Anybody who eats chicken will tell you how much they enjoy a boneless, skinless thigh piece. Juicy, tender, and well suited to everything from flash-frying to slow braising, they’re the perfect cut for just about any recipe. Given this is common knowledge now, what once used to be a budget-friendly hack is no longer the cheap meal we eagerly go to the grocery stores for.
This is why I’m a big fan of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, which are slightly less convenient — but far more affordable. They’re rich and fatty like a great chicken wing, yet meaty and substantial enough to be a meal on their own. Bone-in thighs also happen to be the ideal introduction to breaking down meat yourself, a skill that not enough people even think to develop. With a modicum of effort, choosing bone-in over boneless gets you twice the chicken for half the money.
I cannot stress enough how easy it is to de-bone a chicken thigh. There is exactly one bone. To remove it, trace its edges with the tip of your knife and pull it out. That’s it.
If you like, you can also remove the skin (it peels right off) and reserve it for another use, like schmaltz—or, as the chef in this YouTube video suggests, grilled chicken skin skewers with sea salt. (Yes, please.) In just a few minutes, you’ll have a pile of deboned thigh meat plus all the skin and bones you need to make a fantastic pot of stock.
Perhaps you’d rather avoid any amount of amateur butchery, which is a valid preference. Bone-in thighs are still the move, especially for all the braises you’re planning for the season ahead. Start them skin side-down in a cold pan, turn the heat to medium, and cook undisturbed for 15-20 minutes until crispy and deep brown. Then, even if the recipe says otherwise, peel off and reserve the skin before continuing with the rest of the recipe.
Besides the obvious golden brown crispy goodness, there are a few benefits to this technique. Peeling the skin off early limits the amount of chicken fat in the finished dish and lets you avoid picking slippery skin off a boiling-hot piece of meat later. But more importantly, pre-crisped skin makes the richest, deepest stock you’ve ever had with no additional effort. That’s reason enough for me—especially during soup season.
This article has been updated since its original publication.