When it comes to achieving absolutely perfect crispy-on-the-outside, moist-on-the-inside chicken thighs, Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen Director Belle English has the technique nailed. Working at home in her San Francisco kitchen during shelter-in-place, she’s spent a fair amount of time considering some key cooking methods to share when we are all still at home and spending a lot more time in the kitchen. Here, she puts a sturdy pan on the heat and teaches us all a few lessons about frying chicken. Her go-to recipe? A five-ingredient Crispy Chicken Thighs with sliced lemon. Learning the best technique for pan-frying chicken thighs is an easy one to master—especially when you keep Belle’s four rules front of mind.
- Use Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Thighs
Chicken bones and skin hold a rich, meaty flavor and moisture that is released into the meat when cooked bone-in. “Not only is that bone and skin going to provide a ton in depth of flavor, but it’s going to help seal in all those juices so that it’s always really tender,” says Belle.
- Dry Meat Thoroughly
“Moisture is the enemy of crispiness!” Belle warns. Drying the skin before cooking it will contribute to evenly browned skin that crisps easily. “Put the chicken pieces on a paper towel-lined plate or sheet tray and just keep it in the fridge for a couple of hours to really dry it out,” she says. “Then take a paper towel and dab the skin and bones to absorb the remaining moisture.”
- Don’t Crowd the Pan
Cramming chicken thighs together in a frying pan will prevent all sides of each thigh from coming in contact with the pan and its heat, risking sogginess instead of crispiness. “Let the thighs breath so they don’t steam,” explains Belle.
- Use a Meat Thermometer
“Always temp test your chicken,” suggests Belle. A good meat thermometer is the only sure-fire way to test if your meat is ready. Look for a temperature of 170˚F at our near the bone.
- 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 Tbs. vegetable oil
- 1/2 lemon, cut into 8 rounds
- 1 tsp. fresh marjoram leaves
Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 400°F (200°C).
Season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper. In a 12-inch (30-cm) ovenproof French skillet or fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook until the fat has rendered and the skin is crisp and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer, skin side up, to a plate.
Pour off the excess fat from the pan. Return the chicken, skin side up, to the pan and scatter the lemon slices on top. Transfer to the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh, away from the bone, registers 170°F (77°C), 18 to 20 minutes.
Transfer the chicken and lemon slices to a platter and scatter the marjoram leaves on top. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4.