Cast-iron chicken thighs cooked to perfection in a skillet, using only the stovetop. Juicy meat, crispy skin, minimum work, and ingredients. Ready in about half an hour.
Chicken thighs and a cast-iron skillet: a match made in heaven. What will you get? Incredibly crispy, golden skin and tender, juicy meat. So good and simple that you will make this recipe again and again.
A simple side dish to go with it – most anything would do - and dinner is served. Your whole family will love the cast-iron chicken thighs and probably ask for seconds.
And the best about this recipe?
- One-ingredient recipe (not counting a bit of oil, salt, and pepper).
- It’s more like a technique that every cook should master: cooking no-fuss, perfectly crispy, and delicious cast-iron chicken thighs that can make dinner on their own or be integrated into other recipes.
- The crispy chicken thighs are ready in 25-30 minutes, perfect for a busy weeknight or a quick Sunday supper.
Check out more delicious thigh recipes: Baked BBQ Chicken Thighs, Teriyaki Chicken Thighs in the Oven, Peri-Peri Chicken, Sticky Honey Lime Chicken Thighs with Soy Sauce, Tender Pan-Fried Chicken Thighs, or Baked Chicken Thighs.
- Bone-in skin-on chicken thighs. They have the most flavor; the skin will get crispy and savory due to the spices, and you will love them!
- The portions I usually use weigh between 5.5 – 6.2 oz/150 g-175 g.
- Other ingredients: Vegetable oil, fine sea salt, ground black pepper, and, if you wish, some sweet ground paprika.
- However, the paprika is optional; the chicken thighs will taste just as delicious without it.
The paprika powder can also be replaced with other spices of your liking, for instance:
- Any spice mixture for chicken you like.
- Different kinds of ground paprika: hot, sweet smoked, or hot smoked.
- Curry powder of your liking, chili powder, Cajun, or Italian seasoning.
- You can also add some garlic powder to any of those other spices.
- Don't use chopped fresh garlic or fresh herbs to spice the chicken; they will burn during the relatively long frying process.
- You can add two large garlic cloves and some rosemary sprigs to the pan and think about turning them regularly. Then, remove them from the skillet if they start turning too dark.
- This recipe is perfect for a large cast-iron skillet with a diameter of 12 inches/30 cm (Amazon affiliate link).
- However, the recipe will also work in a heavy nonstick skillet.
Technique for cooking chicken thighs in the cast-iron skillet
- Dry the pieces with paper towels before rubbing them with the spices (1). Season with spices all over (2).
- Place the skillet on the stovetop and let it get really hot (but not smoking).
- Add a little bit of oil and place the parts in the hot skillet, skin side down. Turn the heat down to medium-low heat.
How long does it take to cook chicken thighs in the skillet?
- Cook on the skin side for 10 to 12 minutes or until the skin is deeply golden (3).
- Wait to move the pieces in the pan for the first 5 minutes or so, or you might break the skin. Then, once the fat has been rendered correctly, you can move them around as you wish.
- Move the thighs and the skillet around a few times to ensure that all the pieces cook evenly.
- Check in between; if the color turns too dark too quickly, lower the temperature. After 9-10 minutes, check the color of the skin; the cast-iron chicken thighs should be deeply golden (4).
- Flip and continue cooking for another 15 minutes, moving the skillet and the pieces a few times in between.
- Check the internal temperature of the cast-iron skillet chicken thighs with a meat thermometer; it should be 74-77 degrees Celsius/ 165-170 degrees Fahrenheit (Amazon affiliate link).
- If you don't have a thermometer, cut with a small sharp knife near the bone, the meat should be thoroughly cooked through with no signs of red or pink.
- If the portions are larger, you should increase the cooking time and recheck every few minutes.
- Please don’t wash the chicken; the bacteria will not be destroyed, which will only happen during the cooking process. The only thing you will “achieve” when washing poultry is to transfer some of those bacteria onto your sink.
