The Cutting Method Jacques Pépin Uses For Evenly Cooked Chicken Thighs

Want to master the art of cooking chicken thighs so they're always crispy on the outside and juicy in the middle? Then you may benefit from updating the way you're prepping your protein. According to a YouTube video featuring Jacques Pépin, the trick to making evenly cooked chicken thighs is to cut two long incisions along the underside of the chicken to expose the bone. This clever method opens out the meat so the thighs cook at a uniform rate and the skin develops into a crispy, golden shell.

Pépin begins by flipping over his chicken portions so their skin is flush with the cutting board. Then he uses a sharp knife to make two shallow cuts running vertically down each side of the bone. Finally, he uses the back of his knife to gently flay out the flesh where he's made the incisions. This move allows the sides of the chicken thighs to spread out more readily, much like a well-read book that's been opened on the middle page (imagine the bone is the spine).

While this method falls just short of fully butterflying chicken thighs, it equalizes the thickness of the portions, which helps them to cook at the same speed. The result is flawlessly juicy chicken with no overcooked, rubbery areas or undercooked pink spots. Pépin's technique also ensures the thighs can be laid flat on a pan so that every bit of their skin is in contact with the hot skillet.

Exposing the bone in chicken thighs elicits crispier skin

Due to its natural curvature, the entire surface of a bone-in chicken thigh can't touch the pan when it's baked or fried. However, making incisions along the bone flattens out its shape so the skin can lay flush against the skillet and develop a golden color and crispy texture. Jacques Pépin seasons his chicken with salt and pepper before using a cold searing technique to cook it through (the thighs are placed skin-side down on a cold pan before the heat is turned on to give the fat in the skin enough time to render out while the dark meat cooks through).

While entirely removing the bone from a cut of chicken is an awesome move to help it cook uniformly, keeping the bone intact has its perks. Firstly, the bone helps to insulate the meat surrounding it, resulting in a tender texture and delicious meaty juices. Secondly, it keeps the thighs together in neat little bundles, so they look appetizing when plated up alongside a simple salad or presented atop a comforting serving of mashed taters. Pépin's trick incorporates the best of both worlds because the bone stays exactly where it is while the flesh is flattened out.