Japanese Fried Chicken Thighs (Karaage) for Two
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.
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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
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.
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.
While the oil heats, the dredged chicken can rest, which gives the cornstarch time to absorb moisture and hydrate, ensuring a cohesive crust.
Before frying, use the back of a spoon to moisten any dry patches of the coating with reserved marinade.