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How to Cook Chicken Thighs

Created October 17, 2017
Win weeknight dinner with chicken thighs. They’re flavorful, inexpensive and just as versatile as chicken breasts, so grab your apron and follow along with Betty’s step-by-step tutorial.

Cooking Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs are an often overlooked, but completely delicious and super economical cut of chicken. They are naturally flavorful and moist due to their fat content, which is higher than chicken breasts. Although they can be cooked in any number of ways, they taste best when cooked for longer periods of time, such as in the slow cooker, or when roasted at a high temperature. With all these benefits, mastering chicken thighs is a must for every home cook, and Betty’s here to show you the way!

How to Cook Chicken Thighs

One of our favorite ways to cook chicken thighs is by browning on the stove and finishing in the oven. Try it out for yourself with this absolutely delicious dinner that only requires five ingredients and 30 minutes!

Skillet Chicken Thighs with Fire-Roasted Tomatoes and Smashed White Beans

What You Need:

How to:

ingredients for skillet chicken thighs

1. Heat oven to 400°F. In 10-inch ovenproof skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. Season chicken with 1 teaspoon of the Italian herb seasoning and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt.

Season chicken with 1 teaspoon of the Italian herb seasoning and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt

2. Place chicken skin side down in skillet. Cook without moving 4 to 5 minutes, until skin is golden brown and chicken releases easily from surface. Turn chicken over, and cook 2 to 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Turn off heat; remove chicken from skillet to plate, and drain fat from skillet.

Place chicken skin side down in skillet. Cook without moving 4 to 5 minutes, until skin is golden brown and chicken releases easily from surface.

3. In small bowl, add beans, and lightly mash with potato masher or fork. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter, the tomatoes, mashed beans, sage, remaining 1/4 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning and 1/4 teaspoon salt to skillet, mixing to combine. Place chicken thighs, skin side up, on top of tomato and bean mixture, and transfer to oven.

In small bowl, add beans, and lightly mash with potato masher or fork.

4. Roast 18 to 22 minutes or until bubbly and juice of chicken is clear when thickest part is cut to bone (at least 165°F). Top with additional chopped sage, if desired.

Roast 18 to 22 minutes or until bubbly and juice of chicken is clear when thickest part is cut to bone (at least 165°F). Top with additional chopped sage, if desired

Grilled Chicken Thighs

Grilling chicken thighs is a great way to keep your kitchen cool in the summer and give this succulent cut of meat a delicious smoky flavor.

Here’s what you need to know about grilling chicken thighs.

  • Grill chicken thighs over medium, direct heat.
  • Turn thighs occasionally and cook for the amount of time called for in the recipe.
  • Bone-in thighs are thicker and always require a slightly longer cook time than boneless thighs.
  • If you are using a marinade, brush thighs with marinade when you turn.
  • Using a thermometer is the best way to determine if thighs are done. Make sure not to touch to bone when inserting the thermometer. Chicken is done when internal temperature reaches 165°F.
  • If you don’t own a meat thermometer, cut into the center of the thickest part of the thigh. Juice should run clear and no longer be pink.

Grilled Three-Herb Chicken

Grilled Three-Herb Chicken

Grilling flavor secret? Try this citrus and herb marinade for tasty chicken.

Roasted Chicken Thighs

If you like your chicken crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, roasting is the way to go. Here are some things you should know about roasting chicken thighs.

  • Roasting chicken thighs involves cooking uncovered and without liquid in the oven.
  • Usually thighs are cooked on a rack or in a pan with shallow sides, so heat can circulate easily and meat cooks evenly.
  • Always check chicken at minimum cook time called for in the recipe, so you don’t overcook.
  • Chicken is done when internal temperature reaches 165°F or juices run clear.

Pro Tip: One of our favorite ways to roast chicken thighs is with vegetables on a sheet pan, so dinner is a one-dish-and-done affair.

Slow-Cooker Balsamic Honey-Glazed Chicken and Vegetables

Slow-Cooker Balsamic Honey-Glazed Chicken and Vegetables

Elegant goes easy in this complete slow-cooker meal. Browned chicken thighs, potatoes, carrots and red onions are cooked with balsamic vinegar and honey until tender, luscious and sure to impress.

Chicken Thighs on the Fly

When you know the weeks ahead will be hard, there’s nothing more comforting than having homemade dinners you can pull out of your freezer. Try for yourself with this freezer to slow-cooker dinner featuring chicken thighs.

Make-Ahead Slow-Cooker Chicken Paprikash

Make-Ahead Slow-Cooker Chicken Paprikash

Packed with smoked paprika, garlic and bell peppers, this flavorful freezer to slow cooker make-ahead chicken dinner will have you craving even more delicious Central European fare.

How to Brown Chicken Thighs

Crispy chicken thighs browned to perfection are impressive, delicious and easy. The trick is using a classic restaurant technique combining stovetop cooking with oven roasting. This method ensure thighs are both perfectly browned and cooked through. It also frees up burners and ensures a mouthwatering finished product that’s not overcooked or burnt.

Here’s how to brown your chicken thighs to perfection.

  • Remember to preheat your oven first and use an ovenproof skillet, like cast-iron, so you can whisk your chicken into the oven right after browning.
  • Let your skillet heat up on a burner set to medium-high heat before adding cooking fat, like butter or oil. It’s best to use a fat with a high smoke point, like canola oil, since you’ll want your pan very hot in order to brown your chicken.
  • Once you add the chicken to the pan, do not move it for the amount of time specified in your recipe – typically about 4 or 5 minutes. You can keep an eye on the side of the thighs to see how quickly they are browning.
  • When thighs release without sticking, they are properly browned and ready to turn.
  • Always use tongs to turn, so you don’t puncture the chicken and release it’s delicious juices.
  • If your recipe calls for pouring off any collected fat before roasting, do yourself a favor and move chicken to a plate before pouring off hot fat. If you try to pour off the fat with the chicken still in the pan, it’s easy to lose a thigh, burn yourself or both—better safe than sorry, especially when dinner’s involved!

