Looking to cook your chicken thighs to juicy, delicious perfection but unsure of what chicken thigh temp you need to reach? You’ve come to the right place.
The temperature at which you cook chicken thighs can significantly affect their flavor and juiciness. To help you, in this guide, we’ll break down the science behind food safety and give you all the best culinary tips. So let’s explore everything you need to know to make the mouth-watering meal of your dreams.
Cook Chicken Thighs: Temperature Basics
So you’ve bought your chicken thighs from the local supermarket or butcher (tip: the meat of a free-range chicken thigh from a butcher can taste much better!). Now it’s time to get cooking. What do you need to know first?
Whether you grill, bake or fry your chicken thighs, the process of cooking your chicken has one constant you must keep in mind in the cooking process: reaching the right temperature.
The minimum internal chicken thigh temp you want to bring your chicken thighs to is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Reaching this mark is important for making sure you and your family or guests enjoy a safe, healthy, and delicious meal.
However, many people don’t know that chicken thighs are best at a higher temperature. We’ll describe this culinary secret in more depth later in this article.
Chicken Thighs vs. Chicken Breasts
First, let’s get into the details and different parts of a chicken. Between chicken thighs and chicken breasts, many people have a strong preference one way or another. But what are the main differences between these two cuts? And what does this mean for how you will approach cooking your chicken thighs?
Low in fat and high in protein, some people prefer chicken breast over dark thigh meat. Yet, due to the extra fat, chicken thighs don’t stick as much to cooking surfaces, so you can cook them with less oil. The fat can also tenderize the thighs as they cook, creating a silky feel.
Chicken thighs are also a good source of zinc, which helps you maintain healthy hair, nails, and skin. Another benefit is that they are typically less expensive than other cuts of meat.
Chicken Thigh Nutritional Value
Due to its leaner meat, chicken has a higher nutritional value compared to other meats. Different parts of the chicken also offer different nutritional values.
Here’s a comparison of the nutritional value of both.
Chicken Thigh – 100 grams
- Calories: 177
- Protein: 24g
- Fats: 8g
- Cholesterol: 135mg
- Saturated Fat: 2.3g
Chicken Breast – 100 grams
- Calories: 165
- Protein: 31g
- Fats: 2.6g
- Cholesterol: 85mg
- Saturated Fat: 1g
Tips for Cooking Chicken Thighs
Based on their make-up and nutritional value, you’ll want to cook thighs with this in mind.
As a leaner meat, chicken breast cooks faster and often needs either oil or butter to cook with. When cooking chicken breast, you’ll want to avoid overcooking the meat or the texture can become too dry and leathery.
In contrast, due to their higher fat content, cooking chicken thighs longer allows the juicy thighs to release more of their poultry flavor. With a longer cooking time, thighs also become more tender. Thus, patience is key. For example, in grilling a chicken thigh, you’ll want to take time to rotate the chicken over time, so the fat doesn’t cause a flare-up on a part of the thigh.
When cooking either kind of meat, make sure to add your sauce at the end so it doesn’t burn. To season, you can partner your chicken with a spice rub, marinade, or herbs.
Salt and pepper are a must but don’t stop there. Take your inspiration from an Indian chicken recipe by adding curry powder and peanut sauce. Or perhaps infuse your chicken with a Mexican style with lime and chile powder. The kitchen is a place for your creativity to thrive!
Tips for cooking boneless skinless thighs
Add salt to your boneless skinless chicken thighs about 15 minutes before they’re done cooking. Salt can help absorb some of the moisture in the chicken, but it will retain its natural juices better when served.
I like to use olive oil, so the seasoning sticks better, but it also helps get juicy meat.
Boneless skinless chicken thighs are leaner, but the lack of skin will affect flavor. The skin on chicken thighs does contain fat, and well, as you know, fat equals flavor. For this reason is important to get creative with the seasoning blend.
Tips for cooking bone in chicken thighs
Not everyone likes skinless chicken thighs. The skin adds flavor and fat juices to the meat. Also, crispy skin is a treat. Here are some simple steps to cook bone in chicken thighs.
1. preheat oven to 375 degrees. Feel free to experiment with the oven temperature. I like to crack up the hit a bit to crisp the skin.
2. Season chicken thighs with salt, pepper, or your favorite spices. Keeping things simple is a good thing, but feel free to experiment with more than one seasoning blend.
