Grilled Chicken Thighs on a grill are juicy, moist, and tender with a little crispy char with this easy recipe. Use bone-in, boneless, or even skinless thighs to make a perfect weeknight dinner.
So what is the problem with grilling chicken thighs? Easy, it's the fat and flames that keep burning your chicken. Chicken thighs are just loaded with fat.
So here is how to solve the problem. Trim the fat, do "uneven grilling (see below)," and keep the thighs and especially the skin away from the flames of the flair-up from the melted fat.
👨🍳How to grill chicken thighs
- Preheat the grill to about 450° surface temperature.
- Trim off any trimmable fat and extra skin.
- Spice as you want. We use All Purpose Seasoning - 7:2:1 and 7:2:2, with salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.
- Grill over directed heat using uneven grilling with the skin-side up for the first period and grill for about 5-6 minutes. Flip to skin-side down for 4 minutes. Also, move between areas of the grill to avoid flair-ups from the fat. Keep repeating until done.
- COOK TO THE INTERNAL TEMPERATURE, not by time. The correct internal temperature for thigh meat is 185° to 195°—usually about 25 minutes of total grilling time.
⏰How Long to Grill Chicken Thighs
A good estimate for bone-in chicken thigh cooking time is 25 minutes, but the exact grill temperature, the thickness of the thighs, and their temperature at the start of grilling will make the exact time variable.
Boneless thighs will be about 5 minutes less and tend to be thinner, so watch your internal temperature starting at 15 minutes.
Always cook to a final internal temperature. Please, never by time alone.
🌡️The Best Final Internal Temperature for Chicken Thighs
The best final internal temperature for grilled chicken thighs is 185° to 195° when the connective tissue melts and the meat becomes moist and tender.
The connective tissue will start to melt at 175°. By 185°, you are getting moist and tender results. America Test Kitchen takes it a step further for both thighs and drumsticks and suggests 190° to 195° as the target internal temperature range. American Test Kitchen—For Perfectly Tender Chicken Thighs, Overcook Them.
Many want to cook chicken thighs to 165°, the minimum safe internal temperature for chicken for the FDA, but they will be tough and stringy from connective tissue.
Some recipes call for cooking "until juices run clear" or "no pink at the bone." How are you supposed to do that? Also, I suspect it may even be below the safe minimum temperature since the pinkness disappears at about 155°F.
There are lots of things to love about chicken thighs. The meat is delicious, moist, and flavorful because the fat keeps it that way. Plus, you can have them your way; bone-in, boneless, or skinless/boneless are all easily available and economical.
But the fat will have many people picking chicken breasts instead. According to the National Chicken Council, cooked skin-on thigh has 15.5 grams of fat, while a skin-on split chicken breast is 7.8 grams.
Yes. While this recipe is for bone-in skin-on chicken thighs, the meat is all the same and will cook with a few minor adjustments.
Boneless chicken thighs will cook a few minutes faster since bones will absorb more heat, and they always seem thinner. Thickness is a significant variable in cooking time, so pay attention to the internal temperature.
Boneless skinless chicken thighs can also be used. You can skip the uneven grilling I discuss—you have no chicken skin to protect. But you will still need a large surface area to move around and avoid flare-ups from the fat drainage. Plus, give them a nice brush of vegetable oil before grilling and they will cook faster since they are thinner and boneless.
We use All Purpose Seasoning - 7:2:1 and 7:2:2 with kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder. But just some Kosher salt and pepper would do.
You can also use various other herbs and spices or even a chicken marinade for different flavors.
♨️Grill setup and uneven grilling
The grill should be 450°-500° surface temperature. That is usually about medium-high heat on most gas grills.
You want a grill with a large surface area. To do this right, you need to be able to move your chicken away from any flame-ups from fat drainage. I like to use the entire grill surface and divide it in half to avoid confusion.
If you have questions about grill setup, see A Beginners Guide to Grill Temperature on a Gas Grill.
Charcoal Grill: Charcoal can be used, but you will need enough grill grate area and to get the surface temperature correct.
Uneven grilling—The secret to grilled thighs
Uneven grilling is my method to avoid flare-ups from draining fat and burnt skin.
There are two parts to this method:
1) The skin side of the thighs can burn quickly, so you should have less time facing the flames. So with skin-on thighs, start with skin up for the first period and grill for about 5-6 minutes. Flip to skin side down for 4 minutes. Continue to go back and forth using the same timing.
2) Alternate sides of the grill surface with each flip. You will get fat drainage flare-ups. Moving the chicken to the other side of the grill at the flips will allow hot spots from fat drainage to burn out.
For skinless thighs, you can skip the uneven grilling times—you have no chicken skin you are trying to protect. But you will still need a large surface area to move around and avoid flare-ups from the fat drainage.
There is a lot of fat on chicken thighs. The competition grillers will remove the skin and trim all the fat under the skin, but that is not needed for great thighs at home.
