Lemon Chicken Thighs

A robust, rich dinner that's big on flavor and low on effort.

Lemon Chicken Thighs
Photo: Photographer: Alison Miksch / Food Stylist: Melissa Gray / Prop Stylist: Christina Brockman
Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
35 mins
Servings:
4

Chicken thighs are so versatile that it's no wonder they're utilized in so many mouth-watering recipes, including this easy weeknight dinner recipe. Using bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs ensures maximum flavor with the crispy skin providing a great, fatty contrast to the buttery lemon sauce, which adds punch and pizazz right down to the last bread-sopped drop.

Ingredients For Lemon Chicken Thighs

In addition to the chicken—four, six-ounce thighs—you don't need much to pull off this tasty meal. Salt, pepper, and olive oil do their part to season and kick off this dish, and fresh lemon juice along with fresh thyme (though dried is ok if that's what you're working with) and garlic are also all right at home here.

The recipe calls for half a cup of chicken stock, and if you have homemade stock in your freezer, this is a great use for it, though the store-bought variety is fine too.

lemon slices in skillet
Photographer: Alison Miksch / Food Stylist: Melissa Gray / Prop Stylist: Christina Brockman

How To Get Crispy Chicken Skin Every Time

Delicious, crispy chicken skin is one of the best parts of this recipe, with the lemon, garlic, and butter sauce being a close second. In order to ensure crispy skin, there are a couple of key steps to follow.

First, dry all chicken pieces thoroughly with a paper towel before rubbing the thighs with olive oil and seasoning the front and backs of the thighs with salt and pepper. If you have extra time—an hour is great, but even 30 minutes is beneficial—store chicken in the refrigerator uncovered prior to seasoning as this will help dehydrate the skin. Dehydrated skin equals crispy skin equals delectable skin. You could also leave it overnight in the fridge if you're planning ahead, but it's not essential for crispy results.

chicken thighs seared in skillet
Photographer: Alison Miksch / Food Stylist: Melissa Gray / Prop Stylist: Christina Brockman

What is essential for crispy skin is a high heat. Sear the chicken thighs, skin side down, until they're nice and crisp. Expect this step to take about 8 to 10 minutes, and if you can manage it, try not to disturb the chicken as it sears, taking care to adjust the heat if it's too hot or not hot enough. (Hint: no sizzle when you place the skin-side down means your pre-heated pan wasn't ready yet.)

Remember that the outer part of the skin gets crispy before the part of the skin closest to the meat is able to render its fat and crisp up typically, so try to be patient as the layer of skin renders down.

Serving Suggestions For Lemon Chicken Thighs

There are myriad options for serving these lemon chicken thighs, but the classic chicken and rice is always a good bet. Use the extra sauce to drizzle over both the chicken and the rice, and call it dinner.

Or if you're more of a mashed potato person, these thighs will be right at home with some buttery spuds—plus that lemon, garlic, butter sauce.

You could also make a pasta dish out of this, though this will require a little extra work in pulling the slightly cooled chicken from the bone before tossing it with your freshly cooked pasta. A leafy green salad, roasted asparagus, or steamed broccoli would also pair nicely with the chicken.

Why We Love This Lemon Chicken Thigh Recipe

We love the flavor you get from bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. Even if you don't enjoy eating the skin, it's important to cook the chicken according to the recipe's directions and toss (or give to another family member) the skin before eating it. The reason for this is simple: The skin on a chicken thigh acts like a sponge, ready to release mouthwatering juices directly into the chicken meat it sits atop as it cooks. Plus, the skin helps the chicken retain its moisture, and there's little worse than dry chicken, which not even this sauce can save.

More flavor comes from the sauce, which, as far as sauces go, couldn't be easier to master. This recipe is also a winner in our books thanks to its light clean up. After the chicken has seared, the same pan is used to make the sauce—no wiping clean necessary.

Editorial contributions by Stacey Lastoe.

Ingredients

  • 4 (6-oz.) bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed

  • 1 ¼ tsp. kosher salt

  • ½ tsp. black pepper

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil

  • 1 (4-oz.) lemon, sliced into 1/4-in.-thick rounds

  • 2 tsp. minced garlic (from 2 large garlic cloves)

  • ½ cup chicken stock

  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

  • 3 (4-in.) thyme sprigs, plus leaves for garnish

  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high. Place chicken, skin side down, in hot oil. Cook, undisturbed, until skin is deep golden-brown and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer browned chicken, skin side up, to a large plate. Reduce heat to medium. Do not wipe skillet clean.

  2. Add lemon slices to drippings in skillet; cook over medium, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes, flipping halfway through cook time. Transfer lemons to a small plate. Do not wipe skillet clean.

  3. Add garlic to skillet; cook over medium, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken stock and lemon juice to skillet; stir bottom of skillet to scrape up and loosen any browned bits. Add thyme sprigs and browned chicken, skin side up, to skillet.

  4. Transfer skillet to preheated oven. Cook until thermometer inserted into thickest portion of chicken thigh registers 165°F, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and immediately add butter to skillet. Stir with a wooden spoon or swirl the skillet until butter is fully melted and emulsified, 1 to 2 minutes. Return lemon slices to skillet. Garnish with thyme leaves, and serve.

Updated by
Stacey Lastoe
Stacey Lastoe

Stacey Lastoe is a former senior editor for CNN Travel with an Emmy for her work. Now a freelancer, her work can be found in Allrecipes, Refinery29, American Way, The Kitchn, Fodor's, and Wine Enthusiast. Stacey lives with her husband and dog in New York.

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