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Is it even possible for a baked chicken thigh to turn out crispy? I’ve seen a lot of recipes for crispy baked chicken thighs claiming crispy skin but then their photos reveal otherwise.
I want fried chicken-like crispness. I’m talking pork rind crispness.
A chicken thigh, unlike a chicken breast, is incredibly resilient and has a lot of connective tissue and collagen that needs time and a higher internal temperature to convert that collagen into mouth-watering gelatin.
Chicken thighs are at their best at an internal temperature between 180 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a good thing. It gives you time to crisp up that skin if you know how to do it properly.
After spending hours upon hours testing various cooking temperatures, pans, sheets, dishes, and techniques I finally developed a recipe for crispy chicken thighs with skin that doesn’t shrink with moist and flavorful meat.
Baked Chicken Thighs
Here’s the recipe for crispy baked chicken thighs. Follow the details as closely as possible and I think you’ll like the results.
Crispy Baked Chicken Thighs
- Baking Sheet with Wire Rack
- Aluminum Foil
- Kitchen Tongs
- Oven-safe Dual-Probe Meat Thermometer (recommended but not needed if you're confident in your oven)
- 4 - 6 to 10 oz Bone-in chicken thighs with skin You can adjust the recipe amounts above in the "Yield" section.
- 1 tbspn Kosher Salt
- 1/2 tbspn black pepper
- 1 tbspn Olive or Vegetable Oil
Alternate Spice Rub
- 1 tbspn Kosher Salt
- 1/2 tbspn Black Pepper
- 1/4 tbspn Garlic Powder
- 1/4 tbspn Paprika or Smoked Paprika
- 1/4 tbspn Onion Powder
- 1 tbspn Olive or Vegetable Oil
Alternate Spice Rub #2
- 1 tbspn Italian Seasoning To make your own italian seasoning, combine 1/4 teaspoon each of rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, marjoram and sage.
- 1 tbspn Kosher salt
- 1/4 tbspn Black pepper
- 1 /4 tbspn garlic powder
Your Own Seasoning Blend
- 2 tbspn Chicken Seasoning It's your seasoned chicken thigh, you can use any seasoning blend you prefer, just put more underneath the skin than on top.
- Take paper towels and pat chicken thighs dry. If possible, salt the skin-side of the chicken thighs an hour before cooking. Salt on top of the skin and pull the skin back and salt the skin underneath on the other side. Set thighs fat side down on a wire rack above a pan in the fridge.
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and set a rack to the middle position when you're getting close to cooking. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, spray a wire rack with oil and place it on the baking sheet.
- When ready to cook, season the meat side of the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, or whatever spice blend you wish. Spray or rub olive oil or vegetable oil on both sides of the chicken thighs.
- Place your thighs, skin-side down on the wire rack of the baking sheet. If you're tracking the temperature (highly recommended) of the oven and your chicken, set up your probes now.
- Place thighs in the oven and monitor the oven temperature. You want the temperature at the wire rack level to be between 375 and 415 degrees Fahrenheit. Give your oven a bit to come back up temperature-wise after putting in the thighs. If it's still low after a few minutes, bump up the temperature so it's in the zone. Or lower the temperature if it's over 425.
- Bake chicken thighs for 25 minutes skin-side down. If the temperature probe in your chicken is reading high before 25 minutes and you've been cooking between 375 and 415 degrees Fahrenheit, just wait till the 25 minute mark and reposition it in the thigh.
- Flip your thighs skin side up at the 25 minute mark and continue to bake until desired crispiness. I find that another 15 minutes (40 minutes total) results in ultra-crispy skin and juicy meat. The internal temperature of the thighs will be well over 180 degrees Fahrenheit, don't be alarmed, they can take it and still be juicy.
How To Bake Chicken Thighs With Crispy Skin
The best way to bake chicken thighs that results in crispy skin that doesn’t shrink is to start them on an elevated rack on a sheet pan with the skin side down with a surface cooking temperature of between 375 and 415 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nestling them in a baking dish doesn’t allow the flow of the oven’s heat to get to them.
What about a cast iron skillet? A cast iron skillet can create a superior skin to this recipe if you start your chicken thighs on the stovetop first and give them some space.
Here’s a recipe for Crunchy Cast Iron Chicken Thighs.
