You Should Be Cooking Chicken Thighs Skin-Side Down For Extra Crisp

If you're accustomed to cooking primarily with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, your main concern is likely finding ways to keep your protein moist. As MasterClass outlines, chicken breast easily dries out because of how lean it is, so there are plenty of tips and tricks for preventing that from happening. Skin-on chicken thighs, however, are a whole different matter.

While chicken thigh meat does tend to have a bit more fat than breast meat, most of that fat comes from the skin itself, which packs in about 40 grams of fat per 3.5-ounce serving, as per Proactive Health Labs. This fat delivers a ton of flavor — not to mention that if done well, some great texture. You want that perfectly crisp chicken skin to contrast with the juicy meat.

If you don't cook your chicken thighs correctly, however, you could end up with a less-than-desirable, rubbery exterior, as Bradley Smoker outlines. Luckily, a few tricks and techniques can help you avoid common chicken thigh cooking mistakes and achieve a great result every time. Some of them start before the chicken ever hits the pan. For example, you want the skin on your chicken to be as dry as possible, as Southern Living explains — pat dry with a paper towel or store it uncovered in the fridge to achieve that. Once your chicken thighs are properly prepped, the next step is to lay them down the right way in the pan.

Skin-side down for maximum crispness

Now, if you're making a dish where you'll be removing the skin before serving, you don't really have to worry about how you place your chicken in the pan — tenderness of the meat is the priority in those situations. However, if you're aiming for that perfectly crisp skin, you always want to place the chicken thighs in your pan or skillet skin-side down when you're cooking it.

As Allrecipes explains, this is because you want to render as much fat out of the skin as possible, and contact with the pan will help do that. Unlike when you're trying to get a hard sear on a piece of meat, though, you want to be careful not to crank the heat up too high, as that might cause your chicken skin to burn before it's ready. Patience is the name of the game. Sizzle the skin on medium for anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes for best results. And, don't jostle them around the pan too much — as FlavCity suggests, you'll want to leave them undisturbed for a good portion of that cook time.

This simple adjustment to your cooking technique will help you achieve that crispy chicken skin, and as an added bonus, your chicken will be as flavorful and moist as possible. This is because, as per Simple Grill Recipes, that fat you're rendering will make its way into the thigh meat as your chicken cooks. It's a win-win.