Japanese grilled chicken yakitori skewers are crazy tasty addition to your grilling arsenal. Little bits of onion and chicken grilled over high heat and finished with a little drizzle of teriyaki or yakitori sauce.
Who doesn’t like meat on a stick? Indian Chicken tikka. Indonesian satay. Spanish pinchos morunos. Even a hot dog on a stick over an open fire can be a treat. Yakitori is just another great example of meat meets stick meets fire.
Yakitori are best cooked over high heat
Cook yakitori over high heat. Like one Mississippi or less heat. Screaming hot. That’s where the magic happens. You need to move fast when you do this but the results are worth it.
The Japanese have been doing this for ages. They have made an art of it. There are restaurants in Japan that serve nothing else. Maybe beer to wash it down but that’s it. They are masters. It’s worth checking out youtube to watch them in action.
Set up your grill for success
I like lump charcoal for this (as always) but real the key is getting a set up that lets you cook the chicken without incinerating the skewers.
One trick I saw is to set a couple bricks wrapped in foil directly on the grate. Set them up so the chicken is exposed to the fire but the bare skewers are not. Tin foil strips right on the grill is another way to help with this.
You can go different ways with the seasoning. Teriyaki works well. Simple salt and maybe a sprinkle of shichime togarachi. This is about chicken and fire. You don’t want to overpower.
Yakitori means chicken over fire
Before anyone points out the flaw in the post title – it is redundant. It’s for clarity and understanding. Yaki means cooked over fire. Tori is chicken. So Japanese grilled chicken yakitori is total overkill. But at least there will be no confusion.
This is perfect party food. Food to be shared with friends. Next time you have a cookout serve try it. Bring a bit of Japanese flair to your meal. You won’t be sorry.
japanese grilled chicken yakitori skewers
- 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs - cut into small bite size pieces (6-8 pieces per thigh)
- 8-10 green onions - white and light green portion only and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 15 or so 6 inch wooden skewers - soaked for 30 minutes prior to grilling
- teriyaki sauce or yakitori tare
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 3 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch - mixed well with a couple tablespoons water
- Skewer a piece of chicken onto a skewer. You may need to pass the skewer though the chicken more than once. You don't want it flapping around when you cook it. Skewer a piece of green onion (see the pictures above).
- Repeat until you have 3-4 pieces of chicken and 2-3 pieces of green onion.
- Once you have skewered all the chicken, sprinkle with a bit of salt.
- Prepare your grill for high direct heat. See the recommendations above for possible ways to set things up to keep the skewers from burning.
- Grill the yakitori, turning regularly until golden and cooked through. Depending on your grill temperature this can take as little as 3-4 minutes.
- Drizzle with teriyaki sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds (not traditional). Alternately serve simply with salt or with yakitori tare (much more traditional).
- Combine all ingredients except the cornstarch slurry and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the cornstarch mixture and bring back to a simmer.
- Let simmer for another minute of two and let cool.
- Transfer to a squirt bottle if you have one.