Cook the Book: Yakitori

  • Yield:4 to 6 appetizer servings

Book CoverThe Japanese term yakitori literally means "grilled bird," and refers to skewers of chicken barbecued over a charcoal grill. Commonly served in casual, inexpensive izakayas (Japanese drinking establishments with food beyond bar snacks) and beer gardens, yakitori is considered by many to be the Japanese equivalent of American fast food.

Traditional yakitori employs a wide range of poultry parts from necks and bones, to offal and skin. But in today's Cook the Book recipe, excerpted from The Best Barbecue on Earth, author Rick Browne uses the boneless, skinless breasts more familiar to Western palates. He rounds out the recipe with additional skewers of shiitake mushrooms, bell peppers, and green onions, turning the dish into a perfect early evening appetizer.

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  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup mirin (rice wine) or rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 red or yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 5 green onions, green and white parts, cut into 2-inch lengths


  1. 1.

    Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to 375ºF. Make sure the grill rack is clean and oil it thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray.

  2. 2.

    In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. Add the chicken, mushrooms, and peppers; marinate for five minutes.

  3. 3.

    Reserving the marinade, remove the chicken from and vegetables from the bowl. Thread the chicken onto skewers and, separately, thread the mushrooms, peppers, and green onions on skewers as well. (Keep the chicken and vegetables separate so you can control the cooking time better.)

  4. 4.

    Pour the marinade into a saucepan and boil for 12 minutes to use as a basting and serving sauce. Set aside.

  5. 5.

    Transfer the skewers to the prepared grill rack over direct heat. Cook, basting often with the sauce, five minutes per side, until the chicken is starting to brown on the edges and the vegetables are soft and charred at the edges.

  6. 6.

    Transfer the skewers to a heated platter, drizzle with sauce, and serve.

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