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Cooking chicken thighs to perfection is easy; it's all about making sure you cook them at the correct temperature for the right amount of time in order to achieve, tender fall-off-the-bone meat.
Chicken thighs are a versatile, budget-friendly cut of meat that can be used in countless recipes. You can choose to cook thighs in an oven, slow cooker (opens in new tab), on the barbecue, or sliced in a stir-fry or curry. Thighs taste particularly good when they are left to marinate overnight in a homemade marinade.
Choosing bone-in chicken thighs with the skin still attached will offer the most flavour but lots of supermarkets sell boneless and skinless varieties. Bone-in chicken thighs will take longer to cook as they are much weightier than boneless thighs. They are also more calorific when cooking with skin on, as the skin contains most of the unsaturated fat."The good thing about the skin is that you can trap lots of flavour underneath. Try making garlic or herb butter and use your fingers to rub underneath as you would a roast chicken." says Goodto Food Editor Samuel Goldsmith.
If you decide to cook skin-on chicken thighs, it's a good idea once cooked, to check under the skin to make sure the flesh isn't raw or pink underneath. Do keep in mind that thighs are a much darker cut of meat compared to breasts so may have a darker appearance overall.
How long does it take to cook chicken thighs in the oven?
The length of time you need to cook your chicken thighs depends on the style of cooking and recipe. For example, if the recipe tells you to cut the thighs into small, bite-sized pieces for a stir-fry it could take under 10 minutes for the thighs to cook all the way through.
If you’re roasting the thighs in the oven it will take longer to cook, especially if the thighs aren’t even in thickness. Bear in mind, that as a general rule, bone-in chicken thighs will add more flavour to your dish but they will take a little longer to cook because they are bigger and heavier.
When cooking chicken thighs in the oven, consider pan-frying them first to crisp up the skin. Brush with a little oil or melt some butter and cook skin side down for a couple of minutes until golden. Finish in the oven as specified in your recipe until the internal temperature hits 74C.
As a general rule of thumb, oven-cooked bone-in chicken thighs will take 35-40mins at 180C/160C fan.
Many people find chicken one of the trickiest meats to cook as they often over-cook it for fear of food poisoning. Read our ultimate guide on how to cook chicken (opens in new tab) so you can be confident you’re doing it right.
What temperature should you cook chicken thighs in the oven?
The lower your oven temperature, the longer you will need to cook the chicken thighs. You should preheat your oven to ensure it is as the temperature specified in your recipe otherwise the timings will be inaccurate.
Remember that opening and closing your oven door will also cause the temperature to decrease, so try not to open it frequently while cooking.
Chicken thighs are generally cooked at 180C/160C fan. If a recipe only specifies the conventional oven temperature but you want to cook on via a fan oven, simply deduct 20C. So a recipe that calls for 200C, would work out to be 180C in a fan oven.
How long do you cook chicken thighs in a slow cooker?
If you want to create a pulled chicken (opens in new tab) effect for tacos, wraps, or even as a jacket potato topping, slow cooking is an excellent option. Chicken thighs are ideal in slow cooker curries and they also work well in recipes for stews or as pie fillings.
You can slow cook chicken thighs for several hours, as outlined in our recipe for Asian chicken thighs. (opens in new tab) Slow-cooked recipes tend to include lots of liquid in the form of stock or chopped tomatoes so that there is plenty of moisture in the dish and the chicken won’t go dry.
When you cook chicken thighs in a slow cooker, the same principles of marinating apply. Slow cooking will help intensify the flavours and will change the texture quite drastically.
How do you know when chicken thighs are cooked?
To test when chicken thighs are cooked we recommend using a meat thermometer. Using a digital thermometer will help you to become a more confident cook and remove any stress of potential food poisoning.
Chicken is cooked when it has an internal temperature of 74C. To probe your chicken thighs you should insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat.
You can also test to see the chicken is cooked if the juices run clear when cut and pressed. However, this method isn’t as precise and can also ruin the presentation if you’re serving chicken thighs at a dinner party. Follow our simple guide on how to check if a chicken is cooked for more information.
How do you add flavour to chicken thighs?
The flavourings you choose will largely depend on the style of cooking and if you’ve chosen skin-on or off thighs. The easiest way to add flavour to chicken thighs is to marinade them. Food writer Keiron George has a handy tip, he explains: 'I always make 2-3 cuts in the skin and them marinade them. The cuts allow the flavour to go further into the meat.'
Most of our chicken thigh recipes (opens in new tab) that call for a marinade will suggest marinating overnight for the flavours to fully infuse. At a minimum, we recommend marinating for an hour.
Chicken and garlic are a classic combination so it’s no wonder Slimming World’s rustic garlic traybake (opens in new tab) is so popular. Or you could opt for our roasted chicken thighs (opens in new tab) with garlic, lemon, and rosemary. These are fantastic options if you want the comfort of a roast dinner without all of the prep.
If you plan to cook chicken thighs submerged in a sauce, like our chicken coconut curry (opens in new tab) (pictured above), we recommend using skinless bone-in thighs for maximum flavour.
How to store chicken thighs
Once cooked, chicken thighs need to be cooled completely and then can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Reheat until piping hot.
Store cooked chicken thighs in the freezer too. As above, make sure they are completely cooled before storing them in an airtight freezer-safe container or freezable bags. You can store chicken thighs in the freezer for up to 4 months. Defrost thoroughly overnight in the fridge and reheat in the oven until piping hot for the best results.
What to do with leftover chicken thigh skin
It’s very easy to remove the skin from chicken thighs yourself. Take your time and use a sharp knife to carefully peel the skin away from the chicken meat.
There is no need to throw the skin away though. You can easily turn leftover chicken skin into a tasty snack like our crispy chicken skin crisps:
Crispy chicken skin crisps
- Preheat your oven to 180C.
- Scrape any remaining flesh and fat from the chicken skin and place it on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.
- Sprinkle with salt, then place another layer of greaseproof paper on top and weigh it down with another baking tray.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes until crispy. Leave to cool on the kitchen towel to absorb some of the greases.
If, like us, you hate waste, take a look at our leftover chicken ideas. (opens in new tab) From salads to pies, you’re sure to find a recipe that makes the most of your delicious chicken thigh leftovers.
Jessica currently works as a Senior Food Writer at Future. She writes food and drink-related news stories and features, curates product pages, tests, and reviews equipment, and also develops recipes that she styles on food shoots. An enthusiastic, self-taught cook Jess adores eating out and sharing great food and drink with friends and family. She has completed the Level 1 Associate course at the Academy of Cheese and is continually building on her knowledge of beers, wines, and spirits.