I am handing you the keys to the Queendom. Spice-rubbed chicken thighs is the dish for all those times this summer you’re having friends over for a barbecue– and all the times year-round you need a meal you can get on the table with about 5 minutes of prep.
This is the chicken dish that everyone loves. Perhaps it is a slight exaggeration to say “everyone loves it”, because I am fairly certain vegans and vegetarians wouldn’t, and maybe one or two chicken lovers. No, I take that last part back: I have never met a chicken eater who doesn’t like these. That’s actually saying a lot, considering the number of people for whom and with whom I have made this chicken, both at home and in my classes at ICE.
Wow, that sounded like a sell job. Really, if you don’t want to try this particular recipe, that’s your business and I don’t want to be a recipe-pusher. But no matter what, this post should make it easy for you to roast and grill chicken thighs to perfection. Even if you don’t use this knock-your-socks-off, killer-good spice rub…
Before I get to the actual recipe, here’s my run-down on what you need to know to cook moist, tender and safe chicken thighs. (If after reading this you still have a question, write it in the comment form at the bottom of the post)
- Thighs stay moist even when they’re a little over-cooked. This makes them stress-free to serve to company, because you can make them ahead and re-heat. Also, if you have a glass of wine while you’re cooking and get involved in a conversation with a friend, and then realize oh-my-god-the-chicken! you might still be okay. The same cannot be said of chicken breasts, fish, steaks, or burgers. (Disclaimer: if the conversation goes on for, say, 30 minutes, you may need to make alternate plans for dinner).
- Thighs come with their own built-in handle, making them ideal for walk-around gatherings. The single bone that runs down the center sticks out a bit at either end, which makes thighs easy to pick up and eat without utensils.
- Figure on two thighs per person, or three thighs for big eaters. But they vary in size, so use your judgement.
- The raw, on the bone weight is about double the cooked yield. So buy 2 pounds of bone-in thighs to yield 1 pound of cooked meat.
- Make them prettier. Thighs come out of the package looking like a cartoon splat. Or a Rorschach test. You need to pretty them up by pulling the skin evenly over the meat and folding the sides under.
- You cut 40-50 calories and 1-2 grams of saturated fat per thigh by removing the skin. Yup, but you also lose the golden, crisp skin. It’s a choice. (I go both ways, depending on how dedicated I am to dieting at the time.)
- Don’t freak at the sight of pink. Thighs can be cooked to a safe internal temperature and still be pink (or even have a red bloody-looking spot) near the bone. That has to do with blood vessels and protein structure, not “rawness”. Use a thermometer and cook thighs to 170-175F. The thermometer should be parallel to but not touching the bone and the tip should be in the thickest part of the meat.
Okay, go cook.
Grilled or Roasted Spice-Rubbed Chicken Thighs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 – 3.5 pounds chicken thighs (bone-in), about 12 thighs
- If you are grilling, coat the grill rack with cooking spray and heat the grill for direct heat cooking. If you are roasting, preheat the oven to 425F and coat a large baking sheet pan with cooking spray.
- Combine the sugar, cumin, salt, garlic powder, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne and black pepper in a bowl, working the mixture with your fingertips to get rid of any lumps.
- Shape and trim the thighs. Pat the mixture over the entire surface of the thighs.
- To roast: place in the oven, skin side up, and cook until the largest thigh reaches an internal temperature of 170-175F, about 30-35 minutes depending on the size of the thighs. To grill: place on the grill skin side facing down and cook 15 minutes. Turn and cook until the largest thigh reaches an internal temperature of 170-175, about another 15 minutes.
Makes 6 servings
Nutritional analysis per serving:
With skin: 322 calories, 19 g fat, 5 g sat fat
W/o skin: 237 calories, 11 g fat, 3 g sat fat