Chicken and I have been on a bit of a hiatus. Growing up I ate a lot of chicken but now that I make my own dinner decisions I often opt for more decadent meats. Rack of lamb! Skirt steak! Pork chops! and the like are much more exciting options to me than a plain ‘ol chicken breast.
Then, out of the blue I started craving chicken. Maybe it’s all the rich wintery foods I have been eating, but I didn’t want plain rice or steamed vegetables, so I think perhaps I had ignored chicken for long enough. And of course I didn’t want just any chicken. I wanted the bone-in skin-on chicken thighs the way my mom used to make them: juicy in the center with really crispy skin on the tops. Hers take half a day and use an electric skillet, which was out of the question for me, so I started doing a little research on how I could make crispy chicken thighs without the tools or the time.
I had decided that I wanted to use the oven instead of a skillet, but neither baking nor broiling worked on its own. A solid blast from the broiler took care of the skin, but did little to cook the meat, making the skin char before the meat gets to the right temperature. Baking the chicken at a high temperature cooked the meat, but did not render the skin fast enough to crisp. If you bake it long enough, the skin will eventually crisp, but you risk overcooking and drying out the meat. The bit of fat that lies right underneath the skin keeps the chicken moist, but also keeps the skin moist, which was the source of my problems.
After a little research, I found a solution: try a bit of both! The crispy skin and fully cooked meat can be achieved by roasting the thighs skin side down on a pre-heated baking sheet to bring the meat up temperature. Then, by flipping them over and giving the tops a brief blast with the broiler, the skin crisps up nicely. The best part? It only takes 30 minutes.
Oven Roasted Chicken Thighs
Technique from Cooks Illustrated Dec 2011
For best results, trim all visible fat from the thighs. Use a heavy-duty baking sheet and fully preheat the oven and baking sheet before adding the chicken.
4 bone-in chicken thighs , trimmed
3/4 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil spray
Adjust oven racks to middle and lowest positions, place rimmed baking sheet on lower rack, and heat oven to 450 degrees.
Using the tip of a small knife, poke skin side of chicken thighs 10 to 12 times. (This helps the moistening layer of fat render faster) Season both sides of thighs with salt and pepper; spray skin lightly with vegetable oil spray so that they don’t stick to the baking sheet. Place thighs skin side down on preheated baking sheet. Return baking sheet to bottom rack.
Roast chicken until skin side is beginning to brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove chicken from oven and heat broiler.
While broiler heats, flip chicken skin side up. Broil chicken on middle rack until skin is crisp and well browned, about 5 minutes, rotating pan as needed for even browning. Transfer chicken to platter and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.