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Japanese Fried Chicken Thighs (Karaage) for Two

Published July 2019

Why This Recipe Works

Our version of this Japanese classic started with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which eliminated the need to debone the meat at home. Cutting the chicken into narrow strips instead of small chunks created fewer pieces to handle. Briefly marinating the meat in a mixture of soy sauce, sake, ginger, and garlic (seasoned with a little salt and sugar) imbued the chicken with deeply savory, aromatic flavor. Dredging the chicken in cornstarch—instead of traditional potato starch—made for a less sticky coating. Shaking off the excess starch and letting the dredged pieces rest while the oil heated gave the starch time to hydrate. Dabbing any dry patches with reserved marinade prevented dustiness.

1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sake
1 ½ teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon sugar
Pinch table salt
12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs trimmed and cut crosswise into 1 to 1½-inch-wide strips
¾ cup cornstarch
1 quart vegetable oil, for frying
Lemon wedges
Nutritional Information

Featured Equipment

From The Shop

Instructions

Serves 2

We prefer a rasp-style grater for grating the ginger. Do not substitute chicken breasts; they will dry out during frying. There's no need to take the temperature of the chicken; it will be cooked through by the time it is golden brown and crispy. Leftover frying oil may be cooled, strained, and saved for later use.

    Total time: 50 minutes, plus 30 minutes resting

    1. 
    Combine soy sauce, sake, ginger, garlic, sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Add chicken and toss to combine. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. While chicken is marinating, line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Set wire rack in second rimmed baking sheet and line rack with triple layer of paper towels. Place cornstarch in wide bowl.

    2. Lift chicken from marinade, 1 piece at a time, allowing excess marinade to drip back into bowl but leaving any garlic or ginger bits on chicken. Coat chicken with cornstarch, shake off excess, and place on parchment-lined sheet. Reserve marinade. 

    3. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat to 325 degrees. While oil heats, check chicken for white patches of dry cornstarch. Dip back of spoon in reserved marinade and gently press onto dry spots to lightly moisten.

    4. Using tongs, add chicken, 1 piece at a time, to oil in single layer. Cook, adjusting burner, if necessary, to maintain temperature between 300 to 325 degrees, until chicken is golden brown and crispy, 4 to 5 minutes. Using spider skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer chicken to paper towel-lined rack. Serve with lemon wedges.

    How to Slice Thighs into Strips

    Slice Crosswise

    Slice Crosswise

    Arrange each thigh, skinned side up, with long side parallel to edge of counter. Slice crosswise into 1- to 1½-inch-wide strips.

    Keys to a Crunchy, Cohesive Crust

    These tricks are subtle, but they make all the difference when it comes to creating a crust with big crunch.

    Shake

    Shake

    Dredge the marinated chicken one piece at a time, making sure to shake off any excess cornstarch that would otherwise leave a dusty residue on the cooked crust.

    Let Rest

    Let Rest

    While the oil heats, the dredged chicken can rest, which gives the cornstarch time to absorb moisture and hydrate, ensuring a cohesive crust.

    Dab

    Dab

    Before frying, use the back of a spoon to moisten any dry patches of the coating with reserved marinade.

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    JC
    JOHN C.
    16 days

    Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

    Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

    MD
    MILES D.
    JOHN C.
    9 days

    Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

    CM
    CHARLES M.
    11 days

    John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.