Chicken Tocino is a delicious Filipino cured chicken, marinated for a day or two in brown sugar, pineapple juice, garlic, soy sauce, apple vinegar cider, salt and pepper then boiled with marinate and pan-fried.
Pork is most commonly used to make tocino but beef and chicken are also used. If you watch what you eat, chicken is a healthier alternative for pork. It is less fatty with moist tender meat.
Homemade Chicken Tocino is simple, easy to make and cooks faster than pork or beef.
Tocino is typically served during breakfast paired with garlic fried rice (sinangag) and upside down eggs. Yes, Filipinos love rice even for breakfast. This breakfast combo is referred to in restaurants as tocilog.
This is a hearty, delicious breakfast to start your morning with coffee!
In our household though, tocino is not just served during breakfast. We have it for lunch and dinner paired with cubed tomatoes.
In the early days, saltpeter was one of the ingredients in Tocino. Now, I’m not sure if it is still being used to cure and preserve meat.
Saltpeter called salitre has compounds not good for our health. Can you imagine, it is used in fireworks, bombs, fertilizers and colgate. Yay, and we put it in our food?
In all honesty though, I think it made tocino delicious. It is unfortunate we can no longer add it to our food. No, thanks!
When we were kids my mom frequently made pork tocino with saltpeter, not chicken which she is not a big fan of.
If she was here in the US, she’ll make it without saltpeter. I believe it is not easily available as a cooking ingredient anymore.
When I started making tocino, I added any hard liquor available in my uncle’s household. This is how I learned it from my mom. I believe she was adding rum or gin. One of these days, I will experiment again with it.
How to Make Chicken Tocino
Chicken thighs is the best part to use when making tocino. Luckily, it is already sold boneless, which is less thing to do. The least I would use would be chicken breast. It is not as moist and tender as the other parts of chicken.
Also, trim the extra fat in the chicken but leave some. As we all know, tocino is really delicious with plenty of fat but I try to stay away from too much fat. I’ll sacrifice with less deliciousness than loaded with fat.
Another good thing, the way the butcher sliced the thighs was the right thickness which is ½ an inch. It was one big piece of meat without the bones. I didn’t sliced in into smaller pieces, preventing it from disintegrating once it is tender. It’s your call if you want to cut it into smaller pieces.
This chicken tocino recipe calls for sweetened pineapple juice. Otherwise, if using unsweetened pineapple juice adjust the brown sugar measurement and add 2 more tablespoons.
After blending marinate, have a taste and add more sugar if you need to but you don't want an overly sweet dish, I don’t!
You can use fresh garlic but make sure it is finely minced but garlic powder is more convenient and yields the same result.
Traditionally, vendors leave their cured meat in room temperature as seen in markets (palenke) but I have mine marinating in the fridge. For food safety, I don’t suggest leaving it in room temperature, please place it in the fridge overnight up to a couple of days. Over 2 days, store it in the freezer.
When storing in the freezer, divide it into portions so you are not thawing the whole batch and then putting back the rest in the freezer, that is not advisable.
Normally, I add water when cooking pork tocino to tenderize the meat until water evaporates and it starts frying in its own oil.
With chicken though, I only added the marinate which is 1 ½ cups, 2 - 3 tablespoons oil and no water added. Chicken cooks quicker than pork and as it is, its meat is much tender to begin with.
I have my stove set to medium-high, pan uncovered and once water evaporates, it will start frying, I lower the heat to medium-low or low until it is cooked to my preference.
Once it gets to this point, I am right next to my stove flipping the chicken not to burn.
Serve it with chopped tomatoes if you like. Enjoy!
You can bake thawed chicken in the oven at 350 degrees F. Enclosed chicken in foil and bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through.
Open foil, flip chicken to the other side and continue baking for another 5 to 10 minutes. At this point, watch while it bakes as it can easily burn.
Before removing from oven, turn to broiler for a minute to char the exterior. This last step is optional, it’s your call. Remove from oven.
If using charcoal, have coals on one side of grill otherwise if using gas grill set it to low fire. I cannot tell you exactly how long to cook as heat temperature varies. You can have more charcoal than I do.
Place chicken thighs on foil under coals. I prefer to put it on foil so it slowly cooks through than putting it directly on grill. It was marinated in sugar and it can burn easily.
It will release its juice, continue grilling until juice or liquid evaporates.
Once it starts to caramelize, either pull the foil with chicken to the other side without charcoal or transfer each chicken directly on grill. Cover grill.
At this point, brown both sides of chicken and cook it to your preference 2 to 3 minutes. Again, it will easily burn once it starts to caramelize.
How to Cook Frozen Chicken Tocino
Thaw frozen tocino in fridge overnight or cook directly on stove top while frozen. Separate each piece once completely thawed and follow cooking instructions.
When baking or grilling, completely thaw in fridge before cooking.
- 1 ½ pounds boneless chicken thighs
- 3 tablespoons oil
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 6 oz pineapple juice
- 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon salt (add more salt if needed)
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- a few drops red gel coloring or annatto juice
- In a huge bowl, combine all ingredients except for chicken and oil. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Have a taste if you like, to add more seasoning, if needed. Set aside.
- Wash and pat dry chicken. Submerge chicken in marinate and cure in the fridge overnight or up to 2 days. Longer than 2 days, store it in the freezer. After marinating for a few hours move the chicken on top to the bottom of bowl.
Pan-fry Chicken Tocino
- On a huge skillet over medium heat, add chicken and 1 ½ cups marinate. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes or until liquid evaporates and caramelize.
- Once it caramelizes, add oil and reduce heat to low. Brown each side for about 5 minutes or char or crisp the exterior depending on your preference.
- Remove from skillet. Enjoy!