Nobu’s Chicken Teriyaki Two Ways

chicken teriyaki

My senior year of college, a Chinese restaurant opened half a block from my apartment, and when I discovered that they used thighs to make their chicken teriyaki, I ran home to tell my roommate.

As you might imagine, my roommate neither shared nor understood my enthusiasm. Her silence spoke volumes: It mostly said, “Why should I be excited about this?” but also, “Only you would be excited about this.” (I love you, Chandra.)

I have known for a long time that most people prefer white meat chicken to dark and that no matter how many times I post a recipe featuring bone-in, skin-on thighs and drumsticks, I’m not going to make any converts. And so when I saw in last July’s Food & Wine, an issue highlighting mega-talents from the past 25 years and their tried-and-true recipes, that Nobu Matsuhisa’s recipe for classic chicken teriyaki called for boneless skinless breasts, I had to try it.

The five-ingredient sauce couldn’t be simpler to assemble: chicken stock, soy sauce, sugar, mirin and sake (or white wine) simmer together for 20 minutes or until the sauce has been reduced to a syrupy consistency. The beauty of the sauce is that it thickens based on the principles of reduction not by the addition of a cornstarch slurry, which would give it that icky cornstarchy taste so often found in these takeout-type dishes. Sure, this sauce relies on that unsubtle salty-sweet dynamic, but it is incredibly tasty and versatile, too — I love adding a spoonful to a vegetable stir-fry or stirring a few teaspoons into a pot of jasmine rice.

Once I discovered that I genuinely enjoyed the sliced pan-fried chicken breast drizzled with teriyaki sauce, I had to try the recipe with dark meat. When using thighs and drumsticks, the sauce and meat can cook together, allowing the sauce to thicken initially in the oven and finally on the stovetop once the chicken has finished cooking.

As you might imagine, I’m even more of a fan of the chicken teriyaki prepared with dark meat, and deep down I suspect Nobu might, too. A girl can dream, right?



Who knew making teriyaki sauce was so easy? Five ingredients — chicken stock, soy sauce, sugar, mirin and sake (or white wine) — simmer together for 20 minutes or until syrupy in consistency:
teriyaki sauce ingredients

cut up chicken

If you feel like marinating, great, but it’s not necessary:
chicken, marinating

Roasting the chicken with the sauce is best when using thighs, drumsticks and wings:
chicken ready for the oven

just cooked chicken teriyaki

The sauce reduces a little more stovetop once the chicken has finished cooking:
teriyaki sauce, reducing

If you are using breasts, simmer the sauce stovetop for 20 minutes…:
teriyaki sauce, ready to be simmered

…or until it looks syrupy and thick:
teriyaki sauce, reduced

Lightly pound the breasts before pan-frying:
chicken breasts and tenders

chicken breasts

sliced chicken breast

Nobu’s Chicken Teriyaki Two Ways

Adapted from Food & Wine.

I like to start with a whole chicken and cut it into 8 pieces. See video below. With this recipe, I cook the dark meat the first night, which leaves enough sauce to drizzle over the two breasts on the second night. The sauce can be made in advance, too, and reheated as needed.

Serving ideas: Steamed broccoli seasoned with just a teensy pinch of salt and drop of sesame oil; plain white or brown rice — I love Jasmine rice.

I have made this with both low-sodium soy and regular soy, and I do recommend using low-sodium — because the sauce reduces so much, the salt concentrates, resulting in a sauce that will be on the salty side especially if you are not using low-sodium soy and stock.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade, low-sodium if otherwise
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 tablespoons sake (I used white wine)
  • 4 to 6 pieces bone-in skin-on chicken thighs, drumsticks or wings or four 6-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breasts, lightly pounded, or 1 chicken cut into 8 pieces
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions

  1. If you are using dark meat:

    Preheat oven to 450ºF. Combine the stock, soy sauce, sugar, mirin and sake (or wine) in a bowl and whisk to combine. If you have time to marinate, place chicken in a storage vessel or plastic bag and pour sauce overtop. Marinate in fridge for as long as you are able.

    If you are using breasts:

    In a medium saucepan, combine the the stock, soy sauce, sugar, mirin and sake (or wine) and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer until the teriyaki sauce is reduced to 1/2 cup and syrupy, about 20 minutes.
  2. If you are using dark meat:

    Place chicken pieces with sauce in 9x13-inch pan, being sure to leave enough space between each piece. Place pan in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, checking after 15 to make sure the pieces aren't looking too dark — a little charring is good, but if the chicken is looking too dark, turn the oven down to 400ºF. After 30 minutes, reduce heat to 350ºF and cook for another 20 to 25 minutes or until the chicken is done. Remove chicken to a serving dish, bowl or plate. Transfer sauce to a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Simmer sauce until it is reduced to about 1/2 cup or until it looks thick and syrupy. Pour sauce over chicken.

