Chicken thighs are perhaps, the most under-appreciated cut of the whole bird. Understandably, chicken breasts are the goto for the majority of people, but they are actually much harder to cook well. Thighs have more natural flavor to them, and are more “forgiving” for the home cook. They are less likely to dry out and become tough. You can make them bone-in…with the skin on, which are awesome in their own right…but boneless, skinless thighs are readily available, tasty and are perfect for the grill.
Using a super hot grill, you get a smoky, flavorful char on the outside of the thighs…along with those very cool looking grill marks. And because the thighs are naturally more tender and juicy than breasts, they are less likely to dry out. Below are the steps you can follow for perfectly grilled chicken thighs. I’m using some fajita spice for flavor, but you can go as simple as salt and pepper, or anything else you’d like, and follow the same general steps.
Steps for Grilling the Perfect Chicken Thighs
- If you’re going to marinate or use a rub on the chicken thighs, apply it at least 20 minutes before cooking; ideally a few hours before, and hold the thighs in the fridge
- About 20 minutes before cooking, take the thighs out of the fridge and spread them out on a clean cutting board
- Liberally season them with salt & pepper on both sides, and allow them to come up to a room temperature
- While the thighs come to room temp, allow your grill to heat. You want a very hot grill, so if you’re using coals, you probably need to light them about an hour before you’re ready to start cooking.
- Once the grill is very hot, and the chicken thighs at room temp, spread a thin layer of oil (I use olive oil) over both sides of the chicken.
- Lay the chicken down on the grill grates (it should be hot enough to sizzle loudly); once on the grill, close the lid, and leave the thighs alone for 3 - 4 minutes. Don’t move/turn/flip them.
- Open the grill after 3-4 minutes, and you should see the edges of the thighs going opaque. If not, allow them to cook for another couple minutes.
- Turn the thighs over, and you should see the cooked side nicely seared, with dark grill marks.
- Allow the second side to cook for another 3 – 4 minutes with the lid closed
- The thighs should be cooked through now, but the best way to tell, is to use an instant read meat thermometer, and get the internal temp up to 170.
- If needed, you can move the chicken thighs to a higher rack, or a cooler part of the grill, and allow them to cook for another 2-4 minutes with the lid closed.
- Take the cooked thighs off the grill, and allow them to rest for 4 – 5 minutes before serving.