Teriyaki Chicken

I always feel like a tourist when I got to a Japanese restaurant because if bento boxes are on the menu, I’ll scan the other choices, but will invariably choose the teriyaki chicken. I know, I know. It’s the “safe” choice – but I can’t help it. I love anything grilled, especially with a salty-sweet marinade punched up with fresh ginger, then charred over a blazing-hot grill to seal it into moist, juicy meat.

I may have an overload of adjectives in my food vocabulary (case in point: the last sentence of the previous paragraph) but I don’t have a grill, but shortly after I received a copy of Japanese Farm Food, I saw a grill pan on one of those ‘flash’ shopping sites in France and I snagged one. And after waiting six weeks, it finally arrived. Funny how they don’t seem to want to send it to you with the same urgency that they want you buy it.

grill pan for chicken teriyaki

I met Nancy Singleton Hachisu at Food Blogger Camp in Mexico a few years ago and I guess I said something to her about writing a book. She lives on an organic farm in Japan, which I found fascinating, and now – in my hands – I have her actual book, which she was kind enough to thank me in.

(So I will not besmirch her good name and point out that she gave me a run for the money in how much Mexican food – especially those duck tacos, Nancy… – that one could eat.)

marinating chicken teriyaki

But how could someone not encourage her to write about her fascinating life in the Japanese countryside? She’s lived in Japan for decades, her farmer husband grows all sorts of interesting and varied crops, and the finished book was certainly worth waiting for.

chicken teriyaki

In it, Nancy shares her recipes and techniques for simple Japanese salads, preserves, dumplings – and even offers up a unique shoe-free technique for making her own udon noodles. (Who knew that you didn’t need shoes for making noodles?) The beauty of the book is that there is just enough explanation of the foods and the recipes, which usually only require just a few ingredients, are authentic and easy enough to recreate in any home kitchen.

Japanese ingredients for chicken teriyaki chicken teriyaki

I was drawn to quite a few recipes, but was particularly intrigued by her “country-style” Teriyaki Chicken recipe, which only has three ingredients in the marinade. Yes, you read that right: three. I had Japanese soy sauce but needed the other ingredient, mirin. So I headed over to Ace Mart on the rue Saint Anne and wasn’t sure which one to get. So chose the one with the fewest ingredients. Fortunately when I got home, I looked it up in her ingredients section and realized I did the right thing, and bought a good one – hon mirin. Whew.

I mixed the simple marinated together and let the chicken thighs marinate overnight. Then grilled them off in my brand-new grill pan, which was worth waiting for. As was her excellent book.

chicken teriyaki

Teriyaki Chicken
About six servings


Adapted from Japanese Farm Food (Andrews McNeel) by Nancy Singleton Hachisu

Nancy refers to this teriyaki recipe as “country-style”, which I think means the marinate isn’t as sweet or sticky as other styles of teriyaki. This is a straightforward recipe with a simple marinade, which is perhaps how farm folks eat in Japan.

This recipe uses boneless chicken thighs. If you can only get bone-in ones, simply turn the chicken thighs skin-side-down, make two slices on both sides of the single bone, the cut it off at the top, where it’s attached and pull it out. Some might inquire about boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which I suppose you could use with this marinade, but I would advise against them as they’ll dry out when cooked.

You’ll probably have to cook these in batches, as I did, unless you have an outdoor grill, then use that. If using a grill pan, don’t clean it between batches; the juices will collect after each cooking and darken the chicken nicely as you go.

  • 1/2 cup (125ml) mirin
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) soy sauce
  • One 2-inch (5cm) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2-pounds (900g) boneless chicken thighs (4-8 thighs, depending on size)

1. Mix together the mirin, soy sauce, and ginger in a large zip-top freezer bag. Add the chicken thighs, force the air from the bag and seal it closed. Massage the chicken to distribute the marinade then refrigerate the chicken for 8 to 12 hours, flipping it over a few times to distribute the marinade.

