Wanna know who deserves an apology: chicken thighs. As if it isn’t enough to be upstaged by a less flavorful chunk of meat (*ahem* chicken breasts), for reasons beyond explanation, this delicious portion of the chicken is too often brutalized atop the grill, on a skillet, or in the oven. By avoiding one mistake in preparing your chicken thighs, you’ll gladly jump off the breast bandwagon and enjoy a poultry dinner with a clean conscience, innocent of the chicken-thigh atrocity committed in kitchens across the South every day.
Save the Skin
Chicken thighs aren’t supposed to be pretty. Yet the boneless skinless chicken thighs packaged in the grocery store have been manicured to look more appealing than the lumpy skin-on chicken thighs sitting next to them (insert judging-the-book-by-its-cover saying). Don’t be fooled—the skin on a chicken thigh is like a full sponge ready to release mouthwatering juices into the meat underneath it as it cooks. Additionally, the skin protects the meat from direct contact with the heat, which helps the thigh cook gently and retain its moisture. Stripping the thigh of its skin before cooking is a surefire step to mediocre meat—if you don’t like eating chicken skin, wait until it has finished cooking to remove the skin, never before.
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Cooking the Thigh, Respectfully
Start by seasoning the meat with salt and searing the outside of the thigh (yes, the skin) in a cast-iron skillet with some oil. By browning the outside, you’re ensuring a crispy exterior that will both protect the meat underneath and provide a nice contrast in texture for those of you who do eat the skin (which you should). Once browned evenly on all sides, remove the thighs from the pan, add a little more oil to the pan and cook whatever vegetables and aromatic elements you would like to use to flavor the chicken (onions, lemon, mushrooms, tomatoes, fresh herbs, etc.) Saute until these ingredients have gained some color, nestle the chicken thighs into the ingredients in the cast iron, and place the cast iron in a preheated oven until the chicken is done. By finishing the process in the oven, you ensure that the meat cooks evenly.
With this tip, you’re free as a bird to enjoy the full potential of this unsung hero! For a list of our trusted chicken thigh recipes, click here. You might also enjoy 13 Ways to Ruin Fried Chicken.