    If you are using breasts:

    Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the chicken and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned all over and cooked through, 8 to 9 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and let stand for 5 minutes. Slice the chicken breasts crosswise at a slight bias and transfer to serving plates. Drizzle the teriyaki sauce over the chicken..
http://www.alexandracooks.com/2014/01/15/nobus-chicken-teriyaki-two-ways/

I’ve posted this video before, but I like to post it whenever we’re talking about cutting up chickens. Also, this post has more detailed instructions on cutting up the chicken.

To clean your cast iron skillet, sprinkle kosher salt in an even layer and turn the heat to medium high:
adding salt to cast iron pan

When the salt starts to brown, turn off the heat and let the pan cool briefly. Use a bundled paper towel to wipe out the salt, scraping and food bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Discard the salt. Drizzle in some oil, and give the pan one last wipe:
wiping out the cast iron pan

40 Comments

  1. I am with you- dark meat is sooo much better. I have followed your blog for a while and have made several of your recipes- peasant bread, Marcella Hazan tomato sauce, and homemade ricotta. I’ve loved them all and will add this to the list.

    Reply
  2. Wow! This looks amazing. I’ve always had a soft spot for Teriyaki chicken thought I don’t think I’ve had it since the days of overflowing plates from the mall food court :)

    Reply
    • Haha, I know, thinking of those plates honestly makes me feel a little queasy…sometimes I cannot believe the food I used to eat and love. Like basically everything I ate in college. Live and learn, right?

      Reply
  3. This recipe looks amazing Ally and I love that you make the dark meat one day and the breasts the next. I’m definitely going to give this a try. And by the way I too like dark meat. It is so much more flavorful and juicy. And if I’d have been your roommate I too would have been excited. We think alike. (smile)

    Reply
    • It’s so nice to use a whole chicken and feel like you’ve made the most of it. I always freeze the breast bone and back bone, too, if I’m not going to make stock right away. Hope you like this, Nancy!

      Reply
  4. This is wonderful! I would never think to make teriyaki chicken with breast meat, but I’m considering it now. But you must agree that the the legs and wings look a lot more appealing to the eye here in your photos than the breast :) I mean — look at ‘em!

    Thanks for reminding me again how much I love making teriyaki chicken at home. There’s a local restaurant here that serves teriyaki chicken thusly: rice, basil, stir-fried veggies, shredded cheese that melts into everything, sliced pickled ginger and peanut sauce all wrapped up in a tortilla. I know, carbs wrapped in carbs? I was a skeptic at first but now I’m obsessed…. I make them at home. So yum :)

    Reply
    • Oh Sophie, you don’t have to do any convincing to get me to eat carbs…that wrap sounds amazing! And I have some leftover chicken and nearly all of the other ingredients to make a wrap like that at home…lunch is going to be amazing. And, if you are dark leg chicken fan there is no reason to try this recipe with breasts, as good as they are — to me, nothing compares to the legs.

      Reply
  5. Okay, it’s beauty and the beast I guess….I think the fascination with the breast meat is because of how it looks? I don’t know, it doesn’t even come close to tasting as good as the dark meat and I think the legs and thighs look way more appealing….teriyaki is Jeff’s fav and I will definitely be making the sauce very soon! My personal favorite is a tie between the thigh and wings! We’re doing the whole no, bread, rice or pasta thing, ugh…..but I can put almost anything from the blog into the dinner menu and be a rockstar!! :) XO!

    Reply
    • I think you’re right, Laurie, and looks are important, so I understand. And wow, good for you for detoxing! I wish I had as much discipline…it’s hard in these winter months to not sit around eating biscotti all day long. Hope you and Jeff like the teriyaki!

      Reply
  6. Ooooo Thank you for the reminder on cleaning the cast iron skillet:I’m cooking for your dear Auntie Friday night and I’m making filet with peppercorn sauce: in my favorite skillet. Great website: I look forward to it! …from Vermont

    Reply
    • I wish I could be there! So much fun. I am going to have to get the full report from Auntie. I love peppercorn sauce but never make it. That sounds like a great Valentine’s Day dish. Ben would be in heaven. So nice to hear from you, Meg!

