I Tried the TikTok-Famous Crispy Chicken Thighs and They’re a Real Winner

Sweet, salty, garlicky, citrusy, and crispy.

Woman holding a bowl filled with rice and chicken

The Spruce Eats / Sara Tane / Amelia Manley

I am a proud, bone-in, skin-on chicken thigh enthusiast. I live life with the motto that thighs save lives, and I believe in this sentiment wholeheartedly. The meat is darker, richer, and tastier than any chicken breast I’ve ever eaten, so why would I bother with any cut besides a chicken thigh? 

When I caught wind of @royaleeats’ honey garlic lemon pepper chicken thighs (hello, nearly 17 million views on TikTok), I knew that a thigh devotee like myself needed to give them a go. The caramelization that I saw in this TikTok left me speechless. Plus, I have never heard a more soothing voiceover than the one on this video. Listening to the instructions felt like a warm hug. I have never felt so comforted and at peace while scrolling on the internet. I pulled up the recipe and gave it go–here’s how it all went down.

How to Make Royale Eats' Honey Garlic Lemon Pepper Chicken Thighs

To start, make the seasoning rub. Combine lemon pepper seasoning, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and smoked paprika in a small bowl. Mix in a couple tablespoons of oil. Spread this mixture on the chicken thighs, making sure to rub some of the mix underneath the skin. Let the chicken marinate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

four pieces of cooked chicken on a pan

The Spruce Eats / Sara Tane

Separately, make the honey garlic sauce. Melt a couple tablespoons of butter in a medium skillet, then add minced garlic, honey, soy sauce, water, lemon juice, and fresh lemon slices. Let the sauce gently simmer until it has slightly thickened. 

After the thighs have marinated, preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a sheet pan with foil and set an oven safe rack over the pan. Coat with nonstick spray and place the thighs on the rack. Bake for 30 minutes, then flip the thighs and cook for another 20-25 minutes. Brush the honey sauce on the thighs and bake until the thighs reach an internal temperature of 165 F. Top with caramelized lemon slices and serve immediately.

The full recipe with measurements is available in his digital e-cookbook.

Chicken on a pan being glazed

The Spruce Eats / Sara Tane

My Review of Royale Eats' Honey Garlic Lemon Pepper Chicken Thighs

WOW. These chicken thighs were so good. The ingredient list for these chicken thighs is pretty basic (there’s a good chance you already have all the spices and pantry items) but the final product was full of sweet, savory, citrusy flavor. I let my chicken marinate for 2 hours in the rub, but if I made them again, I’d probably make the spice rub the day before and let them sit overnight so that the work is broken out over 2 days and the chicken has a longer time to soak up the rub. Win win. That said, letting them marinate for 2 hours worked perfectly fine–they were undeniably well seasoned.

The chicken skin was crispy as though the thighs had been pan seared. Don’t skip the step where he calls for you to line your sheet pan with foil. There was a good amount of rendered fat that was easy to clean up since the foil was down to catch it all. The honey garlic sauce is a great reminder that simple, humble ingredients can still yield some damn tasty food. It was sweet, garlicky, bright, and had a subtle punch of umami. Don’t confuse the caramelized lemon slices as decoration–they can and should be enjoyed with the chicken. Prepare to lick your fingers.

There was nothing particularly groundbreaking about this method, which is all the more reason why I love it. Oven roasting items on a cooling rack is such an underrated technique. It is completely hands off, yet the elevated rack allows the hot air from the oven to circulate on all sides of the item so that the final product tastes like it’s been deep fried. Without the cooling rack, the chicken that is in contact with the pan will steam and you won’t have the crispy results. If you don’t have an oven-safe cooling rack, now’s the time to invest.

Chicken with caramelized lemon slices on a pan

The Spruce Eats / Sara Tane

If you don’t have a meat thermometer, it might be a little tricky to know when the thighs are done cooking. If you’re not sure, slice open the largest thigh and check the center. If there is any pink meat, let the chicken cook for a little longer, but if it’s all cooked through, then you’re good to go. My chicken thighs reached internal temperature after about 55 minutes of cooking time, but this can vary based on the strength of your oven and the size of your chicken thighs.

I served mine over a bed of white rice but they’d also be great with some potatoes (mashed or roasted, you do you) or some buttered noodles. Plan to eat this chicken straight out of the oven. I’m all about leftovers, but chicken skin does not save or reheat well. Eat it while it’s hot and crispy or don’t even bother. Now that’s some thigh advice to save your life.