Chicken thighs are a popular type of dark meat chicken cut from the top section of the chicken leg (the bottom section is called the drumstick). Thighs can be cooked in a variety of ways such as grilling, roasting, braising, and frying. Chicken thighs are eaten as part of countless cuisines around the world.
What Are Chicken Thighs?
Chicken thighs are a favorite cut of dark meat poultry with chef and home cooks alike thanks to their flavor and tenderness. Because dark meat contains more tendons, chicken thighs are a tough cut, but because they contain more fat than white meat, they become tender and juicy when cooked properly. They also boast more flavor than white meat.
Chicken thighs are sold bone-in and a skin-on, bone-in and skinless, and boneless and skinless. All three preparations can be cooked straight from the package. Bone-in chicken thighs on average cost about one-third the price per pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Boneless thighs cost a bit more, but they are still considerably cheaper than breasts.
How to Cook Chicken Thighs
Chicken thighs, when sold already butchered, are ready to cook. Further preparation can be done at home if desired. To de-bone chicken thighs, place the thigh skin-side down on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, make a cut directly alongside the bone, pull the thigh open, and carefully trim the meat away from the bone, removing and saving the bone for stock. The skin can be peeled off using your hands and a knife or kitchen shears to snip away any attached sections.
Chicken thighs can also simply be cooked with the bone in and the skin on. This will produce the most flavorful and moist meat and is the hardest to overcook. Particularly when prepared using moist-heat cooking techniques like braising, chicken thighs are extremely forgiving. Because thighs contain a bone, along with connective tissue like cartilage, braising unlocks a terrific amount of collagen. The collagen breaks down into gelatin which in turn contributes to the sense of juiciness when you bite into it.
Bone-in or boneless chicken thighs are also excellent for grilling and take well to marinades, frying, pan-frying, and roasting.
What Do Chicken Thighs Taste Like?
Chicken thighs have a stronger chicken flavor than white meat and are tender and moist without being overly fatty or oily. Compared to duck and game meat, the meat is mild in flavor. Along with succulent meat, the skin can be crisped in the oven or stovetop.
Chicken Thighs vs. Chicken Breasts
White meat versus dark meat is an age-old battle. Chicken thighs are celebrated for their tenderness and flavor, while chicken breasts (white meat taken from the front of the bird) are praised for their lean meat and low fat content. Thighs are easier to cook, since they don't dry out as easily as breasts, and are more affordable. Breasts are quicker cooking and extremely lean and diet-friendly. If you're watching your diet, chicken thighs can still be a good option. Try enjoying them in smaller servings or with the skin removed. You'll be rewarded with bigger flavor and succulent meat.
Chicken Thigh Recipes
Chicken thighs can be utilized in a wide range of dishes, from grilled skewers to curries to tacos to pulled barbecue to fried chicken. They can also be cooked in the slow cooker or pressure cooker. Typically plan about 1/2 pound of thighs per person (closer to 3/4 pound if the meat is bone-in). The internal temperature of the thigh should reach at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit (higher is okay since heat helps break down the connective tissue in the thigh).
Where to Buy Chicken Thighs
Chicken thighs are widely available in supermarkets, grocery stores, and at butchers. You'll find them at the meat counter and in the poultry department sold by the pound. You'll often find smaller packages of one to five pounds and large, family-sized packages. Many retailers sell thighs in at least two forms: bone-in and skin-on, bone-in and skinless, and/or boneless and skinless. The cheapest option is bone-in and skin-on and the most expensive is boneless and skinless.
Look for chicken thighs that are as fresh as possible. Check the date and make sure the meat is pink and plump and not slimy or stinky. Heritage chicken, which is raised using small-scale, humane, and organic farming practices, tends to be darker, more flavorful, and more expensive.
Storing Chicken Thighs
Chicken thighs can be stored in the fridge in their original package for up the three days depending on the use-by date. For best results, use fresh thighs as soon as possible. Cooked chicken thighs will keep a day or two in an airtight container in the fridge.
Chicken thighs are also easy to freeze for later. Wrap each breast individually in plastic wrap or foil and stash in a freezer bag, removing all the air. Freeze for up to six months. Thaw frozen thighs in the refrigerator overnight before using.
Nutrition and Benefits of Chicken Thighs
Chicken thighs are an excellent source of protein, with one serving containing about 14 grams of protein. One medium chicken thigh with skin contains about 140 calories and 9 grams of fat, while a skinless thigh contains 90 calories and 4 grams of fat. While skin adds delicious flavor and texture, it does add fat and calories to the otherwise lean meat.
However, the fat contained in chicken skin is unsaturated fat, the so-called "good" fat that lowers your bad LDL cholesterol while raising your good HDL.
Watch Now: Reasons We Love Chicken Thighs
Willett WC, Sacks F, Trichopoulou A, et al. Mediterranean diet pyramid: a cultural model for healthy eating. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995;61(6 Suppl):1402S-1406S. doi:10.1093/ajcn/61.6.1402S