What I love about the summer is being able to go into the city and try out different types of street foods. The good weather just makes me want to go out and be adventurous with my meals. Today, I want to focus on a dish that has grown in popularity over the past few years—yakitori. This Japanese street food is simply grilled chicken skewers made from bite-sized pieces of meat.
These skewers, sometimes called kabobs, may have veggies and other meats if you like but chicken is the main ingredient. All parts of the chicken are used, like chicken heart or liver, and rarely the chicken breast. Chicken breasts tend to be dry after grilling. For yakitori skewers, the more fat, the more flavorful.
This popular street food is best accompanied with a side of nice cold beer. Kirin Ichiban Shibori is a good beer to pair with your yakitori because of its mild and smooth flavor. Also, Asahi, which is a very dry beer with a light crisp flavor. This beer accompanies pretty much all Japanese food. Lastly, there is Kirin Lager, an older beer with a crisp more traditional flavor. For more Japanese beer suggestions, read this article from All About Japan.
To make Yakitori at home, you will need a grill. Yakitori is traditionally grilled on a rectangular clay box. But there is no need to buy fancy equipment if you want to give yakitori a try. Use a cast iron grill pan. Cast iron grill pans need time and energy to heat up properly, so start by turning the heat to at least medium-high. This will give you a proper initial sear and the coveted grill marks. Our chef and chief entertainment officer Melissa makes her yakitori skewers on her cast iron pan without any fancy equipment. Trust us. It ALWAYS works!
The second thing you’ll need are skewers. In Japan, they usually use yakitori Japanese skewers made out of bamboo. You can find them at any supermarket, especially around July 4th. When getting things prepped, make sure to soak the skewers in water for 30 minutes.
In addition to preparing your equipment, you will also need to prepare the meat. Instead of rubs or marinades, yakitori is usually served with a soy and rice wine dipping sauce called tare. When preparing the meat, make sure you coat it twice to get that sweet and savory and thick glazed coating. You can dip it or brush it on. Then you are ready for grilling!
After grilling, skewers will be dunked in the sauce and then again or brushed right before they are served. This final dip creates a shiny sweet yet savory glazed chicken.
If you want to give yakitori a try, I included a recipe by Melissa Clark from the New York Times. This recipe “Yakitori Chicken with Ginger, Garlic and Soy Sauce” is the perfect way to begin your yakitori cooking adventures. Even though this recipe does not mention the “authentic” dunking of the yakitori skewers in tare and grilling them on the clay box, I find this recipe more approachable for home cooks. Bon appetit. I hope you will have fun trying this recipe!
Yakitori Chicken With Ginger, Garlic and Soy Sauce
- 1 pound chicken livers gizzards or boneless thigh meat
- ½ cup dark soy sauce or tamari
- ¼ cup mirin
- 2 tablespoons sake or dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and smashed
- ½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- Scallions thinly sliced, for garnish
- Cut chicken into one-inch pieces and place in a shallow dish.
- In a small saucepan, combine soy sauce or tamari, mirin, sake or sherry, brown sugar, garlic and ginger. Bring to a simmer and cook for 7 minutes, until thickened. Reserve 2 tablespoons of sauce for serving. Pour remaining sauce over chicken, cover, and chill for at least one hour (and up to 4 hours).
- If using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak them in water for one hour. Preheat the grill or broiler. Thread chicken pieces onto skewers, and grill or broil, turning halfway, for about 3 minutes for livers, 10 minutes for gizzards and 6 minutes for thighs. Serve drizzled with reserved sauce and garnished with scallions.
Join Our Community at Patreon
Perks for Friends of Food Patrons only:
Friends of Food is a digital members-only community designed to empower and connect food folks alike.
- Invitation to private community & food folk directory
- Access to a highly vetted network of Chefs
- One hour Zoom cooking lesson once a month
- Cookbook club + happy hour once a month
- 30 mins cooking consultation
- E-mail us your cooking questions and we will get back to you with our best answer within a week.
- Polls (Help us choose a topic for an upcoming video + more!)
- Behind-the-scenes / Bloopers
- Exclusive perks from brand partners
Photographer/ Content Creator
Camila Pesantez is the owner of @camipphotography. She is a wedding, portrait, and fashion photographer based in New England. She loves capturing authentic, candid, fun, and spontaneous moments. In her spare time, Camila enjoys singing and serving at her local church, cooking, and spending time with friends.
What sparked your passion for the industry?
The creativity behind it. It’s what I use to express my creativity and feel free to express myself through it. The photography world is so diverse and the possibilities are endless.
Cake or Pie? Why?
Pie because it has a lot of texture and moisture and reminds me of a nice cozy fall day at home.
Favorite dish to cook at home?
Vegan meat pasta. I have my own recipe, and I make it at least twice a month