While the generational debate continues to wage over which is better between chicken thighs and chicken breast, it’s resolutely clear that thigh meat is the jewel in the bird’s proverbial crown. Yes, some recipes do specify breast as an essential, but chicken thighs are generally far tastier. They’re also considerably more economical.
With darker meat than breast, chicken thighs have more intense flavour, as the leg meat does the most exercise in the life of a free range chicken. The bone and extra fat also contribute to the overall taste, and the fat also lends a smoother texture to the meat. Significantly fattier than chicken breast, however, thighs are often considered unhealthy.
Harbouring a good amount of protein, chicken (in general) also contains various vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, which can boost the body’s immunity, as well as helping to balance cholesterol. While chicken thighs are fattier than breast, the kind of fat found in this cut are monounsaturated fats, which are considered relatively healthy. According to Body Ecology, monounsaturated fat can help aid in weight loss, lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, and control and reduce cholesterol numbers.
Used all over the world, in a wide variety of recipes, bone-in chicken thighs are particularly suited to braising. In addition to the bone, thighs also contain connective tissue such as cartilage, which breaks down while braising, while collagen is broken down into gelatin, which contributes to the succulence of the cooked thighs. The bones are also great in chicken stocks, lending a huge amount of flavour.
Yet, perhaps most importantly, thighs are far easier to cook. Cooked for just a few minutes too long, breast becomes dry and borderline unpalatable. Chicken thighs, however, are much more forgiving, particularly when cooked in liquid. Instead of becoming dry or texturally unpleasant, they just become softer and the meat falls off the bone.
Moreover, thighs can also be cooked fairly quickly. This chicken thighs recipe, for instance, is ready to eat in just 40 minutes, with only five minutes spent prepping. Simply drizzle the skin-on, bone-in thighs with honey, sprinkle with thyme, smoked salt and chilli flakes, then throw in half a lemon and four garlic cloves. An easy, delicious week-night dinner.
- 4 chicken thighs skin-on
- A pinch smoked salt available in most supermarkets, but normal salt can be used as an alternative
- 4 garlic cloves
- ½ lemon cut into wedges
- Honey to taste
- 4 sprigs thyme (alternatively use 2 tsp dried thyme)
- Chilli flakes to taste, alternatively use black pepper
- Rapeseed oil or other neutral cooking oil
- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
- Pour a little oil over the base of a roasting tin or tray large enough to hold the chicken thighs.
- Place the chicken thighs in the tin, skin-side up, and season with a generous pinch of the smoked salt.
- Cut the ends off of each garlic clove, remove the white paper-like skin, but keep as much of the purple skin as possible, as this will prevent the garlic cloves from burning. Place the prepared garlic cloves into the roasting pan with the chicken.
- Add the lemon to the roasting dish, then drizzle some honey all over the chicken skin. Finish with the thyme and a pinch of either chilli flakes or freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
- Drizzle a little oil over all of the ingredients then roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes until the chicken skins are golden and the thighs are cooked through.
RELATED: How To Make: Sausage Pasta