Baked chicken thighs are a wonderful meal for those who want something affordable and easy to prepare but still taste delicious. They are one of the most popular chicken recipes and can be enjoyed any night of the week. Chicken thighs can be baked in a variety of ways, but to get the best results, be sure to let them bake for the right amount of time.
Although you can use a variety of seasonings, sauces, and marinades to flavor your chicken thighs, the cooking time will largely remain the same. To ensure that your chicken thighs are cooked through, bake them in a preheated oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30-35 minutes. Their internal temperature should reach 165° degrees Fahrenheit and you shouldn’t see any blood or pinkness in the center of the thigh.
Chicken thighs are an incredibly versatile cut of meat that you can use to make Mexican, Italian, French, Indian, or just about any other type of cuisine. If you’ve never baked them before, continue reading to learn how to perfectly cook the thighs without making them dry, how to adjust for different sizes, and whether or not you should leave the skin on.
Why Bake Chicken Thighs at 400° Fahrenheit?
Baking chicken thighs at 400 degrees Fahrenheit will ensure that they are cooked through while also keeping them juicy and moist. This is the ideal temperature for baking chicken thighs, as cooking them at a higher temperature will make them dry out.
If you want to get a crispy skin on your chicken thighs, you can cook them at a higher temperature for the first few minutes before lowering the temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, or you can sear them in a pan before placing them in the oven. However, this isn’t necessary and you can achieve perfectly baked chicken thighs without ever adjusting the temperature.
What if the Chicken Thighs are a Different Size?
If your chicken thighs are smaller or larger than the ones used in this recipe, you will need to adjust the cooking time. For smaller chicken thighs, bake them for about 30-35 minutes. For larger chicken thighs, bake them for 35-40 minutes.
As long as the internal temperature of the chicken thighs reaches 165° degrees Fahrenheit, they will be safe to eat. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken thighs and remove them from the oven as soon as they reach 165° degrees Fahrenheit.
Should You Leave the Skin On?
The skin on chicken thighs helps to keep them moist and juicy while they bake. However, if you are watching your fat intake, you can remove the skin before cooking. Chicken thighs with the skin removed will still taste delicious, but they may be a little drier than thighs with the skin on.
If you do choose to leave the skin on, be sure to pat it dry before seasoning. This will help the seasonings stick to the chicken and also prevent the skin from becoming soggy. You can also apply a light coat of olive oil to the thighs to help the skin roast, creating a lovely, crisp, and flaky exterior.
How Will Deboning the Thighs Affect the Baking Time?
If you choose to debone the chicken thighs before baking them, you’ll have to reduce the cooking time. This is because deboning the chicken thighs will make them thinner and, therefore, they will cook faster. However, deboning the chicken thighs will also make them more prone to drying out.
Therefore, it is important to keep an eye on them while they are baking and to remove them from the oven as soon as they reach 165° degrees Fahrenheit. Alternatively, you can remove them once they reach 160° and let them sit while their internal temperature rises to 165°. This way, they’ll be safe to eat yet tender and moist.
Don’t Cover Chicken Thighs with Aluminum Foil
You may be tempted to cover your chicken thighs with aluminum foil while they bake but resist the urge! Covering chicken thighs with foil will cause them to steam, which will prevent the skin from becoming crisp. Instead, the skin will turn soggy while the rest of the meat dries out.
If you want to keep the chicken thighs from drying out, you can place them on a bed of vegetables, such as onions, carrots, or celery. The vegetables will release their own moisture as they roast, helping to keep the chicken thighs moist as they bake. You can then enjoy the roasted vegetables as a nutritious and delicious side.
Make a Healthy Alternative to Fried Chicken with Some Simple Breading
If you’re craving fried chicken but want to make a healthier version, try breading your chicken thighs before baking them. This will give them a crispy exterior without all of the oil and fat that comes with frying. To bread chicken thighs, simply combine some flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish. Place the chicken thighs in the flour mixture and coat them evenly.
Then, transfer the chicken thighs to an egg wash before rolling them in some Panko breadcrumbs. Bake the chicken thighs in a preheated oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 35-40 minutes or until they are cooked through. The chicken thighs will be crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, making them the perfect alternative to fried chicken.
