If there were to be only one piece of the chicken to rule them all, the noble thigh would reign supreme, in my opinion. Once thought of as an off-cut, chicken thighs have flown under the radar for long enough, until a recent spike of interest among restaurant chefs and home cooks alike has brought them back into vogue.
Referred to as the dark meat of the bird, chicken thighs come from the upper portion of the leg, cut right above the knee, leaving the drumstick behind. Since these leg muscles are constantly working hard to support the chicken, they build up a good amount of intramuscular fat — and we all know that extra fat equals extra flavor!
The texture of this dark meat is vastly different as well, compared to the light meat of a chicken breast. We have all experienced eating a bland, overcooked, and dreary chicken breast before, right? Well, not only are chicken thighs packed with rich flavor and super-juicy, but they are also more tender and have a “meaty,” steak-like texture to them.
Oh, and did I mention how easy chicken thighs are on your wallet? Depending on how you purchase them, thighs are usually half the price of chicken breasts.
Almost all supermarkets and butcher shops carry thighs, and you can usually find them packaged a couple different ways. My favorite — and what will usually be the best value — are bone-in thighs with the skin still attached. These are great simply roasted, pan-seared, grilled, or even braised. Another common option are boneless, skinless thighs, which transform any stir-fry, stew, or your favorite chicken salad recipe into something magically addicting.
So say goodbye to dry chicken breasts as we welcome the underrated and delicious thigh, one of the richest and most flavorful parts of the bird. Try substituting thighs in recipes that call for breasts next time you are thinking of 101 ways to cook chicken,— and enjoy the upgrade!