2. To cook the chicken, drain the chicken over a saucepan and set the pan over medium heat reduce the marinade it comes to a full boil, then reduce the heat and cook it longer, until it’s slightly boiled down.

3. Heat a grill pan or cast-iron skillet over high heat and add the chicken thighs, skin side down, cooking off only the amount of thighs in the pan so they are not crowded – I did three at a time in mine.

4. Sear the thighs for 2-3 minutes on each side, then cover, and cook for 6 minutes.

5. Remove the cover, wipe the condensation off the underside of the cover with a kitchen towel, flip the thighs over, cover, and cook for another 6 minutes.

6. Uncover the chicken and finish cooking them for about 3 minutes on each side, brushing and basting the chicken with the reserved marinade as you go, until the skin and meat have darkened.

Remove from the pan and cook off the remaining chicken thighs the same way.


Storage: Leftovers are especially good to have in the refrigerator for a few days, and I used mine to make rice bowls with kimchi. Nancy suggests sandwiches, too.


Related Recipes and Links

How to Make Perfect Asian Rice

Broccoli with Tofu and Yuzu (Heather Atwood)

Kimchi

Sui Mai

Autumn Kabocha with Miso (Food Gal)

Fried Ginger Chicken (View World Kitchen)

Pajeon

Sesame-Miso Vinaigrette (LA Weekly)

Stir-Fried Japanese Eggplant (Simply Recipes)

Olympic Seoul Chicken

Le Creuset Grill Pan (Amazon)

73 comments

  • Central Market (San Antonio) uses grill pans to do all the demos in their store. I’ve been tempted to buy them but now I have to and try this recipe. Thanks –I’ve always wondered how to make teriaki chicken like I get at local sushi places…

  • Teriyaki chicken is one of our favorites too, something you know it will be good anywhere you go (mostly!)..well if they mess that up, don’t go there anymore…
    Mirin is something I have never used, will have to venture to the Asian market here. I am curious about the book now. Will have to check it at the bookstore.

  • I’ve seen this book on “best” lists this year. Now I have to have it….especially after reading reviews on Amazon and your comments. It sounds fascinating — thanks for encouraging her to write it.

  • I love anything grilled and teriyaki chicken is of course a favorite. I love this simple recipe. I do have a grill pan but have not used it. I think this is going to be something easy and quick to have over the holidays. Thank you for this wonderful blog and for letting us live vicariously in Paris through you. Happy Holidays!

    Claire

  • Teriyaki chicken is my absolute favorite, didn’t know it could be this simple. High on my must try list now.

    By the way , your blog is wonderful…i will be trying lot of recipes from here :)

  • I just purchased a similar grill pan yesterday. My whole purpose was to make chicken teriyaki because I want those good brown bits of crust on my chicken. I love the fact that you use chicken thighs so much more flavor than breast. Also, your Olympic Seoul Chicken is the best Asian chicken recipe I have ever tasted. Thank you.

  • Hey David, Thanks for reminding me that I should be using that grill pan that my husband bought an aeon ago and seems to be stuck in the bottom pile somewhere in one of our frying pan stacks (the bane of the kitchen – where to put all the frigging pans of all sizes and shapes!). I kind of got it, but kind of did not – must have been one of my contrary times (one of many). But I now see clearly that it is so much better to use the grill pan than the cast iron pans for the teriyaki chicken. You have inspired me to go out and get a couple of new ones – the benefit of living in Japan is that they are easy to find – but yours looks more heavy duty than the typical home center ones around here. Now I am on a mission. I love the full circle of all of this. Thank you.

  • Would love to know how you’re seasoning and cleaning the new grill pan.

  • That looks really good! My husband is like you, scans the menu and then picks the teriyaki chicken! I like grilled stuff too, but opt for the spicy versions or the stuff off the hibachi.

    I am intrigued by this book now and will have to look for it, especially if the recipes are simple. Thanks!

    Nazneen

  • Mmmm…looks delish. Could the same be made with tofu for us veggies?

