How to Cook Chicken Thighs
One of the reasons chicken is such a popular meat to cook is because of its versatility. If you’re not someone who cooks a lot or someone who enjoys trying different recipes, you may stick to a more basic type of cut like the chicken breast. The chicken breast used to be the cut of chicken most often featured in popular recipes. But, today people are realizing that the chicken thigh is an incredible option especially when they find out how easy it can be to cook chicken thighs.
Another cut of chicken is enjoying a resurgence in popularity lately, and with good reason: Chicken thighs are super flavorful, retain their moisture after cooking, and are less expensive than chicken breasts. You may remember arguing with your siblings as a kid about who had to eat the “dark meat” when your family cooked a whole chicken. But these days, you’ll find the kids fighting over who gets the last chicken thigh! Chicken thighs tended to get a bad rap in the “fat-conscious” turn of the last century because of their higher fat content, but as we inch our way back to an ancestral way of eating these days, and recall the importance of including healthy fats in our diet and staying away from artificial “low fat” food products, more and more people are rediscovering chicken thighs as a delicious addition to their diet.
What are the Best Ways to Cook Chicken Thighs?
When it comes to cooking chicken thighs, they are cooked a bit differently than chicken breasts. Since they have a higher fat content and retain moisture during cooking, it’s more difficult to overcook chicken thighs than it is to overcook chicken breasts. Particularly if you buy bone-in chicken thighs, they mostly just fall off of the bone if you leave them in the oven too long! (Pro tip: bone-in chicken thighs are also less expensive than their boneless counterparts.)
To recap, chicken thighs have several perks that should earn them a spot on your dinner menu as soon as possible:
- They’re inexpensive
- They’re super flavorful
- It is nearly impossible to overcook them
Because chicken thighs are so versatile, they lend themselves well to almost any method of cooking. Chances are you can easily find a chicken thigh recipe that fits your diet, whether you’re making them the focus of a barbecue and plan to make them on the grill, or need a quick pressure cooker recipe for a busy weeknight meal.
In this post, we’ll give you pointers on how to cook chicken thighs a few different ways - on the grill, in the pressure cooker, and in the oven.
How to Cook Chicken Thighs on the Grill
Cooking chicken thighs on a grill is a great way to cook for a crowd, and you can also use this method for meal prepping for the week, since it allows you to cook a large quantity at a time.
When grilling chicken thighs, you’ll definitely want to use a meat thermometer to monitor your cooking time. Generally, chicken thighs should be cooked at medium temperature (350-375 degrees F) for about 12-15 minutes total, flipping them half-way through. BUT, if you’re used to going from the color of the meat and juices to judge done-ness and you aren’t used to cooking chicken thighs, you may find it hard to tell when your chicken is actually cooked through and done. Because chicken thighs are dark meat, the meat can sometimes look pink even when it’s completely cooked. Using a meat thermometer to gauge your progress is the best way to make sure your meat is cooked to a safe 165 degrees F without worrying about overcooking.
Use your favorite spice rub and marinade, follow the instructions above, and you’ll have delicious grilled chicken thighs in no time.
How to Cook Chicken Thighs in a Pressure Cooker
The pressure cooker is one of our favorite ways to cook chicken thighs because you can even cook them from frozen! Raise your hand if you’ve ever planned a delicious dinner in your mind only to get home and realize you forgot to defrost your meat? (I know I'm not the only one ;)) With a pressure cooker, you can still cook that delicious meal without even defrosting your chicken, you just need to increase the cooking time a bit.
Whether you’re using fresh or frozen chicken thighs, you’ll want to cook them using your pressure cooker’s trivet and about a half cup water or broth per pound of chicken thighs. If you’re using defrosted thighs, you can brown them in a bit of oil using the sauté function on your pressure cooker (or simply sauté them on the stove if your cooker doesn’t have this function). But keep in mind that you’ll want to skip this step when using frozen thighs.
Add your seasonings of choice to the top of the chicken thighs - you can use whatever seasonings your family prefers; we often keep it simple with just sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and garlic - and place them on top of the trivet in your pressure cooker. Add your liquid, seal the lid, and cook on high for 10-12 minutes for fresh chicken thighs and 15-18 minutes for frozen. We've added 3 minutes to each cooking time to account for the bone-in chicken thighs.
How to Cook Chicken Thighs in the Oven
Chicken thighs are ridiculously easy to cook in the oven, and if you’re a fan of sheet pan dinners they lend themselves wonderfully to this easy dinner prep. Simply fill a baking sheet with well-seasoned or marinaded chicken thighs, vegetables, and sweet potatoes, and you’ve got a quick and easy paleo meal. Because you're only using one pan it makes clean-up a breeze too.
You’ll want to preheat the oven to about 375 degrees F, season your chicken thighs with olive oil and seasonings of choice, and bake for about 25-30 minutes. If you’re using potatoes in your recipe, you can bake them with the chicken. After the first 25-30 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and toss your seasoned veggies alongside the chicken and potatoes and cook for another 15-20 minutes or until the chicken has reached a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Voila! That. Is. It. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
No matter how you choose to cook your chicken thighs, we think you’ll find this flavorful and tender cut of meat a new staple in your dinner rotations once you give chicken thighs a try.