Why Pouring Boiling Water Over Chicken Thighs Is A Game Changer

Cooking chicken thighs can be tricky to get right, especially if you want bronze golden skin instead of burn marks. However, a simple, effective solution can take your chicken to the next level. Take a note from Asian cuisine and try pouring boiling water over chicken thighs before cooking to get that mouth-watering, crackling, crispy chicken skin. 

It's a well-known secret that boiling meats like chicken thighs help break down connective and fatty tissues in the meat. This is exactly what is happening on a smaller scale when you blanch your chicken with boiling water. Using boiling water in this way helps to render out excess fat, resulting in a leaner meal; as a result, you can get the perfect crisp without having to cook out that extra fatty tissue. (This can be especially beneficial if you are using bone-in, skin-on thighs.) The method is pretty simple, but it does require a little prep. 

How to achieve crispy skin on your chicken thighs using boiling water

If you've avoided using chicken thighs when creating delicious home-cooked meals and have instead opted for the more traditional cut of boneless chicken breasts, then prepare yourself because this amazing technique could change the way you enjoy your chicken. When prepared, the inexpensive thigh cuts are juicy, more forgiving to cook, and have a wonderful layer of skin that can add a next-level flavor profile to your meal.

To make the skin on a chicken thigh extra crispy, with boiling water, first, prep your chicken thighs in a kosher salt dry brine and place them in the fridge overnight. This will help to dry out the skin. For best results, lift the skin of the thigh and add some salt in between. Then when you are ready to cook, lightly dust off the flecks of salt and place them skin-side up on a baking sheet or roasting pan on a rack. 

With a kettle, pour boiling water over the skin in a small stream — this will cause the skin to lift ever so slightly and shrink a little in size — and let them sit for a few minutes before draining off the water. Remove the thighs from the water and pat them with a paper towel to get rid of any excess moisture. With a bit of seasoning and pan-frying, you will taste the increase of crispy skin yumminess in your results.

Other ways to get crispy chicken skin

If you don't want to pour boiling water on your chicken thighs, you can also try other methods to get that perfect crispy skin. Celebrity cook Alton Brown recommends steaming the chicken before cooking it. While his recipe was created for chicken wings, there's no reason this method can't also work with thighs. Steaming extracts fat from meat, which is important because fat can be chewy and tough to dry out, like gristle on a steak. By steaming on medium heat for about 10 minutes, you help reduce the fat in the chicken thighs, making them easier to fry. For those in a time crunch, try mixing up some baking soda and salt for crispier chicken skin. The mixture helps dry out the outer layer of skin by containing the moisture on the meat through a process of osmosis. Less water equals crispier, browner chicken.

In addition to the prep you've put into the chicken thighs, make sure to choose the right cooking method for your personal tastes. If you want thighs that are juicy and tender, try throwing them in the oven after giving them a quick sear in a cast iron skillet. Unlike chicken breasts, there's less of a chance of chicken thighs drying out if cooked for longer thanks to their higher fat content. Slow cooking the chicken will help break down some of that connective tissue as well, making for a more tender, fall-off-the-bone dish, but not provide a crispy skin that comes from high heat.