Trim off most of the visible fat on the underside and along the edge of the skin. Trim off any excess skin, but I like to leave the skin firmly attached to the thigh.
To make great BBQ thighs, skip the seasoning and brush lightly with your favorite BBQ sauce for the last 5 minutes. Give them a second brush of sauce when you remove the thighs from the grill.
I suggest my homemade bbq sauce Memphis Barbecue Sauce - A Wonderful Thing but use what you love.
🍽️Serving and storage
Serve with a fresh green garden salad and potatoes of some type, like Grilled Baby Potatoes or potato salad. Grill vegetables or Brown Sugar Cinnamon Glazed Grilled Pineapple are also great side dishes.
Store in an airtight container refrigerated for 3-4 days. They will freeze if sealed well; they should be fine for 3-4 months. Reheat by thawing first, then reheat in an oven.
📖Related chicken recipes
Oven Baked Chicken Legs — Quick and Easy
Crispy Oven Baked Chicken Thighs
Grilled Chicken Drumsticks — Quick and Easy
Chicken for a Hundred -The father of all of them.
This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
🖼️Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
Start with skin-on bone-in chicken thighs and seasoning of your choice. Boneless and skinless-boneless can be used and are discussed in the post.
Preheat the grill to 450° surface temperature. That is medium to medium-high heat on most grills. Use the entire grill surface. Clean and oil the grill grate well.
While the grill is preheating, trim the thighs of any trimable fat and extra skin and allow them to rest at room temperature until the grill is ready.
Before placing them on the grill, give all sides a sprinkle of salt and pepper to your taste. I use my Homemade Seasoning, which is salt, pepper, and garlic powder. But season to your liking. If using skinless thighs, give them a light brushing of vegetable oil.
Using only half the grill surface, place on the grill over direct heat with skin side UP. Grill for 5-6 minutes, then flip onto the other side of the grill and skin down. Grill for about 4 minutes with the skin down. Continue to go back and forth between the sides of the grill and skin up and down with the same timing. If using skinless thighs, you can grill both sides for 5 minutes until done but do alternate sides.
Grill to 185° to 195° internal temperature—about 25 minutes, but this will vary some with your exact grill surface temperature along with the temperature and thickness of the thighs.
Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Grilled Chicken Thighs on a Grill
- 4 chicken thighs
- Salt and Pepper or seasoning of choice
- Start with skin-on bone-in chicken thighs and the seasoning of your choice. Boneless and skinless-boneless can be used and are discussed in the post and the Pro Tips below.
- Preheat the grill to 450° surface temperature. That is medium to medium-high heat on most grills. Use the entire grill surface. Clean and oil the grill grate well.
- While the grill is preheating, trim the thighs of any trimable fat and extra skin and allow them to rest at room temperature until the grill is ready.
- Before placing them on the grill, give all sides a sprinkle of salt and pepper to your taste. I use my Homemade Seasoning, which is salt, pepper, and garlic powder. But season to your liking. If using skinless thighs, give them a light brushing of vegetable oil.
- Using only half the grill surface, place on the grill over direct heat with skin side UP. Grill for 5-6 minutes, then flip onto the other side of the grill and skin down. Grill for about 4 minutes with the skin down. Continue to go back and forth between the sides of the grill and skin up and down with the same timing. If using skinless thighs, you can grill both sides for 5 minutes until done but do alternate sides.
- Grill to 185° to 195° internal temperature—about 25 minutes, but this will vary some with your exact grill surface temperature, the temperature, and the thickness of the thighs.
- Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Your Own Private Notes
- Grill on a medium grill not super hot. About 450° surface temperature. Never believe the thermometer in the hood of the grill
- You can cook this will the hood open, but better closed.
- Trim any extra skin and any visible fat to prevent flair-ups.
- Use the uneven grilling technique discussed, and use the whole grill surface and alternate sides with your flips to prevent flare-ups.
- I used my homemade seasoning. Just some Kosher salt and pepper would do or season to your taste.
- Boneless thighs will cook faster since the bone absorbs heat.
- If using skinless thighs, give them a light brush of vegetable oil before going on the grill and there is no need for uneven grilling but you will still need to move the chicken around due to flare-ups from the fat.
- Do not try this with partly frozen chicken; you will never get to the correct internal temperature.
- A little rest at room temp before cooking helps (30 minutes max).
- Use 185° as my final internal temperature. This is where the thighs are done. They are safe at 165° but are still tough.
- As always, cook to the final internal temperature. Do not cook on time alone.
- Good refrigerated for 3-4 days and good frozen for 3-4 months.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Editor's Note: Originally Published August 1, 2015. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.
Delicious, easy to follow recipe. The whole family loved it. Thanks for the pictures too.
Fantastic! Easy to follow (thanks for the photos!) and delicious results! Now I am successful at grilling chicken...Yay!!