Culinary Arts

Easy Baked Chicken Thighs Recipe: How to Cook Crispy Baked Chicken Thighs

Written by MasterClass

Jun 1, 2019 • 5 min read

There are a number of benefits to cooking with the affordable, versatile chicken thigh. In addition to being easy on the grocery bill, chicken thighs are also a flavorful, dark meat portion of the bird that provides plenty of natural moisture and flavor, making it a choice cut of meat for many chefs.

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What Is a Chicken Thigh?

The chicken thigh is a cut of poultry taken from the top portion of the chicken leg, above the knee joint that separates the thigh from the drumstick. This is an entirely dark-meat portion of the chicken, and is one of the most affordable cuts of the bird in comparison to more costly white-meat pieces like chicken breasts.

Although chicken thighs are less commonly used in chicken recipes than white meat pieces, this economical cut of poultry can be readily swapped in to create delicious, easy recipes for any level of home cook.

Chicken Thigh Nutrition Information

The nutrition facts of chicken thighs fluctuate slightly between skin-on and skinless thighs: bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs have slightly more calories and fat, including saturated fat, (clocking in at 229 calories versus 209 and 15.5 grams of fat versus 10.9 for a single serving), but overall the protein, cholesterol and sodium counts are the same. Both varieties are healthy, gluten-free options that contain iron, calcium, and vitamin A.

What's the Difference Between Cooking Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Thighs and Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs?

Cooking times and results can also differ depending on whether a chicken thigh still has it's skin and bones intact. Boneless chicken thighs require less cooking time, making them a faster option for weeknight dinner recipes. Bone-in chicken thighs will retain moisture and flavor better, making for a generally more flavorful and succulent final product, but they will require extra cooking time.

3 Tips for Cooking Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Thighs

  1. Brine the chicken thigh overnight or longer in the refrigerator to lock in the moisture and create a juicier final product.
  2. Cover the chicken with aluminum foil for the first half of the cooking process, and remove for the second half to allow the skin to brown and crisp.
  3. If looking to save on calories and cholesterol, cook the chicken with the skin on and then remove after cooking, which will enhance the overall flavor even after the skin is removed.

3 Tips for Cooking Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs:

  1. Brine the chicken thigh 1 to 2 days if possible, to allow extra time for the meat to absorb and retain moisture.
  2. Baste the chicken with pan liquids once or twice during the cooking process to add some moisture back into the thigh.
  3. Season the thigh well before cooking to help create a greater depth of flavor.

4 Tips for the Best Baked Chicken Thighs

  1. The more brining and seasoning, the better. Both skinless and skin-on chicken thighs will benefit from a prolonged brining process and plenty of seasoning, which will add extra moisture and flavor to the final product.
  2. Pat the thighs dry. Before any seasoning or baking happens, be sure to thoroughly dry the outside of the thighs using a paper towel. This will absorb the brine and natural moisture on the outside of the skin, which can prevent the thigh from searing properly.
  3. Baste away, but don’t overdo it. While basting the chicken with the natural juices produced during the baking process will enhance the flavor and moisture of the chicken, home cooks should be careful to not open the oven door too frequently throughout the baking process, which can create shifts in temperature and uneven cooking.
  4. Let the chicken rest. While the scent of roasted chicken might make it tempting to dig in immediately, giving the the meat 10 minutes to rest before serving will allow the juices to settle into the chicken, adding moisture to the dish.

What to Serve With Baked Chicken Thighs

Roasted vegetables make the perfect companion to a main course of oven-baked chicken thighs, as they can be prepared with similar, complementary ingredients and cooked alongside the chicken thighs in the oven. This pairing makes for the perfect quick and healthy weeknight dinner with minimal cleanup. Some great options for vegetable sides include roasted potatoes, carrots, asparagus, green beans, and broccoli, depending on what’s in season.

Additionally, this dark cut of meat works well with creamy puréed sides, like mashed potatoes and puréed cauliflower, which will help to add moisture to the dish. A simple butter or cream-based sauce can also help to ensure the chicken thighs won’t be dry upon serving.

Easy Baked Chicken Thigh Recipe

Ingredient Checklist

Total Time 40 min | Cook Time 30 min | Prep Time 10 min | Serves 3

  • 1–2 pounds chicken thighs (3 to 4 thighs)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, or dried oregano
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pat dry the chicken thighs with paper towels, place skin side up on a rimmed baking sheet or shallow baking dish, and drizzle with olive oil. Rub the olive oil into the chicken on all sides.
  2. Mix together the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and dried herbs in a small bowl and sprinkle the mixture over the thighs, rubbing the seasoning into the meat.
  3. Bake chicken thighs for 30 to 35 minutes until the juices run clear and the internal temperature of the chicken has reached 165ºF. Remove from the oven, tent with foil, and rest for 10 minutes before serving.

10 Additional Chicken Thigh Recipe Ideas

  1. Chicken Cacciatore: A robust Italian dish made with chicken thighs dusted in flour and cooked in a hearty sauce of tomato, onion, wine, herbs, and garlic in a skillet.
  2. Fried Chicken Thighs: A classic Southern-inspired preparation, soaked in buttermilk, coated in seasoned flour, and deep fried.
  3. Teriyaki Chicken Thighs: Chicken thighs marinated in an Asian-inspired glaze of soy sauce, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, vinegar, and sugar. Baked until crispy, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and served with steamed rice.
  4. Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Thighs: A flavorful, protein-packed dish of seasoned chicken thighs wrapped in bacon and baked until fully cooked through.
  5. Jerk Chicken Thighs: Chicken thighs rubbed in a classic Caribbean jerk seasoning mixture and grilled over a flame.
  6. Wine-Braised Chicken Thighs: Braised chicken thighs cooked slowly in a Dutch oven in a mixture of white wine, olive oil, chicken broth, lemon juice, smashed garlic cloves, bay leaves, and fresh rosemary.
  7. Chicken Tagine: A traditional Moroccan dish consisting of chicken thighs rubbed in a flavorful seasoning mixture and cooked in a tagine pot with olive oil, diced onion, diced garlic, crushed tomato, and olives.
  8. Honey Mustard Chicken Thighs: Chicken thighs brushed with a mixture of dijon mustard, honey, and seasonings and baked in the oven.
  9. Barbeque Grilled Chicken Thighs: Chicken thighs grilled over flame and brushed with a barbecue sauce consisting of ketchup, brown sugar, white vinegar, olive oil, chili powder, and salt.
  10. Chicken Tikka Masala: Boneless, skinless thighs cut into bite-sized pieces and cooked in a creamy traditional Indian sauce mixture.

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