There needs to be a revolution in the poultry world. While many people think that boneless, skinless chicken breasts are the end-all-be-all for a chicken recipe, chicken thighs deserve the real love.
When cooked correctly (which isn't hard), chicken thighs will make the most succulent chicken you'll ever eat, with a perfectly crispy skin.
The key to cooking chicken thighs is to start them in a cold cast iron skillet. Yep, you read that right. Cold. Season them well with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then put them skin-side down in the skillet over medium heat.
Then just don't touch them for 14 to 15 minutes. As the pan heats up, the skin will slowly get crispy. It might pop and hiss, but all is good. As long as you watch your heat, it's almost impossible to burn or overcook these.
Once they have crisped nicely in the skillet, dot your thighs with lemon slices and fresh thyme sprigs and finish them in a 400°F oven for another 13 to 15 minutes, depending on the size.
If you're in doubt on the cooking time, leave them in for another few minutes. It's very hard to overcook these guys.
One or two of these thighs makes a perfect weeknight dinner, with a side salad and maybe a slice or two of garlic bread!
Lemon Thyme Chicken Thighs
2 pounds chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on (about 4 to 6 thighs)
1 lemon, sliced thin
5 to 6 fresh thyme sprigs
Preheat your oven to 400° F. Drizzle the chicken thighs with olive oil and season them well with pinches of salt and pepper.
Place the thighs in a large, cold cast iron skillet, skin-side down. Place the skillet on a burner over medium heat. Let them cook, undisturbed, for 14 to 15 minutes.
When a lot of the fat has rendered out and the skin is crispy and brown, flip the thighs so the crispy skin is up. Dot the cast iron skillet with lemon slices and thyme sprigs and stick it in the hot oven. Let the thighs finish cooking in the oven for 13 to 15 minutes, until they reach an internal temperature of 165° F. If you're in doubt, leave them in for another few minutes.
Serve thighs immediately.
- Depending on the size of your cast iron skillet, you might want to brown the chicken in batches so as not to crowd the pan. If you do this, reduce the time on the second batch, as the pan will already be hot. Then you can transfer the thighs to a baking dish to finish in the oven.
- Chicken thighs can vary wildly in weight. In the same package, you may have some that weight 4-5 ounces and some that weigh as much as 8 ounces. Don't stress about it; you can cook them all together. Two smaller thighs or one larger one is a good serving size.
This recipe was originally published March 2014.
(Image credits: Nick Evans)