Silken, succulent, and juicy, the humble chicken thigh is at its best when cooked over an open flame. With this recipe, you’ll wind up with meat that’s fall-off-the-bone tender and encased in crisp, savoury skin.
The Secret to Juicy Chicken
Unlike chicken breasts, which can become unpleasantly dry and chalky on the grill, bone-in thighs retain their moisture throughout the cooking process. Just one bite of this deceptively simple recipe is sure to make you a believer.
The secret to excellent grilled bone-in chicken thighs is to season them well in advance and then chill them until the skin has dried out. If the skin is too moist when it hits the grill, it will create a steam effect so it won’t crisp up properly. This process takes 8 to 12 hours, so be sure to plan ahead.
Here, we’ve seasoned the chicken with a foolproof herb mixture made from simple pantry ingredients. We recommend making a double batch–you’ll probably want to make this recipe again soon.
Remember that you’ll need a baking sheet that’s large enough to hold the chicken, but small enough to fit inside the fridge with the door closed. If you don’t have one, put the chicken on two separate baking sheets.
- 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (about 8 total)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried savoury
- Use a mortar and pestle or molcajete to grind the fennel seeds into a coarse powder.
- In a small bowl, mix together the salt, fennel seeds, and herbs. Set aside.
- Pat the chicken thighs thoroughly dry with paper towels.
- Rub the herb mixture all over the chicken, both over and under the skin. Make sure to massage the mixture into all the creases–the more thorough the coverage, the juicier and more flavourful the chicken will be.
- Place the seasoned chicken thighs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let them chill in the refrigerator, uncovered, until the skin is dry, 8 to 12 hours.
- When the chicken is ready to cook, preheat one side of a gas grill to medium, leaving the other side unlit. If you’re using a pellet grill, set the temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. For charcoal grills, prepare an indirect heat zone by pushing the hot coals to one side.
- Lightly oil the cooking grates using tongs and paper towels. We prefer using a neutral oil with a high smoke point–canola oil works well.
- Place chicken thighs on the cooking grates with the skin side facing down. For gas grills, make sure the chicken is positioned directly over the flames. If you’re cooking with charcoal, start on the hot side. With a pellet grill, it doesn’t matter so much where you put them since the temperature should be the same throughout the entire chamber.
- Cover the grill and cook the chicken until the skin is crispy and well-marked, about 6 minutes.
- Turn the thighs over, transferring them to the cooler side of the grill if using charcoal or gas. Cover the grill again and continue to cook for 15 minutes.
- Turn the thighs again and let cook for another 10 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove chicken from the grill and let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Some Ideas for Leftovers
This recipe should turn out enough chicken to serve 4 people. If there are any leftovers, try reviving them in one of the following incarnations:
-Shred the chicken while it’s still warm and use it as a taco filling.
-Mix shredded chicken with homemade mayonnaise, chopped celery, and tarragon for a flavorful chicken salad.
-Use leftover diced chicken as the base for a savoury pot pie.
-Add diced chicken, a handful of egg noodles, and minced parsley to a simmering broth to make chicken noodle soup.
It’s Well Worth the Effort to Prepare!
While grilled chicken breasts take a while to prepare, they’re well worth the extra time. Fortunately, most of it is hands-off, leaving you plenty of time to plan the other aspects of the meal–and to work up an appetite.