Tebasaki Grilled Chicken Wings


Tebasaki (手羽先) means ‘chicken wings’ in Japan. The most popular part of the wing is not the tip, which is best saved to add its collagen to a soup or broth, nor is it the meaty drummette! The middle section with two bones (equivalent to the radius and the ulna) and plenty of fatty skin is favored for yakitori skewers. Nagoya City in Aichi Prefecture (central Japan) is famous for its deep-fried spicy chicken wings. This yakitori is enjoyed all over Japan, sometimes simmered then grilled, other times, simply grilled with a little salt the better to savor its crispy skin.

Kushiyaki is the general term for food grilled on a skewer. Dengaku is skewered food (such as eggplant, tofu, taro, rice cakes, small fish, etc) that is roasted over charcoal, dipped in a miso-based sauce, then roasted again. Tori means chicken, so yakitori is small pieces of chicken (or meatballs, wings, skin, or livers) on skewers, grilled and often dipped in a sauce made with sake, mirin, and shoyu. Yakitori restaurants also serve a variety of kushiyaki, and sometimes all the food they serve is referred to as yakitori. Confused yet? …from Tess’s first yakitori sauce post

The crispiness of the skin is enhanced by skewering the wings to expose as much surface to the heat as possible. To do this, Ms. Shimbo describes a method for removing the smaller bone. The skin and meat is butterflied so it resembles a trapezoid (or kite). A skewer is inserted into one corner, behind the large bone, and into the opposite corner. Use two wings per skewer/serving. (Ms. Shimbo suggests using two skewers to prevent the wings from turning on a single axis.)

To remove the smaller bone from the wing,
cut along the smooth unruffled edge.
tebasaki_6083 tebasaki_6084 tebasaki-dr_6093
Cut into the wing on the smooth edge to reveal the thin bone. Cut the cartilage to release the bone. The ruffly fatty skin should be in the middle of each skewered wing.
This is a simpler way to expose as much skin as possible to the grill. Use a pair of heavy-duty poultry shears to cut the two bones apart at both ends—they are connected with cartilage which could be cut with a nice sharp knife as well. Then make a slit from one end to the other between the two bones, but don’t cut the wing all the way through. Open the wing like a book, one bone on either side.
It’s a good idea to twist the skewers when the wings come off the grill: if the meat cools, it can be difficult to pull them out! Inspired by Skewer It! check it out!!

Chicken Wings on Skewers
Yakitori: Tebasaki

4 appetizers, light meal for 2
page 409

  • 8 chicken wings: second joints, the part with 2 bones
  • salt
  • 1 yuzu or lime cut in wedges

Soak 4 bamboo skewers in water for at least an hour. Heat a grill or broiler. Lay the wings flat on a work surface to remove the smaller bone as described above. Thread 2 wings on each skewer. Salt the chicken liberally on both sides, and cook until golden. Serve with yuzu or lime wedges.


9 thoughts on “Tebasaki Grilled Chicken Wings

  1. Let’s not forget Basashi! Found in relatively few yakitori shops (very limited amounts go to the shops that serve it) it is a wonderful treat that very few gaijin learn to enjoy.

    I like mine with grated garlic and raw quail egg.

    • Hi Bkhuna,

      Hmm. Given the opportunity, I’d certainly try it, if only from curiosity. From descriptions I’ve read, it can be tough and chewy, or tender and sweet. But then, the same could be said of any kind of meat or seafood.

      The whole izakaya experience is not possible to reproduce at home; it sounds like such fun to have an assortment of snacks come to you with a nice glass of beer. Two or three different yakitori skewers is about as assorted as I manage!

      • Depends on how thinly it’s sliced I suppose. I’ve had it a few times and it wasn’t tough or chewy.

        By the way, did you catch the episode of Bizarre Foods the other day where Andrew Zimmern traveled to the little village south of Tokyo that specializes in Tuna? I lived right up the road from that harbor when I lived in Japan in the 80’s. I’ve had some incredible food in that town, including a whole roasted Tuna head for a large party.


    • Hi Sally,

      This is a nice way to eat chicken wings. When we were in Buffalo a few weeks ago, of course we had to try the famous spicy wings there. (The version Mr. Tess made were much better—I thought, anyway—LOL.)

      The drummets are always far more appealing: the flats always have that repulsive edge of squishy fat skin. Cut this way and grilled, it has a chance to get crisp.

  2. I will definitely try it… Don’t tell anyone but I’ve never cooked chicken wings before (well, only as oven-fried chicken, Phil’s family recipe)

    I want to try this cutting method you showed.

  3. Pingback: Best Basting Sauce for Yakitori « Tess's Japanese Kitchen

  4. Pingback: A to Wa of Japan: Week 20 | Haikugirl's Japan

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