  • My big back proch grill went out just as I was about to sear two nice NY strip steaks, I brought out the cast iron grill pan and we had great steaks anyway. I use it for salmon steaks, chicken and even grilled veggies. It’s much nicer than standing on the deck in the snow when you want a taste of summer! In my opinion, there is nothing as valuable in a kitchen, as a perfectly seasoned cast iron pan!

  • David, do you use regular soy sauce or tamari?

    This recipe sounds delicious – and we are very fond of chicken thighs. So flavorful and moist.

    Thanks…

  • Nancy: I assumed you had an outdoor grill, which is always my preference (but I don’t think the city would take too kindly to me lighting a fire on the sidewalk outside my building!) – but I do like this grill pan. I had an anandozed aluminum one that I got a while back that was just okay, but it was a pain to clean and the last thing I cooked on it left a burnt coating that I couldn’t get off. When this one came on sale for something like €45, I snagged it. Love your book – congrats!

    Bebe: I used the Japanese soy sauce shown in the photo, but gluten-free folks could likely swap out tamari (making sure it is wheat-free) for it.

    shilpi: Thanks – glad you like the blog : )

    Carla: I didn’t do any seasoning on this one as I am pretty sure it doesn’t need it. It seems to work fine just out of the box. (Well, after I washed it, of course…)

    Vicki: You could likely adapt this to tofu; it’s a pretty simple marinade.

  • SIX weeks? Insane. Yummo on the chix recipe. I have all the ingredients on hand, and the grill pan too. Your recipes never steer me wrong (made 4 batches of Pains d’Amande yesterday for our family’s holiday festivities).

  • My husband and my son both love teriyaki chicken – yet it’s one of those dishes that I never bothered to make at home since you can pretty much get a decent teriyaki plate in most places. But since you just explained how easy one can make it – and, my goodness, with just 3 ingredients plus the chicken! – I’m whipping out my Kohl’s card to take advantage of a holiday sale on cookware so I can get a good grill pan, then whip up a meal starring teriyaki chicken and bask in everyone’s compliments :) What a great reminder that sometimes simple is best. Thank you, David – and Nancy – for sharing and inspiring.

  • Carla, you will surely hear from David about seasoning and cleaning his pan.

    I have a cast iron grill pan (Lodge or another good American brand?) that was not pre-seasoned, so I had to do it myself.

    Now Lodge is pre-seasoning its cast iron ware. They are selling a 10.5″ grill pan at Target’s website for under $21. (Don’t know where you live.) They recommend cleaning with a stiff brush, which is the way I clean my (me-seasoned) grill pan. OK to use lots of hot water. I just don’t wash it with soapy water. I put the rinsed pan on the burner again to dry it thoroughly with heat.

  • What a delectable reminder that Teriyaki chicken has been missing from table for far too long.

  • David – Yes I do use a grill for these but I often pre-cook them on the stove because I might be doing a small batch on a small Japanese shichirin barbecue or because it is often easier even for cooking on the Weber. The tricky thing about teriyaki marinade is the burn factor. A pre-cook can eliminate that and a grill pan can help as well.

  • I won one of those grill pans from Le Creuset at a food blogging conference. I am embarrassed to say that I thought it was only for paninis. It *never* occurred to me that it could e for anything different. ::face palm::

    Thanks, David, for opening my eyes. Also, thanks for sharing a great recipe!

    • Thanks very much for the address of the shop will have to check it out. I know there is a Japanese food market in the 15th on rue Vaugirard too.

  • Délicieux, David, et si facile! Thank you for inspiring tomorrow evening’s dinner. My Le Creuset grill will be happy to be put to good use again. Veronique (French Girl in Seatte)

  • So the big question here is….what kind of grill pan is that, David?

    • It’s a Le Creuset grill pan (I linked to it at the end of the post, for those interested) – I got a deal on it, although they are kinda spendy. But I had a cheaper one that I finally ditched. You can get cast-iron grill pans for quite a bit less, but this one is pretty great.

  • The one that Central Market uses for demos and sells is the Lodge pre seasoned grill pan. You can buy on Amazon for $20. I wonder is the Le Creuset is heavier, is that why it is more expensive?

