Our Secrets for the Best Grilled Chicken Thighs
Chicken breasts get all the press. But chicken thighs are one of the best-kept secrets in poultry: moist, well-marbled, rich-tasting meat that costs a fraction of the more popular chicken breast.
It’s not unusual to find them for ninety-nine cents a pound, a bargain compared to most meats.
And you can do so much with smoked or grilled chicken thighs, from Caribbean-inspired jerk chicken to Japanese yakitori. You can even stuff them with your choice of ingredients—cheese, herbs, ham, etc.
Chicken Thigh Secrets
Brining for several hours will make chicken thighs even more succulent. For wet brining, combine 2 tablespoons of coarse salt (kosher or sea) with 1 cup of warm water, then add a tray of ice cubes. Submerge the thighs and refrigerate. To dry brine, sprinkle the salt on both sides of the thighs and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. (You’ll need about 1 teaspoon of salt per pound of chicken.) Rinse and dry the thighs before grilling.
But for the best chicken thighs, cook them to a higher temperature—175 to 185 degrees will ensure the meat is tender. (This is especially important if you intend to shred the chicken for pulled chicken sandwiches or other preparations.)
Because chicken thighs are fattier than breasts, they tend to cause flare-ups. Grilling the chicken using the indirect method will help you avoid this problem. Arrange the coals on opposite sides of the fire box and arrange the thighs in the center of the grill grate away from direct heat. Replace the lid. Total grilling time will be about 45 minutes. For the crispest skin, try to maintain a temperature of 375 to 400 degrees.
If smoking the thighs, heat your smoker to 250 degrees and smoke the chicken for about 2 hours. Know, however, that the skin will be somewhat rubbery as the low and slow smoking temperature is not high enough to render the fat in the skin. Either finish the chicken at a higher temperature (you can even use an oven) or remove the unpalatable skin before serving.
Though many markets sell boneless skinless thighs, we prefer to cook them skin-on to protect the meat from drying out.
Here are two of Steven’s favorite chicken thigh recipes: