Why You Should Avoid Cooking Chicken Thighs With High Heat

We love just about every delicious part of the chicken. Breast, legs, drumsticks, and all the rest are great options to work with for a wide variety of recipes. It's one of the reasons that chicken is the most popular meat in America according to the USDA.

One part of the chicken that doesn't always get the same love is the chicken thigh. Foodiosity says that most consumers tend to buy chicken breasts over thighs because they take longer to cook, and the thigh is considered dark meat. Slate also notes that in the days before factory farming, the legs of chickens tended to be tougher than other parts, and so consumers preferred the more naturally tender chicken breast. This common wisdom likely trickled down through the ages despite the move away from free-range chicken farming. However, being dark meat also means that the thigh is one of the most flavorful parts of the bird. Dark meat tends to be juicier as well.

That misguided distaste also means that thighs are generally the cheaper option. While chicken prices skyrocketed in September 2021, for the most part, this cut of meat tends to stay well closer to $1.30 per pound as per the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Low heat produces more tender chicken thighs

While chicken thighs are pretty versatile pieces of meat to cook with, it's best to avoid using high, intense heat. According to Allrecipes, the skin on chicken thighs browns relatively easily. That means that cooking it at a high temperature can result in a quickly burnt exterior while the interior remains uncooked. Instead, it recommends cooking the thighs without preheating the pan. Simply add the chicken to the pan, turn the stove to medium-low, and let the thighs slowly fry in their own fat while the skin turns a delicious golden brown.

America's Test Kitchen also notes that dark meat like chicken thighs tends to have more connective tissue and collagen as well. While this might seem off-putting at first, it means that the longer and slower it's cooked, the more tender it becomes. America's Test Kitchen says to keep the internal temperature between 140 and 195 degrees Fahrenheit for as long as possible while cooking to let the meat gently break down. Braising the thighs or cooking them slowly over indirect heat are some of the best options to achieve perfectly tender chicken thighs every time. This method will also help minimize grill flare-ups as well as the fat renders and drips off of the meat (via ​​Pinch and Swirl).

While these methods might take a little longer than some other options, they'll produce a premium flavor, and at a lower price.