      Reply
  7. So interesting. Not a week has gone by in decades that I have not cooked something in the teriyaki style ~ simple and easy and tasty! Yet I have never boiled the ingredients and have to try the extra step to see how I like it. Just used it for marinades and last-minute add-ons lasting from 20 minutes to overnight . . . Thanks you for the suggestion!

    Reply
  8. I have a question about your cast iron pan. Haven’t made the switch to them, but I want to. Just worried that without a soapy wash, my pancakes will take on the flavor of last night’s garlic/onion dish. Does that happen or do you keep two pans?
    Camille

    Reply
    • Camille, hi, and good question. You are making me want to experiment now. I have an electric griddle that I use exclusively for pancakes — I don’t know what else I would cook on it? — and my cast iron pan is used exclusively for savories. Honestly, I think it would be fine. I don’t think cast iron is porous the way a clay pot is, and I don’t believe the flavors of whatever has been cooked in it will linger. But, can you give me a week or so to experiment? I’ll cook pancakes in it — maybe tonight for dinner? — and see how the flavor is, and I’ll report back.

      In regard to cast iron, I love the two pans that I own. Both were handed down to me by my mother, and over the years, they have become so nicely seasoned. They almost act like non-stick pans. If you see a Griswold at a flea market, go for it!

      Reply
      • Yay, looking forward to the results of your experiment! I figure if I’m going to go for cast iron, might as well go all the way. Right now, I mainly use a non-stick griddle and stainless steel saute pan. But as I feel a guilty giving my family food cooked on the non-stick, I’m thinking I should make the jump. Will look out for a Griswold. Thanks for the tip!
        Camille

        Reply
        • I have to say that cast iron, in my experience, does have a lingering smell of whatever I last cooked in it after being washed (I generally do not use soap). However, a slight odor is about all there is to it. If I make taco filling one night and pancakes the next day, I can’t notice a flavor contamination. If I make cinnamon-apple dutch baby one night and garlicky vegetables the next day, well — I suppose garlicky vegetables would overpower almsot any flavor at all :) But don’t fret! My mom has been cooking savory and sweet dishes in her cast iron as long as I can remember with no flavor crossover.

          Also, Jennifer at seasonsandsuppers.ca is a cast-iron cooking and baking resource :) Ali, I’m looking forward to hearing your results as well!

          Reply
          • Sophie, thanks so much for chiming in here! I think you are right — there definitely will be a bit of a lingering smell but nothing too harsh to overpower whatever you are cooking. I still haven’t made pancakes…must do so soon. And I will report back!

    • Please provide a valid email address if you want to engage in this sort of discussion. Abc@123.com doesn’t cut it. Obviously I was not trying to offend anyone by saying that the Chinese restaurant half a block from my apartment served chicken teriyaki, because that was the truth. Plenty of Chinese restaurants serve chicken teriyaki. I know Nobu is Japanese, and I know teriyaki sauce is Japanese. Sorry the reference to the Chinese restaurant offended you. Again, not my intention.

      Reply
  9. I made this last week and wow! What a treat. I was actually surprised how simple it was. I am making it again this week when my little brothers comes to stay with me. Going to try serving it over rice to sautéed onions.

    Reply
    • Wonderful to hear this, Jenna! What lucky little brothers…love that image. So cute. Thanks for writing in. Oh, and the original recipe does call for some sort of pepper sauté, so I think sautéed onions sound delish! Out of curiosity, did you use breasts or dark meat?

      Reply
  10. Im a total convert. I’ve been reading you for about 20 months and everything I’ve made is gold, but your honey soy drums and thighs are an addiction. Cast iron cooks beef to perfection. I have my grandmothers skillet, her legend lives on, I clean mine with kosher salt and oil it with bacon grease. Bacon, yum!

    Reply
  11. I just made this teriyaki sauce and it’s balanced and delicious. I cut the sugar back to 1/4 cup, but I could see how people might like it sweeter. Planning to brush the teriyaki on some grilled chicken skewers that have jalapeño, onion, and red bell pepper. Sweet and heat! Thank you for the recipe!

    Reply
  12. hey alexandra, big fan of your blog-you’ve encouraged me to buy whole chickens over the past few months! I was wondering, if I go the breast route with this, though, can the sauce be made ahead and set aside for a bit- or even stored in fridge? I didn’t see a specification. xx salvegging

    Reply
    • Salvegging, hi! And so sorry for the delay here. I’ve been out of town for a week. I think this sauce will keep beautifully in the fidge for at least a week, and I am sure you could freeze it, too. I hope it works out for you! So happy to hear you have been cutting up chickens, too!

      Reply

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