There is one important thing you should know about getting this chicken on the dinner table: You're gonna need to put out plenty of extra napkins. Because as any really good firecracker chicken recipe should be, this one is all about the vibrant, sticky sauce.
It's a weeknight version of the takeout favorite that partners a pack of meaty, wallet-friendly chicken thighs with a bright, glossy sauce that's sweet, tangy, and a little bit spicy.
Firecracker Chicken Thighs: Watch the Video
The Chicken Skillet That's All About the Sauce
While it might be perfectly acceptable to swap skin-on thighs for its skinless, boneless counterparts in many recipes, this is not one of them. The skin plays such a crucial role in making each piece of chicken as saucy as possible. So it's for this reason that I recommend buying a pack of chicken thighs with an ample amount of skin. Carefully inspect your package (or butcher case) for thighs with skin that covers as much of the meat as possible.
After you sear it on the stovetop, the chicken finishes cooking with a coating of sauce in the oven. That blanket of chicken skin acts like a magnet for the sticky sauce so it adheres to the meat rather than instantly sliding off. As the chicken cooks, the flavor from the sauce soaks through the skin and works its way into the meat.
The sauce will bubble and caramelize against the heat of the skillet. It might even look overly thick or like it's maybe even burnt against the pan — it's not. Give the skillet a gentle shake, and the bubbly sauce will loosen so you can spoon it over the meat.
Firecracker Chicken Thighs
Prep time: 5 minutes ; cooking time: 35 minutes
- For the sauce:
hot sauce, such as Frank’s RedHot
packed light brown sugar
apple cider vinegar
red pepper flakes
- For the chicken:
bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (4 to 6 thighs)
Freshly ground black pepper
Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. The sauce will thicken slightly as it cools. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 400°F.
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season all over with salt and pepper. Heat a 10-inch or larger cast iron or oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add the chicken skin-side down (work in batches if needed to not overcrowd the pan) and cook until the fat is rendered and the skin is crisp and golden-brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
Using tongs, flip the chicken. Pour about 1/2 of the sauce evenly over the chicken. Place the skillet in the oven and roast for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and spoon the sauce from the bottom of the skillet over the chicken. Pour the remaining reserved sauce over the top. Return to the oven and roast until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, 5 to 7 minutes more. Serve the chicken with the sauce.
Make ahead: The sauce can be made up to a day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Heat over low heat before preparing the chicken.
Storage: Leftovers will keep for up to 4 days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.