3. Place chicken thighs in a baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until cooked through. Always cook white meat or dark ( darker meat ) to the recommended internal temperature.
Oven baked chicken thighs taste great but if you want a boost in flavor, try grilling the meat in your grill to add a hit of smokey flavor.
4. Let the thighs rest, serve hot, and enjoy!
Oven baked chicken thighs
One of the best, most common, and easiest ways to make chicken thighs is by baking them in the oven. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the chicken thighs on a cookie baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for 25 minutes, or until fully cooked. You can serve these delicious chicken thighs with your favorite dipping sauce, BBQ sauce, or a side dish like mac and cheese. Enjoy!
Oven baked chicken thighs taste great but if you want a boost in flavor, try grilling the meat on your grill to add a hit of smokey flavor.
Chicken thighs in the grill
Ok, this is my favorite way to cook chicken meat, and although many chicken recipes will instruct you to bake chicken thighs, one of the best ways to add flavor to chicken thighs is to grill them. Baking chicken thighs is easy. Whether you are baking a whole chicken, bone in thighs, boneless thighs, dark meat, white meat, you get the point.
I recommend using a smoker grill but if you only own a gas grill, use a smoker box to add wood chips and thus smokey flavor to the meat. The smoke flavor will penetrate the chicken, and you will love the taste.
Quick and easy chicken recipe
Baked Chicken Thighs with Rice and Vegetables
Ingredients: 2 lbs. chicken thighs, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. black pepper, 1 tsp. onion powder, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional), 2 cups rice, 2 cups water or broth, 4 carrots, peeled and diced small, 4
Desired Chicken Thigh Color
Next, let’s dive more deeply into chicken thigh-specific tips. Now that you know you should cook chicken thighs slowly, you may be wondering about what it should look like when done.
Many chefs and cooks of all ages assume that pinkness is the ultimate sign of a chicken’s doneness.
However, we recommend relying more on the chicken thigh internal temp and less on the appearance of the chicken. No matter how trained your chef’s eye is, the best way to guarantee your chicken is completely cooked and at the right doneness is by using a meat thermometer.
A (working) meat thermometer won’t lie, and you can rely on it when cooking all kinds of chicken. For example, this is especially important when smoking meat. Smoked meat will always have a pinkish-red color—even when done—which can be tricky to judge without a thermometer.
Thus, relying on the actual chicken thigh internal temp is crucial to making sure your food is safe (and delicious) to eat.
Food Safety: Chicken Thigh Internal Temp
So, why exactly is it important to ensure your chicken reaches a minimum temperature of 165?
The USDA recommends cooking, baking, or grilling poultry to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit because, at that point, the heat kills off the campylobacter or salmonella bacteria that cause illness.
Thus, with proper food safety techniques, you can eat your chicken without fear of getting sick from food poisoning.
Are My Chicken Thighs Done?
Your stomach is growling, and your friends and family are ready to eat—so when do you know when your chicken thighs are done?
Depending on how you’re cooking it, e.g. with a smoker or grill, the preparation time will vary. You will know your chicken is safe to eat when the chicken thigh internal temp reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Important tip: Make sure to stick your thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken thigh.
When is Chicken Thigh Done: 165 or 180 Degrees?
For best results, if you’re cooking your chicken thighs alone, it’s actually better to let them reach a temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, this will only take a few extra minutes that are well worth the effort. Here’s why.
If you cook your thighs for longer, the meat will be juicier and more succulent. This is because of the high concentration of connective tissue (collagen) that’s found in chicken thighs. As this tissue cooks, this fat turns into gelatin which tenderizes the chicken. The outcome is a juicy and tender chicken thigh that’s worth the extra effort.
There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to the internal temperature of the chicken. First, make sure that your thermometer is reliable and accurate.
Second, be sure to take the chicken’s temperature in the thickest part of the meat, not near the bone.
And finally, be patient – it can take a while for the chicken to reach the correct internal temperature.
All in all, chicken thighs can be the center point of a delicious and nutritious meal, especially if you take the time to bring out the juices and flavor within the thigh. Anyone who eats your yummy meals will appreciate the taste and texture of a well-cooked chicken thigh.
And for you, the chef, unlike chicken breasts, the process of cooking a chicken thigh is easy as long as you keep your meat thermometer handy.
Enjoy the scrumptiousness that awaits you!