6 Easiest Ways to Cook Chicken Thighs—Including Grilled, Pan-Seared, and More
It's basically a fact of life that chicken thighs are everyone's favorite part of cooking and eating chicken. They're flavorful, succulent, and aren't prone to drying out like chicken breasts frequently do. The dark meat of chicken thighs does mean they are higher in fat and calories, but this also translates to two very important things: flavor and juiciness. One of chicken thighs' many other perks is that they're incredibly versatile, and can stand on their own or be shredded or chopped to bulk up soups, stews, tacos, salads, grain bowls, you name it! Chicken thighs also generally cost less than chicken breasts—a perk for your wallet.
Chicken thighs can typically be found bone-in and skin-on, boneless and skinless, or bone-in and skinless. There are some differences among these when it comes to cooking and nutrition:
Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs will be the fattiest of the bunch, and therefore the most supple and flavorful. They will require additional cooking time since the bone absorbs heat, taking away from the meat. To maximize flavor, cook the thighs with the skin on and simply remove the skin before serving to minimize fat, if desired.
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs cook in a snap thanks to the lack of bone, making them a weeknight dinner hero. Don't worry, they're still juicy and loaded with flavor even without the benefit of the fatty skin. They do tend to be the most expensive of the bunch since it requires more processing, i.e removing the bone and skin.
Lastly, bone-in, skinless chicken thighs minimize fat yet hold on to that moisture that makes thighs super-juicy thanks to the bone, which also means they take longer to cook than their boneless friend.
It's important to note that chicken must reach a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees. As a rule of thumb, it's always good to let the meat rest after cooking so the juices settle and ensure the meat is tender.
Choose your own adventure below and rest assured, each method of cooking chicken thighs yields flavorful results.
How to Broil Chicken Thighs
Use the magic of the broiler to cook chicken thighs quickly and effortlessly. If using skin-on chicken thighs, it's best to start them skin-side down on the baking sheet, then flip halfway through to get crispy, golden skin.
- Preheat broiler with a rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source.
- Pat chicken thighs dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange skin-side down.
- Broil for 5 minutes. Flip and broil, until skin is crispy and golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest portion registers 165 degrees, 8 to 10 minutes. Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
How to Poach Chicken Thighs
Poaching chicken is a cooking method commonly seen when cooking chicken breasts, but don't rule it out for chicken thighs. Poach thighs in a broth with aromatics or fragrant coconut milk and spices. Remove any skin after poaching and shred the chicken thighs to use in stews, soups, or chicken salad.
- Place chicken in a saucepan or straight-sided skillet and add enough water to cover by 1 inch.
- Add aromatics to saucepan such as bay leaves, peppercorns, sprigs of fresh parsley, thyme, or rosemary, and a generous pinch of salt.
- Bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and keep a gentle simmer. Cook, until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees, about 15 minutes for boneless thighs. Allow a few more minutes if using bone-in thighs.
How to Grill Chicken Thighs
- Brush grill grates or grill pan with oil. Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.
- Pat chicken thighs dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper, or your rub or marinade of choice. Place on the grill skin-side down (if cooking skin-on thighs) and grill, flipping halfway through, until charred in spots and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest portion registers 165 degrees, about 10 minutes for boneless thighs and up to 20 minutes for bone-in thighs. Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
How to Fry Chicken Thighs
Is there anything more delicious than fried chicken? Chicken thighs' dark meat makes for mouthwatering fried chicken. Reach for boneless, skinless chicken thighs and gently pound them to an even thickness, which makes for even cooking when frying. Use the bottom of a skillet or a rolling pin if your kitchen isn't stocked with a meat mallet. If you've got a large cast-iron skillet, this is the time to use it—its ability to retain heat is ideal for frying.
- For 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs: Mix 2 cups buttermilk with a generous pinch of salt, several grinds of black pepper, and your seasonings of choice, such as paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, or oregano in a large bowl or large, deep baking dish.
- Place one thigh at a time in a zip-top bag or between two layers of plastic wrap. Gently pound using a meat mallet to an even thickness. Transfer to bowl with buttermilk mixture and repeat with remaining thighs. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.
- Fill a large heavy-bottomed skillet with 1-inch vegetable oil or other neutral oil; heat over medium-high to 375 degrees.
- Mix all-purpose flour with a generous pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper in a separate baking dish. Working with a few thighs at a time and using tongs, dredge chicken in the flour until evenly coated on both sides and transfer to a baking sheet.
- Working in two batches, add chicken to hot oil. Fry, turning once and adjusting heat so oil is sizzling but not smoking, until deeply golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest portion registers 165 degrees, 6 to 8 minutes per side. Transfer to a wire rack and keep in a warm oven. Repeat with remaining chicken, adding oil to keep a 1-inch depth, if needed. Season with a pinch of salt.
How to Bake Chicken Thighs in the Oven
The hot oven ensures chicken thighs are cooked evenly throughout, and sport a crispy skin to boot. Keep in mind that bone-in chicken thighs will take longer to cook than boneless chicken thighs, however, this method works well for all three types of chicken thighs you can purchase.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees with a rack in the middle position.
- Pat chicken thighs dry with a paper towel on a baking sheet or baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange skin-side up if cooking skin-on thighs.
- Roast, until golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest portion registers 165 degrees, 15 to 20 minutes for boneless thighs, and up to 30 minutes for bone-in thighs. Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
How to Pan-Sear Chicken Thighs on the Stove
A piping hot skillet and a drizzle of oil means crispy, golden-brown skin. You will sometimes see recipes indicate to start searing the chicken thighs on the stovetop and then transferring the oven-safe skillet to a hot oven to finish cooking. This is, in part, to guarantee the thighs cook evenly, and takes other ingredients in the skillet, such as vegetables, into consideration. Nevertheless, you can cook chicken thighs entirely on the stovetop without compromising flavor or texture.
- Heat a generous drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Pat chicken thighs dry with a paper towel. Season with salt and pepper.
- Without overcrowding the pan, place chicken in skillet, skin-side down if using skin-on chicken thighs, and cook, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip and cook, until golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest portion registers 165 degrees, 5 to 7 more minutes. Allow a few more minutes if using bone-in thighs. Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.