  • Love the simplicity of this recipe!

  • David, in our Nisei and Sansei family we often use sake and sugar instead of mirin. It’s the same thing. Here in California we are lucky to have access to inexpensive but nice quality sake – about $5.50 for a 1.5litre bottle.
    Also we add mochiko, aka rice flour, to thicken the marinade and make a nice sauce that really sticks to the meat. In fact my aunt adds enough mochiko to make the marinade about the consistency of crepe batter and then deep fries the chicken thighs (pre-cut into large chunks). It’s a whole different look and feel, but also delicious. When doing that, though, I would just add sake and omit the sugar (or add very little) so as not to burn the chicken.

  • I believe that the primary difference between Le Creuset and cast iron like Lodge is the enamel coating on the former. According to their details, the LC has a matte black enamel coating on the interior of the pan. Cast iron can react with acids like tomato; the enamel coated LC will not.

    Both pans are cast iron. The weight would be comparable.

  • Sorry about the additional post, but just noticed Rena may have helped with the quest for rice flour for the cookies from a few posts ago. Mochiko. Now I know what I’m really looking for! Thanks, Rena…

  • I made teriyaki chicken a while back and it came out pretty good but I haven’t made it since (no particular reason). The recipe that I found had a few more ingredients but didn’t include mirin. I’ll take a shot at trying it this way.

  • What did you serve as sides, David? Want to make this over the holidays.

    • I served this with rice and kimchi. I did make a nice Korean bibimbap with the leftovers, over rice with kimchi, fried egg, and furikake (seaweed/sesame flakes) – which was a good mix of a few Asian cultures, all in one bowl!

  • Whenever I try to grate fresh ginger I end up with a little mush on one side of the grater and strings on the other. What am I doing wrong?

    • Older ginger tends to be more fiberous so you’re not doing anything wrong. If the strings are tough, it’s better than you are leaving them behind. If you use a microplane zester for grating ginger, generally the teeth on those do a pretty good job on fresh ginger. Alternatively, you can use ‘Young ginger’ which is usually available in the spring and is softer, and has less fibers. But it’s harder to come by.

  • I am the opposite, I always avoid teriyaki chicken – I find it to sickly sweet and generic. But this ‘country-style’ version looks interesting, doesn’t look like it would be too sweet.

  • Happy Holidays to all! Thanks David for all the great recipes and your blog. A Happy and Prosperous New Year!

    Almost time to go out and eat dim sum. Can’t wait for Chinese New Year. Having two celebrations!

  • I may have just missed it, but I didn’t see any comments about your using short grain rice. I’ve never had that in a Chinese resto (I’m in Oakland, CA). How did you come to use it?

    I’m afraid this post won’t be answered, because it’s old before I get up in the morning.

    Like your website a lot.

  • I have one of those grill pans, they cook so nicely. Ummm, the teriyaki chicken? Yum.

  • Japanese food is the best, homeyest comfort food there is! The colder and wetter outside the better. I can’t wait to read her book.

  • Funny, I was just about to make a marinated spiced chicken dish (vaguely Indian flavors), and now I am wishing I could switch and make yours. But, I shouldn’t because I plan to post about mine too, and need to make it again or I won’t have any chicken to take pics of. Conflicted….

    Wishing you a happy holiday David.

  • Funny, I just bought one of those exact same grill pans for my honey for Hanukkah. This chicken looks like exactly the right way to break it in! Thanks for a terrific-looking recipe and great pictures (as usual).

  • I love the book. I bought it on my Kindle and then decided I needed the hard copy. I love the recipes and I love her stories. This book can be used in the kitchen and as bedtime reading. That is a good cookbook.

  • I have a panini pan that would be perfect for this — what a wonderful recipe. It will help me remember what good teriyaki tastes like.

