An ultra simple recipe for crispy and moist chicken thighs. Just a quick pat dry, some spices and bake in a high oven will get you great crispy chicken thighs. Welcome to thigh heaven.
Editor Note: Originally Published January 24, 2014, Republished January 30, 2018. This recipe is part of a family of chicken recipes. I didn’t originally do a thigh version but I was asked many times, and after a huge number of site searches by site visitors, it was thigh time. There has been re-edited photos and added information since the original version.
My oven baked chicken drumstick recipe is usually one of the top recipes on this site. Great crispy drummies but I keep getting asked about thigh. Most of the failed searches on the site were about thighs. The people want thighs. They demand thighs. So thighs they will have by popular demand. I present my recipe for oven baking chicken thighs.
The chicken thigh’s dark meat is moist and flavorful. Why? Mostly the fat keeps it that way but how much fat is there. Since we are dealing with a natural product, there is some variability but think of a thigh having about two to three times the fat of chicken breasts. Here are the numbers from the National Chicken Council. Roasted, a skin-on thigh has 15.5 grams of fat while a skin-on split chicken breast is 7.8.
My “thigh friends” are all strong fives. I’m more of a lower five because I’m not usually a thigh person due to fat, but a lot of the fat drained during cooking on the rack.
Recipe Notes for Crispy Oven Baked Chicken Thighs:
We are aiming for crispy skin and eliminating a lot of fat.
- DO NOT SKIP THE PAT DRY or you will not have crispy skin. (See https://www.101cookingfortwo.com/chicken-rinse-not-rinse/ about rinsing the chicken)
- Trim off any trimmable fat.
- Get the thighs up on a rack to let the rendered fat drain. It also gets them out of the drained fat.
- Cook at high temp and use a thermometer to be sure you get to 185. Do not guess. Thighs are safe at 165 degrees but tender at 185.
- Spice as you want. I often add the Cayenne but if you have little ones, skip it.
- Scale to any amount you need.
- Skip the seasoning and brush with your favorite BBQ sauce the last 5 minutes to make great oven baked BBQ thighs.
COOK TO THE INTERNAL TEMPERATURE not by time along. Please check my post about washing chicken at Chicken… To Rinse or Not To Rinse?
How long to Cook Chicken Thighs?
Chicken thighs and drumsticks should generally be cooked at high temperature. I use 425 degrees by convection for about 30 minutes to a final internal temperature of 180-185 which is best for thighs.
If no convection, cook still at 425 but it will take about 30-35 minutes but remember to cook to the final internal temperature.
You can use a lower oven temperature of 375, but it will add about 10 minutes and tend to dry more. Again, cook to the correct final internal temperature.
Remember all these numbers vary by your individual oven along with the size and thickness of the thigh.
Comment on the final internal temperature.
Many recipes suggest cooking chicken thighs to 165 which is the minimum safe internal temperature for chicken for the FDA. There is a difference between safe and done. Pork is safe at 145, but you sure won’t want your pulled pork to be cooked to 145. It would be terrible.
Also, some recipes call for cooking “until fluids run clear” or “no pink at the bone.” How are you suppose to do that? Also, I suspect that may even be below the safe minimum temperature since the pinkness disappears about 155.
While I cook my chicken breast to 165, there is way too much fibrous tissue in chicken thighs. They will be tough and stringy. Just plan not done. Please use 180-185 as you finish temperature. Check the comments if you need confirmation.
Can I use Boneless or Skinless Thighs?
The boneless skin-on thighs will be great here. But the cooking time will be less since the bone is not absorbing heat and they tend to be thinner. I suspect about 5-10 minutes less but your thermometer is a must use for them.
Skinless boneless chicken thighs are not well suited for this cooking method. This way of cooking is aimed at getting crispy skin with moist meat. I think you would just dry the heck out of them. So probably find a different recipe is best.
Oven Smoke and What to do about it.
Smoking ovens have been an issue for some due to high temp cooking. I haven’t had the problem, BUT it is probably related to multiple factors.
- First, if there is trimmable fat, trim it.
- Use a pan with some side on it to keep any splatter contained.
- If your oven has convection roast and convection bake, use the bake mode.
- You could turn down the oven by 25-50 degrees. This will increase the cooking time some and may prone to drying out some. Remember to cook to an endpoint, not by time.
- Of course, the oven should be clean, so the smoke isn’t coming from a previous splatter.
- Some water in the pan under the rack will prevent the smoking issue. Fat drips and then hits the water and will be 212 degrees immediately and will not smoke. Thanks to Maeleen for the comment.
Preheat oven to 425 convection. Pat dry the chicken thighs.
Trim any loose skin with no meat off the thighs.
Prep a baking sheet. Line with aluminum foil, add a rack and give a heavy spray of PAM.
Place thighs skin down and sprinkle lightly with the spices of your choice. I went with 7:2:1 or 7:2:2. ( If you don’t have that then just a little salt and pepper to taste.) A pinch of cayenne would be good also. Flip and tuck in any thin parts underneath and sprinkle skin side.
With skin side up, bake until internal temp of 180 to 185. About 30 minutes. Rest for 5 minutes or more before serving.
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January 30, 2018