When it comes to cooking chicken dishes, we often reach for the breast since it's simple to handle, requires little or preparation, and there's no bone to remove. Sadly, chicken thigh is typically overlooked despite being cheaper, tastier, and easier to cook. Unlike the breast, thighs do not dry out or go tough when cooked in a sauce or stew.
You can, of course, buy ready-boned thighs, but for the convenience, you will pay a higher price, often the same or more expensive than the breast. Learning to debone thighs is not as hard as you think—just follow this step-by-step guide.
What You'll Need
The key to making the process of deboning easier is by using a boning knife (left) if you can. This knife is designed explicitly for boning and is easily recognizable by the shape of the blade which curves slightly and narrows, making it easier to cut close to any bones. If you do not have a boning knife, then a regular 6-inch vegetable or kitchen knife (center) is a suitable replacement when boning chicken thighs as they aren't too big. If all else fails, you can debone with a pair of sharp scissors or poultry shears (right), but they're quite hard to handle on something as small as a chicken thigh. The key is to use whatever you have and feel comfortable with, but what you choose must be sharp. Blunt knives and scissors will make it more difficult and can also be dangerous as they can slip easily.
Other equipment you will need is a cutting board (preferably marble or plastic as they're easier to clean) dishcloths, and antibacterial spray to keep the knives and boards you are cutting on clean at all times. When working with chicken, this is imperative, as are clean hands before you start and finish. You can wear gloves, but these can often make feeling for bones and muscles more difficult. Always keep some paper towel on hand so any grease or fat can be quickly cleaned up.
How to Debone Chicken Thighs
Cut down the side of the bone. The first step in deboning chicken thighs is to free the bone from the flesh. To start this, you can feel the thigh bone running down the center of the thigh and with your sharp boning or kitchen knife, gently run the knife down either side to loosen the flesh and any tiny tendons. Be careful, you only want to free the bone not cut through the meat or the skin.
Scrape the bone. Lightly scrape the surface of the bone to reveal its exact whereabouts and make it easier to cut away and remove. Scrape around as far as you can without cutting the skin.
Slip the knife under the bone. Once the bone is clean, gently slip the point of the knife under the bone and with great care, loosen the bone from the remaining flesh. You are easing the bone rather than tearing it away. When you reach the end, the large knuckle at the end of the bone will need carefully cutting away by turning the sharp side of the blade towards the knuckle and cut through.
Lift the bone away. The chicken thigh bone will now lift away from the flesh. Using your finger, gently press around the thigh to make sure there are no pieces of bone or cartilage around; if you find some just cut away with your knife.
Clean up and cut away the excess fat. Have a good look at the thigh and with your knife, cut away any excess fat and skin, but be careful not to cut too much away, a little fat is good for flavor and moisture for cooking, as is the skin. And there you are, deboned chicken thighs in five easy steps. Repeat with the remaining thighs taking care that as you finish one thigh, it must go back into the refrigerator to keep chilled and the board clean by wiping down with a little antibacterial spray.
How to Skin Chicken Thighs
The instructions above are for skin-on chicken thighs, but you may want to remove this for some recipes.
Using your fingers carefully pull the skin back from the flesh. You will notice that there are thin tendons and a little translucent muscle holding the skin on. These will cut easily with a knife, and if they are loose, it is even easier to pull the skin away, however, if not done carefully, you can tear the skin which does not ruin the thigh but does spoil the appearance.
To remove the chicken skin, all you need to do is carefully pull the skin back as far as it will go without any resistance, once it does, run the knife slowly through them, and they will fall away.
- If you are not ready to cook them immediately, then pop them into a freezer bag and freeze. They will keep well for a few months and are on hand ready to cook with.