  • Salut David,

    I originally found your site a few years ago when I was making salted caramel ice cream. I’ve found myself coming back again and again because of your great recipes, photos and writing. I lived in France (Poitiers) for a quarter in college, I became a French teacher, and I enjoy cooking in my free time. I just returned from Japan on Friday and found myself on your site reminding myself of the salted caramel recipe, when I realized I could receive the emails.

    Now, just two emails in, this?! Qui a de la chance! It’s the one meal we didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy in Japan.

    I can’t wait to try it!

    Merci!

    Joia

  • I tried the the teryaki recipe for dinner this evening. AusgeZeichnet! The sauce recipe is simple and delicious. Our variation was to marinate chicken strips and fresh pineapple spears on skewers and then barbecue. A double batch of sauce was made up. Half was used to marinate, the rest was spiced up with cayenne and pineapple juice before thickening for a sauce to drizzle over everything before serving. Side dishes were mixed wild rice smothered in al dente veggie stir fry of carrot slivers, garlic, chunked portabella, sweet onion, anaheim pepper, mild banana pepper, red bell, orange bell, purple kale, fresh cranberries, and garnished with a cup of green onions and a cup of fresh cilantro. Country teryaki sparingly drizzled over the top was the perfect complement. Petite Syrah brought it all home. My wife gave me credit for a fabulous meal. Thank you David! She suggested we open a restaurant with your recipes and name it “Orgasmos”. Haha. Cheers. Eric

  • THANKS David for this!! Was looking for a recipe for our Christmas chicken kebabs and this will be perfect! AND I’ve got all the ingredients already – bonus.

    Love your site.

    Have a wonderful Christmas

  • Thanks for the recipe – couldn’t be easier!
    Now that you have your grill pan I suggest you try Yotam Ottolenghi’s grilled sweet corn and herb salad, why do vegetables taste better when burnt on a grill plate??
    Ps its summer here in Australia, so corn season!

    • Yes, there’s something about searing food heavily that makes it taste so much better. An Argentinean chef came out with a cookbook, Seven Fires, and in it, he sears and burns almost everything. It’s a pretty interesting book and I made a recipe from it that was great.

  • Seven fires? I would be tempted if it was on kindle- study full of cookbooks already-
    Including all of yours of course! (Kindle on iPad fantastic for portable library of cookbooks).
    Joyeux Noel David – thankyou so much for a great year of reading and cooking ! All the best for 2013.

  • @Barbara V – On grating ginger: I keep my ginger in the freezer and grate it while still frozen – no mush or strings.

  • That looks amazing. Yum!

  • Very nice. But tell me, how do you clean the pan.

  • I’m with Ralf – how DO you clean the pan? I have a Lodge cast iron grill pan, (Not pre-seasoned) and I’ve made teriyaki chicken in it a few times. It STICKS! and my pan IS seasoned. I usually have to wait for the thing to cool a bit, then put it in the sink and take a screwdriver to parts of it. If I use a stiff brush, I end up flicking black flecks all over the fliggin’ place! Thanks.
    Jane

    • I simply soaked the pan in water, and a while later, I washed it with soap and water. Cast-iron skillets are a whole different animal and while I have one that’s well-seasoned, things do stick to it (especially fried rice and things that are, well, sticky..) That’s why I got this pan, which I like a lot, although they are a bit pricey – was happy to find it on a flash shopping site – it was worth the wait!

  • Yep, teriyaki chicken is the best! And it must be chicken thighs! They stay moist and really pair nicely with the sauce. Any suggestions for making a spicy teriyaki? I just love that in this day of virtually any recipe at our fingertips that people are still writing cookbooks and people are still buying them! I’m one of the buyers and I suspect I will be buying Nancy’s new cookbook. Thanks for writing your books and blog David, and may your Christmas be merry and your New Year be happy.

  • Teriyaki chicken has been one of my favorites, but I rarely make it….until now! I will try this recipe tomorrow, think I’ll get me some pineapple like Eric. Tonight I googled how to temper chocolate and somehow ended up on your blog…and I’m so excited. I can’t wait to cruise around your blog…reading old posts. Looks like you started this blog in 2005, so I’ve got some catching up!

