Recipe: Lemon Thyme Chicken Thighs

Recipe: Lemon Thyme Chicken Thighs

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Nick Evans
Apr 23, 2018
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

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.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

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!

Tester's Notes

I have to give my husband full credit here: He's the one who discovered this gem of a recipe from the Kitchn archives a couple of years ago and we both got hooked almost instantly. These may look like ordinary chicken thighs, but what makes this recipe so special is the technique.

The thighs start skin-side down in a cold cast iron skillet — yes, cold. As the skillet heats up, so do the thighs, which lets the skin slowly render its fat so that it get ridiculously golden-brown and crispy. Then the thighs are flipped, some lemon slices and thyme sprigs are sprinkled over them for flavor, and the skillet is tossed into the oven so the thighs can finish cooking.

Not only does following this method prevent the thighs' skin from burning or the meat from overcooking, but it's also so easy to follow that once you've done it the first time, you don't have to look at the recipe again. It's just 15 minutes on the stovetop and 15 minutes in the oven — pretty much all hands-off. It's adaptable, too! Swap in rosemary sprigs for the thyme, forgo the citrus and herbs all together and sprinkle a little cumin or smoked paprika on the thighs before cooking, or just keep them plain and simple with nothing but salt and pepper. This is now our go-to chicken thigh recipe and I hope it becomes yours too.

- Sheela, April 2018

Lemon Thyme Chicken Thighs

Serves 4

  • 2 pounds

    bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (4 to 6 thighs)

  • Olive oil

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1

    medium lemon, thinly sliced

  • 5 to 6

    fresh thyme sprigs

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Drizzle the chicken thighs with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.

Place the thighs skin-side down in a single layer in a large, cold cast iron skillet. Place the skillet over medium heat. and 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 they are skin-side up. Scatter the lemon slices and thyme sprigs over the chicken. Roast in the oven until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, 13 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Batch cooking: 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.

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

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