Don’t underestimate the power of grilled chicken. These Grilled Chicken Thighs are cooked over direct heat, finished with a quick sauce, and are tender and packed with flavor. Most importantly the steps and the ingredient list is super simple.
Check out our more comprehensive post on grilled chicken.
When it comes to grilled chicken, it is common to think chicken is bland or often overcooked. And that is something we want to address here. Chicken, especially good quality chicken, can be amazing on the grill. With a few key steps, you can master perfect chicken thighs on the grill and change the minds of your naysayer friends who think it’s boring.
So what’s the secret to perfectly grilled chicken thighs?
- Use a two zone method of cooking
- Don’t over cook it.
Selecting Chicken Thighs
We’re using bone-in chicken thighs with skin on. Grilling chicken thighs is much easier with the bone intact. When looking at the packaging, we try to select even sized thighs on the larger end so they can handle the heat.
Chicken Thighs are also what is commonly referred to as the “dark meat” of chicken. Dark meat is the muscle of the chicken that require a lot of movement and work, thus the reason for its density and texture. Unlike the breast, the dark meat has a little more texture to it. After being grilled, thighs are very tender and flavorful. It also tends to be a cheaper cut than breast, which is leaner. And you get slightly more meat with a chicken thigh compared to a leg or wing.
For all these reasons it is a great option when grilling chicken.
We’re using our standard poultry seasoning for these grilled chicken thighs. But use whatever favorite you have. The herbal flavors and lack of sugar are important to avoid burning the chicken over the direct heat. So if using a store purchased rub, be sure it has very little or no sugar (as too much sugar cooking over high heat can lead to burning).
The way to tell is look at the ingredient list on your dry rub. It should either be absent, or will be last on the list of ingredients. You can add sweetness later (in the form of a BBQ sauce).
Remove excess fat from the thighs. This is most commonly extra skin that is on the underside and on the extreme sides of the chicken. I like to refer to this as making a blanket for the thighs. By trimming off the excess fat, you avoid an unpleasant bite, and it minimizes the amount of fat dripping into the grill over direct heat (i.e. avoiding flare ups).
Coat the thighs with a small amount of olive oil and then liberally season them with the poultry rub. It’s that easy. You can do this right before you cook, or let the poultry dry brine overnight with the seasoning on it. If you do season for a few hours, be sure it stays covered in the refrigerator.
Steps To Grill Chicken Thighs
- Set up the grill for two zone cooking. This means charcoal on one side of the grill, and then no charcoal on the other. The target temperature under the charcoal will be 450 – 500 degrees F, while over indirect side it will be closer to 350 – 375.
- Start the chicken over the direct side after the charcoal is at the target temp and grill for 3 – 5 minutes or until you see a nice crust form. Flip the thighs and continue grilling for an additional 3 – 5 minutes until you see a nice crust on the chicken.
- Move the chicken to the indirect side, skin side up, close the grill and when the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 155 degrees F, glaze the tops of the chicken thighs with the BBQ sauce. We wait until 155 so we avoid the sauce from burning and to keep the texture and slight crispiness of the skin.
- Finish cooking until the chicken thighs reach an internal temperature of 165 – 170 degrees Fahrenheit. This should take an additional 8 – 12 minutes (depending on the size of your thighs). Then remove, glaze the thighs one more time and then let rest a few minutes before diving in.
How Long to Grill Chicken Thighs
Bone-in grilled chicken thighs should take roughly 14 – 20 minutes (total time), until the thighs reach 165 – 170 degrees Fahrenheit. While the USDA says the internal temperature of chicken (thighs) should reach 165 degrees for a safe temperature, thighs hold up to higher internal temperature and not drying out. At this range, the skin is still nice and the meat is very tender.
The important thing to remember is to continue grilling the chicken until the internal temperature is at least 165 degrees F. Use an instant read thermometer like the Thermoworks MK4 Thermapen for the most accurate and fast temperature reads. And be sure the end of the temperature probe is not touching the bone (if it touches the bone, it can read a little hotter than the surrounding meat).
You can use this chicken marinade prior to the seasoning. Add cayenne or other heat for adding some spice.
Other Great Grilled or Smoked Chicken Recipes
- Grilled Chicken Kabobs with Citrus Marinade
- Smoked Chicken Wings
- Apricot Glazed Grilled Chicken
- Grilled Wine Can Chicken
- Perfect Grilled Chicken
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