Try this method for yourself with our top-rated recipe for Soy-Brown Sugar Glazed Chicken Thighs.

Soy Brown Sugar-Glazed Chicken Thighs

Soy-Brown Sugar-Glazed Chicken Thighs

Get sweet and savory chicken thighs on the table fast with this affordable main dish. Make it a meal by adding cooked frozen teriyaki vegetables or garden vegetable medley.

Chicken Thigh Marinade

Marinating chicken thighs is another way to add flavor.

  • Generally, you will rest the meat in its marinade for 30 minutes or longer before cooking.
  • It’s best to leave chicken in the fridge while marinating.
  • You can marinate in a pan or put it in zip-top plastic bag, which will allow you to knead the marinade into the chicken.

Chicken thighs are very versatile and work with a variety of flavors—lemon, herbs, balsamic vinegar and more. To get started, we recommend our recipe for Make-Ahead Slow-Cooker Asian Peach Chicken Thighs.

Make-Ahead Slow Cooker Asian Peach Chicken Thighs

Make-Ahead Slow-Cooker Asian Peach Chicken Thighs

A little bit of sweet, a little bit of heat and a whole lot of easy – this make-ahead slow-cooker meal is sure to please both the diners and the chef.

Barbecued Chicken Thighs

There’s more than one way to barbecue thighs. Two of our favorite methods are using the slow cooker—it’s a year-round appliance in the Betty Crocker Kitchens—and, of course, grilling.

Slow-Cooker Barbecued Chicken Thighs

We love summer slow-cooker meals because they’re easy to make, easy to clean up and they don’t heat up the kitchen. Plus, your barbecue can’t get rained out when you make your chicken in the slow cooker!

One thing to keep in mind when making barbecued chicken in the slow cooker is that liquids don’t evaporate during the cooking process because the unit is sealed. This can result in a thinner sauce, which no one wants when serving up barbecue. That's why we recommend transferring the cooking liquid to a saucepan and reducing it to thicken the sauce and intensify the flavor.

When reducing a sauce on the stove, it’s always best to follow your recipe, but generally this process involves cooking the sauce over medium-high heat and stirring occasionally. Sometimes, Wondra or flour are added to thicken the sauce when needed.

Try this method for yourself using our recipe for Slow-Cooker Saucy Orange-Barbecued Chicken.

Slow-Cooker Saucy Orange Barbecued Chicken

Slow-Cooker Saucy Orange-Barbecued Chicken

Sweet-and-sour tang makes this chicken dish stand out, while the slow-cook method in place of barbecue makes it easy with faster clean-up.

Grilled Barbecued Chicken Thighs

In the summertime, there’s nothing better than grilled barbecued chicken.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when making saucy, sweet barbecued chicken thighs. 

  • Let thighs cook 5 minutes before brushing on sauce. If sauce is applied too soon, the mixture can burn and blacken the chicken.
  • After turning chicken, brush with sauce again.
  • Discard any remaining sauce, as it will be contaminated by your brush. You can also set aside some sauce, if you want to serve chicken with more sauce alongside.

Apricot Glazed Grilled BBQ Chicken Thighs

Apricot Glazed Grilled BBQ Chicken Thighs

The sweetness of fruit preserves, the tanginess of balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard--together they make a perfect glaze for juicy grilled thighs.

Pro Tip: Want that barbecued flavor in the winter? You can make this recipe with your oven’s broiler. Place thighs in broiler pan four to six inches from heat using grilling times as a guide, turning once and brushing with preserves mixture as directed.

Skin or No Skin?

Cooking chicken with the skin on adds to the flavor, not the fat. Fat doesn’t soak into the meat during cooking. Leaving the skin on also helps keep juices in, creating meat that is more moist and tender. It’s the skin itself that has the fat, calories and cholesterol, so discard after cooking if you want to avoid extra calories.

Bone-in or Boneless?

Bone-in chicken thighs are thicker and take a little longer to cook. They’re also more flavorful. Bone-in chicken thighs are great in slow-cooker recipes because they can stand up to a longer cook time. Try them in our recipe for Slow-Cooker Lemon Pepper Chicken.

Boneless chicken thighs are nice when you’re in a hurry. They also work well when baked in a casserole, as it’s easier to eat the chicken. We prefer boneless thighs in our recipe for Smothered Chicken Casserole.

To debone a chicken thigh, follow the steps below. You will need a paring knife or boning knife and a cutting board.

  • First, remove the skin and trim the fat from the thigh.
  • Place the meaty side down, find the bone and make shallow cuts on either side of the bone using the tip of your knife. Keep making these shallow cuts as you work around the bone loosening it from the meat.
  • When you’ve worked your way around the bone, the ends of the bone will likely still be attached to the meat. Starting at one end, slide your knife between the meat and the bone with the blade facing the bone end and carefully detach.

What to do with Leftover Chicken Thighs?

Having cooked chicken in the fridge is a real ace up the sleeve when it comes to weeknight dinner. Cubed or shredded chicken thighs will keep for two days in the fridge.

We love to remake our leftover chicken into the following delicious meals.


Now that you’ve mastered chicken thighs, why not master pork tenderloin next?