosis process and allow for transfer of liquid back into the meat pulling some salt and flavor back into the meat.  Then it is grill time.  Although, more specifically, it is roasting time.  These were cooked over a neutral fire, 350F, 40 minutes.  I am not a fan of lots of wood smoke on this recipe.

Now for that second batch of marinade, it is gonna become a glaze and sauce.  I make the same recipe and add honey to create a little more sweetness and to get the character of glazing that honey possesses in cooking.  I will use this glaze raw during the last half of the cooking process.  I quickly glaze the chicken every 8 to 9 minutes.  It is more like slopping it on.  My goal is to end up with this at the end.
I cook it on a pan, as the marinade and glaze make a terrible mess of the grates.  If you want sauce, then use the remaining glaze, heat is up slightly until it starts to simmer.  I will add some slurry made with Kuzu to thicken it slightly.  I have found this chicken needs no sauce at all.  But, it is tasty sauce for dipping other meats and a little rice as well.

I used to cook for our church, and they used a different process, in which the chicken was layered with rock salt which served to pull off moisture from the meat.  The boxes of chicken and rock salt would be place in flower shipping boxes and stored in the coolers on one of the flower nurseries over night.  Then they were cooked over an open pit, it was 4ft wide and 25ft long behind the church building.  The chicken would be dipped into large vats of the sauce/marinade along the way.  That was also some good chicken.

Teriyaki Chicken:
1 Cup shoyu
1/4 Cup each sake, mirin
1 Tablespoon grated ginger
1 Tablespoon grated garlic
1 scant Tablespoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup sugar

For glaze:
add 1/4 to 1/3 cup honey to above recipe

Combine all ingredients and allow to sit for 1 hour.  Place in a watertight container and shake to make sure all ingredients are combined.


  1. Wow, look at that color on the skin! I want to try this more authentic version, it sounds perfect for the grill.