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.
This site is the Holy Grail for how to cook chicken thighs. I trim off excess fat, season liberally with 7:2:1 rub (with an extra 1/2 part smoked paprika), and grill to 185-190. Comes out so delicious. Made them again yesterday and people were telling me how fantastic the chicken was. Thanks!
Best grilled chicken recipe ever! I followed exactly and chicken thighs were perfect.
Use your grilling technique for chicken thighs and drumsticks tonight, it was cooked PERFECT! Thank you for sharing.
I made this recipe tonight for dinner and it was amazing! I used Weber's chicken & rib rub, pepper, & garlic powder on both sides.
I have feeling my wife is going to have me make this at least once if not twice a week.
Thank you for the recipe!
I forgot to add, it was so juicy that when I cut it open is squirted juice out (literally about 3" across my plate). I kept my gas grill between 450 & 475. 5:30 skin side up then 4 skin side down and kept rotating it till I got to 25 minutes (I don't have a thermometer). It turned out perfect!
I burnt my thighs within 8 minutes on the outside! If you have a new grille or yours runs high then definitely DO NOT cook at 450!
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Was it the hood thermometer?
Me too. Went back to flip the second time and the whole grill was a bonfire inside. I did trim the fat and extra skin before. Charcoal on the outside, done right inside in 25 minutes. I must have done something wrong...
185 dries it out. This is the only time I've ever made dry thighs.
I don't know how that would be possible, unless your thermometer is off. I always grill thighs to 190 or so and they are moist and tender. Just did them yesterday and people were telling me the chicken was fantastic. Are you sure you aren't using chicken breasts?
I have been grilling and smoking meats for some time, but never mastered cooking chicken on the grill (especially thighs) This is the BEST way to grill chicken thighs! I will use this recipe forever. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks for the recipe, I always wondered why my grilled thighs were tough. I have been grilling chicken wrong for years! LoL!
At 185+ they are perfect!! I look forward to further recipes and thoughts from your site!
Fabulous recipe! I've never had chicken thighs turn out this good before. The meat is moist and tender and the skin is crispy without being burnt - just a light char.
Awesome! Forgot to do the stars and wanted to!
Great recipe... 2nd time making it and it's delish!
I would just like to point out that chicken is fine at 165F, NOT 185. BUT overall, great recipe. Delicious.
I LOVE THIS RECIPE! I'm a pretty good cook and don't need a ton of help, but every now and then I google "easy" whatever. This was so good and so easy. It takes virtually zero effort. S & P and move from each side of the grill till it's done and absolutely delicious!!
5 stars! I also cooked it for longer than what it says. It's a no brainer just use that thermometer to check it!
Who trims the fat off chicken thighs? The crispy skin is one of the great results of leaving it on!
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Please see https://blog.thermoworks.com/chicken/bbq-chicken-thighs-temperature-surprises-plus-competition-trimming/
I ❤️Reading your recipes! Most all of them I’ve used, turned
out awesome! This is the best grilling method to use, both flipping
the meat and alternating sides.
These bone in chicken thighs are the absolute best!
Thanks for making it so easy to follow and understand!
Not the top skin silly!!! Only trim the excess bottom skin. Very little flare ups and less babysitting. It's a no brainer.
I have just grilled my first chicken, and I’m so glad I found your blog/website!! My family tells me how good it is every time they eat!! Made plenty for the weekend, as to have leftovers!! THANK YOU!!!!
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Welcome to the website.
Glad you are enjoying the site and the chicken thighs.
Thanks for the note and rating.
Trying this method today.
Question, do I grill using your method with the lid open or closed? I'm using a gas grill, if that makes any difference.
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Welcome to the blog.
A general rule for all grilling: Less than 1/2 inch thick can (but does not have to be) grilled open. Think fish and things on a griddle. Between 1/2 to 1 inch can be either but is generally better closed to control the temperature better. Over one inch is always closed.
Hope that helps and enjoy your thighs.
My family really enjoys chicken thighs, so thank you for this recipe. My wife and I are on a Keto diet, and our two kids are not, so it is great to be able to season our thighs and then, at nearly the end of the 25 minutes, put barbecue sauce on the kids' chicken thighs. Also, the skin turns crisps up better than any other technique I have tried. Thanks again for sharing.
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Welcome to the blog.
Glad it is working so well for you. This is just one of those "logical" recipes. Just what was the problem with other recipes and how to fix them.
There is a low carb category https://www.101cookingfortwo.com/category/low-carb-low-glycemic/ The cauliflower casserole is good enough that even your kids will ask for it and try the crackers. There are obviously a lot more low carb recipes around the site that aren't listed in the category.
Thanks for the note and rating.
Have used your recipe twice now. I don't think I will ever grill chicken thighs any other way again. Perfect! Skin is beautifully crisp and the meat is juicy. No more "praying it works"!!!
I have actually served the chicken with a side sauce made of Thai chili sauce, orange marmalade, red pepper flakes, lime, and snipped green onion. Sweet and sour works beautifully with this recipe.
Thank you so much! I am sorry you had the need to call people out for rude comments.
This makes PERFECT thighs, every single time. We prefer bbq chicken, so I only season with salt and pepper and sauce it up the last 2-3 minutes, coating and flipping frequently to caramelize the sauce. Thank you for the recipe, we love it!
I am a lazy cook. I put foil under the top, (bun) rack. Then I put either half chick, skin side up. They cook without turning, and since the foil below catches any fat,they don’burn. My gas grill holds two halves, perfect for two. Takes about an hour, and the skin is beautiful.
I'm so glad for your tip about 185 degrees. I told my wife about it as she used to cook all chicken to 165, and the legs turned out slimy in my opinion. Your suggestion prevented a future "discussion" between my wife and me. On my gas grill, I do chicken legs a bit differently than you, and I think it would work for thighs, adjusting the cooking time of course. I brush them with olive oil (but I am going to start patting them dry) and put a dry rub on them. I preheat my grill to high, oil it and then turn the heat down to the lowest temp. I put the legs on the grill and then turn them every 5-10 minutes (depending on flare-ups) for 45 minutes to an hour. This helps them cook evenly and slowly. When they are almost done I baste them with BBQ sauce. Don’t do it earlier or you risk the sugars in sauce burning. Wait till they’re almost done to smear on the sauce. I'm going to try your method this spring.
Welcome to the blog.
I'm sure you will like 185 much better for thighs and drumsticks. Hope it meets your expectations.
Thanks for the note.