Use an Air Fryer if You’re in a Rush
If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to bake your chicken thighs, you can always use an air fryer. Air fryers work by circulating hot air around the food, cooking it evenly on all sides. This is the perfect way to cook chicken thighs if you’re short on time.
Simply preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and cook the chicken thighs for about 15 minutes. Be sure to check on them occasionally to ensure that they are cooking evenly. When the chicken thighs are cooked through, remove them from the air fryer and enjoy.
Apply a Glaze Halfway Through the Baking Time
If you plan to add a barbeque sauce or other sweetened glaze, wait until the chicken thighs are about half-baked before adding it. This will prevent the glaze from burning or becoming too dark while also giving it enough time to cook and create a flavorful crust rather than a simple sauce.
To apply the glaze, simply brush it on with a pastry brush or spoon. Be sure to evenly coat the chicken thighs so that they all have a nice, even layer of glaze. Then, return the chicken thighs to the oven and let them finish baking.
A Few Added Tips to Improve Your Baked Chicken Thighs
Before we let you in on our go-to baked chicken thigh recipe, we wanted to share a few insider tricks to help you make a memorable dish. Not everyone uses these tips but we’re confident that they’ll improve the flavor, texture, and quality of your chicken thighs.
Sear the Thighs in Butter Before Baking Them
If you’re comfortable adding a little more fat to your meal, try searing the chicken thighs in some butter before baking them. This will give the thighs a richer flavor and crispier skin. Simply heat some butter in a skillet over medium-high heat and sear the chicken thighs for a few minutes on each side. Then, transfer them to a baking dish and bake as directed.
Brine the Thighs Overnight
This is a great tip if you want your chicken thighs to be extra juicy. To brine chicken thighs, simply soak them in a mixture of water, salt, and sugar overnight. The brining process will help to break down some of the muscle fibers in the meat, allowing it to retain more moisture during cooking. It will also accentuate the meat’s natural flavors without the need for other seasonings.
Use Chicken Thighs with Bones and Skin
Chicken thighs with bones and skin will take longer to cook but they will also be more flavorful and moister. If you have the time, we recommend using chicken thighs with bones and skin. However, if you’re short on time, you can always use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Just be sure to reduce the baking time by about 5 minutes.
Marinate the Thighs for Added Flavor
Another great way to flavor your chicken thighs is to marinate them before baking. If you want to add some Asian-inspired flavors to your dish, simply combine some soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and ginger in a large resealable bag. Add the chicken thighs to the bag and let them marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Then, bake as directed.
Add Some Vegetables to the Mix
Adding some vegetables to your dish is a great way to sneak in some extra nutrients. Not to mention, it’ll also save you from having to make a separate side dish. Simply chop up some vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, onions, or green beans, and add them to the baking dish with the chicken thighs. The vegetables will roast alongside the chicken, making a complete and balanced meal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Although most of the meat on a chicken is considered white meat, chicken thighs are actually classified as dark meat. This is because they contain more fat and connective tissue than white meat, making them a more flavorful and tender cut of chicken.
The biggest difference between chicken thighs and chicken breasts is the fat content. Chicken thighs are smaller than breasts but they’re also higher in fat than chicken breasts, which makes them juicier and more flavorful. They are also more affordable due to their smaller size.
A chicken quarter is made up of both the thigh and the drumstick. It does not contain any breast meat. If you choose to bake a chicken quarter, be sure to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature before serving. Chicken quarters are quite large and will take longer to cook than a single thigh.
There are a variety of sides that go well with baked chicken thighs, such as roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, or a simple salad. You can even prepare a variety of regional sauces, such as a Mexican salsa verde, Indian korma, or a Chinese sweet and sour sauce.
Our Weeknight Recipe for Baked Chicken Thighs
- 1½ pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon of onion powder
- 1 teaspoon of chili powder
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 lemon, quartered
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a small bowl, combine the paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, salt, and black pepper.
- Gently brush the thighs with olive oil before rubbing the spice mixture all over the chicken thighs. Let the thighs sit for 5 minutes while the rub soaks into the skin.
- In a large baking dish or roasting pan, drizzle the olive oil and place the chicken thighs in the dish. Squeeze the lemon quarters over the chicken.
- Bake for 35 minutes or until the chicken thighs are cooked through.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 649Total Fat: 34gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 415mgSodium: 1702mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 3gSugar: 1gProtein: 84g