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Back to basics with chicken thighs

Everything you need to know about this under-utilised cut of chicken.


Chicken thighs are packed full of flavour and remain very tender and moist when cooked, but many people often stick to chicken breasts when cooking poultry. To expand your repertoire, we’ve created a beginner's guide to chicken thighs.

In our Back to Basics series, we look at some common ingredients to help make sure our readers are making the most of the great produce that we have access to here in Ireland. Previously we looked at scallops and housekeeper’s cut of beef, today we're looking at chicken thighs.

Arguably the tastiest part of the chicken, thighs are a super juicy cut that comes from the top part of the leg. While the meat is darker than the more popular breast, the meat is extremely flavoursome and lends itself to lots of different ways of cooking. As with all chicken, thighs are very high in protein and are a great source of iron. They also have a high content of B6 vitamins.

Chicken thighs are usually cheaper than the breasts and can be bought bone in or out and with the skin on or off. Bone-in is usually the most widely available and often comes with the skin on. Skin-on thighs are a little fattier than skin-off (and certainly more so than lean chicken breasts), but the skin provides a layer of protection to the meat, helping to ensure it doesn't dry out too much. Alternatively, the skin can be removed and crisped up in the oven: Again, as it's slightly fattier, it will take a little longer to dry out, but the flavour will be far superior to chicken skin removed from the breast. If you decide to debone the thighs at home, be sure to keep the bones in your freezer to make stock; a few extra thigh bones added to a whole chicken carcass in a stock pot will add an extra, intense layer of flavour.

A great way to use up thighs is to braise them. They are slightly tougher than breasts, so they need a little extra TLC when cooking, which is why braising or slow-cooking works so well. Chicken thighs lend themselves particularly well to stews as their flavour translates so well when they are cooked in stock or sauce.

The best place to buy your thighs is from a reliable butcher, who will be able to advise you on any queries you may have. Another bonus of buying chicken thighs from a butcher is that they can do a lot of the preparation for you: deskinning and deboning chicken thighs can be a little tricky, so until you're confident, your butcher can do it for you to ensure you get the most out of your meat.

If you're not planning to use the thighs as soon as you buy them, they store very well in the freezer and can be kept for up to nine months if frozen correctly. If storing thighs in the fridge, it's best to only keep them for about two or three days.

Looking for some inspiration for how to cook chicken thighs? All of the chicken recipes on the site can be adapted to use chicken thighs instead of breasts, but we particularly like the look of this Spicy Rice with Chicken dish from Hugo Arnold.