I have found my calling in life.
It is to make these Crispy Oven Roasted Chicken Thighs with Lemon, Butter, and Thyme at least once a week for as long as I live.
No, I am not kidding.
This is my new favorite way to cook chicken, because it is: a) amazingly easy, b) versatile, and c) FOOLPROOF. Not to mention, chicken thighs are one of the tastiest and most budget-friendly of all the cuts of chicken.
While these do take an hour to roast in the oven, rest assured: the five minute preparation and minimal ingredients more than makes up for the long roasting time. With a little planning ahead, this recipe is a surefire way to please everyone in your family, to make for the main dish at a dinner party, or to cook chicken in bulk so you have leftovers for other recipes throughout the week.
Here’s what makes this so easy.
The preparation is little more than mixing seasonings with butter and spreading it on the chicken. Easy, right? But what REALLY makes this foolproof is roasting it in the oven for an hour. Works every time, like a charm. No meat thermometer necessary! Because the meat is roasted on the bone and with the skin on, the result is more moist and succulent than boneless, skinless cuts of meat, and much more forgiving if you overcook it.
I love roasting a whole chicken because it’s tasty and cheap, and you get so much bang for your buck. But it involves a lot of steps- trussing, calculating how long to cook it based on weight, and carving it when it’s complete. And it makes a big mess.
I love boneless skinless chicken breasts because they are lean and already completely prepped, but I don’t like their tendency to dry out if you accidentally overcook them (especially since I am paranoid about under-cooking chicken!). And even if you do cook them perfectly, they are still fairly “blah” on the spectrum of tastiness of chicken.
Oven roasted chicken thighs are the perfect bridge between the two. They’re tasty and cheap, AND they’re so easy to prep. And, if you take the skin off after cooking them, you can drastically reduce the fat content (even though, since they are dark meat, they will still have more fat than chicken breasts). Of course, if you discard the skin, you will not experience the euphoria that comes with eating the crispy, salty, crunchy skin of perfectly roasted chicken. If you’re not scared of fat, definitely eat the skin! But if you are trying to cut back, don’t. Or just have a bite or two :-)
The latest issue of Cooking Light had an excellent article about cooking with fats. If you are up on the latest food trends, you probably already know that fat is not as demonized as it once was- on the contrary, it is now known as an essential, healthy addition to your diet. In the article, they performed multiple experiments while cooking with fat, including roasting chicken with the skin on vs. the skin off. They found that the chicken roasted with the skin on, and then removed, actually had less fat than roasting with the skin off! That’s because the fat seeps into the skin while cooking, and the skin protects the meat and keeps the juices in, making it moist without the need for fat. Fascinating!
On Saturday night, I roasted eight chicken thighs (cost: approximately $8). Zach and I each ate one for dinner that night (skin ON- delicious!) with a side of mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, and mushroom gravy made from the drippings. (We got our fancy pants on. I’ll post about the gravy soon. Promise.). I removed the skin from the rest of the thighs and (with a single tear) discarded it in the trash (it’s not very good leftover, anyway). I took the meat off the bones (the bones can be used in your next homemade chicken stock- just freeze until you are ready) and used it for TWO meals for the rest of the week, including a DELICIOUS sweet potato and chicken stew that Zach made. Talk about a lot of bang for your buck!
I recommend using a sturdy aluminum half baker’s sheet to make this. I have this one by Nordic Ware($10-15) and I love it. Actually, I have two! Things don’t stick to it, and it’s thick so it doesn’t buckle in the oven when it heats up (which can be scary!). It’s great for cookies, roasted veggies, and other baked dishes as well.
Recipe below! Feel free to cut the portions in half if you want.
Crispy Oven Roasted Chicken Thighs with Lemon, Butter, and Thyme
- Mix the melted butter (4 tablespoons), fresh thyme (2 tablespoons), garlic powder (1 teaspoon), lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
- Spread the butter mixture on both sides of the chicken thighs and carefully under the skin, making sure to pull the skin back over the chicken and being careful not to tear it.
- Place the chicken skin side up on a half baker's sheet and roast at 350 degrees F for one hour.
- If the skin is not browned or as crispy as you desire, broil on high for a few minutes after the hour is up (being careful not to burn it!).
- Remove chicken from pan and allow to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.
- For an extra lemony flavor, squeeze the juice from the lemon on top of the chicken after it's finished baking.
- The provided nutrition information does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. Feel free to calculate it yourself using this calculator or by adding the recipe to Yummly.