How to cook chicken thighs

How to cook chicken thighs

How to cook chicken thighs

by Great British Chefs16 November 2021
Not yet rated

Get all your cooking tips and recipe inspiration with our ultimate guide on how to cook chicken thighs to perfection.

How to cook chicken thighs

Not yet rated

Get all your cooking tips and recipe inspiration with our ultimate guide on how to cook chicken thighs to perfection.

Chicken thighs are often overlooked in favour of the slightly leaner and uniformly white breast meat, but if you’re after a deeper flavour and a juicier texture then the slightly darker meat on thighs is what you need. It’s also quite a bit cheaper than chicken breast, so it’s a win-win for the home cook!

Bone-in chicken thighs are less prone to drying out and suited to long, slow dishes such as curries and stews. Whilst chicken of course should never be served rare or pink, the meat on the thighs is darker than the white breast so don’t be alarmed if it's brown or very deep red where it has become stained from the bone. You can buy boneless chicken thigh fillets too, but they will still have darker patches on the meat next to where the bone would have been.

What to look for when buying chicken thighs

Thighs can be bought as part of the leg (which can easily be separated into thigh and drumstick at the joint with a sharp knife), as thigh only, or as thigh fillets which are boneless and skinless. You can however quite easily debone the thighs yourself by placing them skin-side down on a board and running a knife down each side of the bone, then carefully cut the bone away from the meat. Remember to keep the bones for stock!

Do always buy organic and/or free-range chicken if you’re able to – aside from the ethical reasons, a happier chicken produces much tastier meat.

How to cook chicken thighs

Chicken is a very versatile meat that can be roasted, fried and even steamed for delicious results. Chicken thighs, however, benefit the most from being roasted or fried, as it allows the fat to render and results in a succulent texture. For a basic roast chicken thigh recipe, follow the method below, then take a look at all the different recipe ideas we have for chicken thighs in more complete dishes. 






Place the chicken thighs in a tray with the garlic and rosemary


Grate over the lemon zest, drizzle with oil then mix all the ingredients together, ensuring the thighs are skin-side up, then season well with salt and pepper. This can be left to marinate for an hour, overnight or ready to cook straight away


Preheat an oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6


Roast in the oven for 35–40 minutes, or until the skin is nice and crispy 


Serve up warm with your choice of sides. You can also leave the thighs to cool down and store them in the fridge for up to 3 days, ready to use in salads, sandwiches or as a picnic snack

Recipe inspiration

Chicken thigh tray bakes

A chicken thigh tray bake is one of the easiest dishes to knock together – perfect for that midweek meal when you want something delicious and filling without too much time and effort. When it comes to flavour pairings the possibilities are endless; take a look at our recipes here or get creative with whatever vegetables you have in your fridge. After all, any ingredient is enhanced when roasted with those lovely chicken juices!

Fried chicken

Thigh meat is often used when deep-frying chicken. This is not only because of the better flavour and juicier meat, but the uneven surface area of the boned-out thigh helps you get that ‘craggy’ texture when dredging in the flour – creating the crunchiest, crispiest coating.

Barbecued chicken thighs

How to barbecue chicken

The sound and smell of chicken sizzling away over hot coals is difficult to resist, non matter the cut. Take a look at our guide to ensure you never have a raw on the inside, burnt on the outside chicken drumstick ever again.

Chicken thighs are ideal for a barbecue as they’re less inclined to dry out (unlike breast meat) and the skin chars and crisps up wonderfully – especially when marinated and glazed. For those less confident on a barbecue, you can cook the chicken through in the oven and then finish off on the barbecue to get the smoky flavour and crispy charred skin. Selina Periampillai even brines chicken thighs before marinating in a fiery barbecue sauce. This is a simple trick to help the meat remain juicy whilst withstanding the high temperatures and smoke of the barbecue. Meanwhile, Lerato Umah-Shaylor poaches the chicken thighs in a fragrant spiced coconut broth before finishing on the grill in her West African chicken suya recipe.

Superb skewers

Selecting meat for a skewer must be thought about carefully – small cubes of chicken don’t take long to cook, but need enough time over coals to let the marinades caramelise and take on the smokiness. This is where the chicken thigh comes in, with its slightly fattier, darker meat which is used in skewers around the world, from Japanese yakitori to Malaysian satays.

How to make crispy chicken skin

Let's be honest, it's the best part of the bird – especially when gently cooked and crisped up to perfection. Learn how to make chicken skin 'crisps', perfect for adding crunchy garnish to dishes or simply snacking on.

Thighs, spice and all things nice

Whilst you will come across chicken breast in curries (especially those ordered from high street curry houses), most of the best-tasting recipes from all over the world that include bold spicing call for leg meat – be it thighs, drumsticks or both. As well as the added bonus of being cheaper, cooking on the bone keeps the meat juicy during the long cooking time, allowing it to take on more flavour from the simmering spices around it. Even boneless thighs are better for a slow-cook than breast meat.

French classics

The French certainly know how to get the most out of a chicken and the thighs end up in some of the country’s most comforting, rustic dishes. Whether it be coq au vin (which uses the whole bird chopped up but can easily be replaced with just thighs), poulet à la moutarde, which as the name might suggest, has a whack of warming Dijon mustard running through it, or the indulgent and creamy poulet au Comté, there’s sure to be a French classic to grab your attention.

Get in touch

Please sign in or register to send a comment to Great British Chefs.