What Are Chicken Thighs?
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). 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 feeling 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.
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.