6 Top Tips to Making Yakitori by Matt Abergel


Have you fallen in love with Yakitori, the sticky, tender and umami packed sticks of chicken?

The tasty sticks of Japanese style charcoal grilled chicken are something Canadian chef Matt Abergel has spent many passionate years perfecting.

At his popular neighbourhood Yardbird restaurant in Hong Kong, Matt serves over 20 types of yakitori using all the best freshest chicken. From wing tip to tail and neck to knee, all the best bits of the chicken get grilled over Binchotan charcoal on individual skewers.

Matt has also just released his new book: Yardbird, Chicken and Charcoal, published by Phaidon where you can find all his carefully honed yakitori recipes, including vegetarian choices.

In the meantime, here are his 6 top tips to making yakitori at home:

1. Take your Time
Be meticulous. Making yakitori takes time so make sure you give yourself time. It takes time to break down the chicken and skewer the chicken pieces properly - don't rush it!

2. Fresh Chicken
Always use the freshest whole chicken you can find. Above any other quality factor, its the freshest chicken that makes the difference. If you live somewhere with a Chinese, Muslim or Hispanic community chances are you'll find it easier to find freshly slaughtered chicken.

3. Sharp Knife
Crucial for breaking down the chicken. 60% of breaking down a chicken is knife work where you'll need to get close to the bone and tendons. Japanese boning knife or honesuki with a fine pointed tip which allows you to get between the joints is a good choice. (the book gives a pictorial 81 instructions on how to break down a whole chicken).

4. Salt
Don't be afraid of Salt. Use good quality salt to season the skewers after grilling. Try a salt with a high mineral content, or a grey salt. (In the restaurant they use a Japanese salt called moshio).

4. Skewers
In the restaurant, we use square bamboo skewers. Again take your time when threading the meat, to make sure each is consistent and balanced - this will make all the difference when it comes to cooking.
(Each recipe in the book details the weight of meat that should be on each skewer as well as how to succesfully skewer different pieces of meat, from hearts to gizzards.)

6. Charcoals
Go for best quality hardwood charcoal you can find with a high carbon content. Make sure it's evenly heated before you start cooking. Try not to use broquettes. If possible use Japanese style charcoal. In the restaurant we use Binchotan.