  • I first have to say that I love your website and recipes. You always have terrific things to write about and your recipes are so delicious and are so simple to follow. I also love your Ready For Dessert re-release. I hope to eventually get through all your recipes at least once!

    I do have a question about the Japanese Soy Sauce. Can you tell me the difference between chinese soy sauce and the japanese version. In this recipe, can we use either or is the best result to go with the japanese version?

    Thanks again for always having something intersting to share!

    • I am not an expert on soy sauce so perhaps someone else can check in, but I do know that some soy sauces are made using artificial colors and goodness knows what else, these days. I think I paid maybe €5 for this bottle, whereas the cheaper stuff from China is around €1. (With some of the food scares, I’ve kind of dialed down my confidence in some of the food products, which is unfortunate because there are so many great things I like from there.) It’s not much of a price difference considering I normally use it by the splash or spoonful.

  • Okay here goes. Soak the pan in very hot water. Use one of Ruhlman’s bamboo scrubbing brushes and scour until all of the little bits come off.

    Dry the pan. Put a layer of oil down after the pan is warm/hot. Done!

  • I just made this, but had to substitute Champagne vinegar for the mirin and used a griddle, which worked beautifully.

    It was great, and love when one can get such a satisfying result with so little effort. Now I can’t wait to try Rena’s aunt’s version.

  • I recently made you whole lemon squares from lemons from a friend’s tree. Then I found some organic lemons and made a second batch. The second batch tasted totally different — almost bitter. I am wondering now if my friend’s tree is a Meyer lemon, but she doesn’t know. Do Meyer lemons have a milder smoother taste? thank you — wonderful recipe!!

  • Cracking recipe – we made it last night as part of our home made sushi night. Just questioning how you had leftovers! Too yummy. Thanks again!

  • All we have is skinless boneless chicken thighs in these parts. Better to get the bone-in and de-bone?

    Thanks!

  • What a simple , delectable way to prepare chicken thighs! Used the Weber, cranked up really high! We loved every charred morsel. Thank you David;-)

  • This is me weighing in on the soy sauce question from Nina: definitely get Japanese not Chinese soy sauce. The cooking styles in both countries are completely different…as are the soy products like soy sauce, miso, and tofu. Also it is important to find the most naturally fermented product available for best flavor.

    And for Chris, yes when I am in the states I get the bone-in and de-bone but when my son was there I called ahead to the butcher and had him prepare the deboned thighs with skins. You can do that. I believe in ordering ahead to save time because I hate to wait.

  • Made this Saturday night using chicken leg quarters that I boned out (not the easiest cut to start with) and it was out of this world. Used a cast iron frying pan instead of the grill pan (I have one similar to yours) as it was quite moist. Finished result looked like yours and tasted great, despite the deceptively easy recipe. Won’t ever use that store bought sauce again.

  • Nancy, thanks for the info on the bones. Next time, I also (too late now) will do the pre-cook you suggest early in this comment thread. My results were a little too black for my taste, but my spouse loves them blackened. I prefer the results shown in David’s photos.

  • Made this tonight with miso soup – really enjoyed it and am looking forward to receiving the cookbook mid-January.

  • Oh so good – had some skinless breasts in the refrig that needed using up so went with them – cooked a little lower than high and for a little shorter time but followed the uncovered, covered, uncovered and basted process. These were so good, cannot wait to do with thighs.

    Thanks!

  • Oh, yes, cut them into pieces before the marinade

  • The marinade recipe is simple and soo delicious – the grated ginger makes a lot of difference. I like the ginger juice that comes from using a Kyocera ceramic grater cos the juice actually tenderizes the meat.

    I first saw this marinade recipe in a Japanese cookbook. I’ve been using it regularly for thinly sliced pork collar or pork belly meant for shabu shabu cooking, but I use this marinade on it instead and it caramelises beautifully when tossed in the pan, and the ginger gives it an added kick.

  • I love teriyaki chicken but have never tried making the marinade by myself.
    Can I use a regular rice wine instead of mirin?