The skin side down on a wire rack technique works best on the middle rack of your oven. Adjusting for the extra height that the elevated rack provides, that will put your thighs approximately 8 inches from the heating element at the top of your oven.
Contrary to popular opinion, chicken skin hates high heat right at the beginning of a cook. It needs time to render out fat and water.
If you place a chicken thigh fat side down directly on a hot surface the fat will want to snap back like a rubber band and shrink up.
However, if you place the same chicken thigh in a cold pan, even without oil, and turn the heat to medium-medium high, you give the fat time to come up to temperature naturally, expelling fat and moisture along the way.
After 10 minutes the skin side of the chicken thigh will be golden brown and crisp with little shrinkage.
Transitioning this technique to the oven has its challenges. You could put your chicken thighs in a cold oven and then heat it to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
I’ve done this and the results actually aren’t that bad, but it does add a lot of unnecessary cooking time.
Placing the thigh’s skin side down on an elevated rack on a baking sheet affords the chicken thigh the time to render its fat than if it were skin-side up.
The fat side of the thigh is protected from the heating element above, giving it some time to render out fat and moisture.
Not to mention that the weight of the thigh itself will help hold the fat side down just enough to keep it from pulling back too much.
A quick note on oil. I like to rub a little bit of either olive oil, canola oil or vegetable oil on the skin before placing the thighs on the rack. This will help with browning. I don’t like to use melted butter as it has a tendency to burn.
Cooking Temperature For Crispy Baked Chicken Thighs
For chicken skin to get even remotely crispy, you need at least an ambient cooking temperature of 300 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
But even at that temperature, it will take quite a while for the skin to get crispy.
When you’re cooking a pan full of chicken parts such as thighs you can achieve crispy skin and juicy meat in 40 minutes by exposing their surfaces to an ambient temperature of between 375 °F and 415°F.
Cooking thighs below 375 °F require additional cooking time to get the skin golden brown and delicious but at the risk of overcooking your thighs (an internal temperature of 200 °F and above).
Conversely, cooking them for an extended period above a surface temperature of 420 °F results in burned skin.
You’ll notice that I specified a surface cooking temperature of between 375 and 415 degrees Fahrenheit for chicken thighs and not oven temperature, which are two separate things.
Depending on the quality of your oven, the difference between the temperature your oven is displaying and what your food is actually experiencing could vary from a few degrees up to 70 or more degrees.
I would rate my oven as average to below average. It can get to a temperature of 425 degrees in about 15 minutes but once I open the door and put food in, that temperature drops dramatically.
Sometimes it takes a good while for it to come back up to that temperature. Even then, the surface temperature of a baking sheet on the middle rack is often 20 to 30 degrees lower than the oven display.
If you use a dual-probe, oven-safe meat thermometer you should be able to monitor your food’s cooking temperature to keep it in that prime zone for crisping. They’re relatively inexpensive and help you tremendously while you cook.
Can You Use Boneless Chicken Thighs For This Chicken Recipe?
This chicken recipe is designed to maximize the crispiness of the skin of a bone-in chicken thigh. The temperature and techniques will be different if you’re cooking boneless chicken thighs.
You could remove the bone and leave the skin but you’ll have to shorten your cooking time if you’re cooking a boneless chicken thigh.
Boneless thighs cook faster because there is no bone to act as an insulator to the meat directly by the bone.
This chicken thigh recipe will also definitely not work if you’re using skinless chicken thighs. The ideal preparation for boneless skinless chicken thighs is on the stovetop in a skillet or on the grill.
Can You Make a Gravy With This Recipe?
You can make gravy with this recipe, you just need to be a little creative. After you’re done cooking the chicken thighs in the oven you will have a good amount of fat in sheet pan below the wire rack.
Pour off most of the fat and if possible try to scrape up the schmutz left on the pan. If you used aluminum foil this could be a little tricky but not impossible.
To help get the chicken goodness away from the pan you can put it back in the oven to heat up a bit after you’ve removed most of the fat.
Then you can deglaze the pan with water or chicken broth, this will help loosen the delicious bits from the pan. You can then scrape the chicken bits and broth into a skillet with some onions.
Add a little bit of flour and brown the onions for a minute or two, then add a cup of chicken broth and let it all reduce and thicken. You should be left with a nice flavorful gravy.