- Don't overcrowd the pan; the skin will not render nicely. I can fit 5 large or 6 smaller thighs into my 30 cm/12-inch skillet.
- Turn the skillet on the stove once or twice during cooking. My experience is that the skillet might get unevenly hot, and you will get darker skin on one side of the skillet if you don't move the skillet or the meat around.
- Another issue when using a gas stove top is that the flame might burn stronger on one side, that is the case with my own, so I always must think about turning the pan around.
- Use a splatter guard; the fat rendering process will create a fair amount of splatter (Amazon affiliate link).
Pat the chicken parts dry with a paper towel before seasoning them.
Ensure that the skillet is really hot before adding the oil and the meat.
Don’t move the parts in the pan for the first 5 minutes of the cooking time, or the chicken skin might stick to the pan and tear. Once the fat has been rendered and the skin crisps, moving the thighs in the pan will be very easy.
No, if you cover the skillet with a lid or aluminum foil, the meat will steam, and the skin will become soft instead of crispy.
Sure, but you will have to adjust the cooking time. Cook them on each side for about 5-6 minutes and check the internal temperature. If they’re not done yet, cook them for a couple more minutes and check again.
Refrigerate the cooled cast-iron chicken thighs in an airtight container for 3-4 days. You can serve the leftovers cold or reheat them in the preheated oven at 400°F/200°C for 12-15 minutes or until heated through.
Freeze the skillet thighs in an airtight container or freezer bag for about 2 months. Defrost in the refrigerator and reheat before serving.
The skin will not be crispy anymore after freezing, but you can put the parts under the broiler for a couple of minutes before serving to refresh the skin.
How to serve?
Pretty much anything you feel like eating would go well with these cast-iron chicken thighs recipe!
- Try those golden potato cubes you can see in the picture: cube the potatoes, mix them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and other spices or dried herbs to taste, and roast at 400°F/200°C until cooked through about 30 minutes.
- Try roasted Sweet Chili Dip and Potato Wedges, Confit Potatoes, Smashed Potatoes, Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes, and Sliced Sweet Potatoes.
- Rice with Tomatoes, Zucchini and Carrots, BBQ Rice, Simple Buttered Rice with Garlic, or Garlic Butter Noodles with Parmesan would also be great.
- Make a simple salad with Yogurt Dressing or Raspberry Vinaigrette, Simple White Cabbage Salad or German Coleslaw, Roasted Whole Carrots, Fiesta Corn Salad, and so on.
More cast-iron chicken recipes
Crispy Cast-Iron Chicken Thighs
- Large cast-iron skillet 12-inch/30 cm diameter
- 4-6 chicken thighs bone-in bone-in skin-on, about 5.5 – 6.2 oz each/ 150 g-175 g
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- fine sea salt
- black ground pepper
- sweet paprika powder optional, Note 1
- 2-3 garlic cloves and 2-3 sprigs rosemary optional, Note 2
- Heat a large cast-iron skillet (Note 3).
- Season chicken thighs: Dry the chicken parts with paper towels and rub them with the spices on both sides.
- Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and swirl the skillet around to cover its bottom with oil. Slowly add the chicken thighs to the pan, skin side down. Don't overcrowd the pan. Turn the heat down to medium-low.
- Turn the skillet on the stove once or twice during cooking; the skillet might get unevenly hot. If you use a gas stove top, move the skillet around a few times, as the flame often burns stronger on one side.
- Cook on the skin side for 10 to 12 minutes or until the skin is deeply golden. Wait to move the chicken in the pan for the first 5 minutes, or you might break the skin. Once the fat has been rendered, you can move the thighs around as you wish.
- Move the chicken and the skillet around a few times to ensure that all the pieces cook evenly. Adjust the temperature if the skin turns too dark too quickly.
- After 9-10 minutes, check the color of the skin; it should be deeply golden.
- Flip the chicken and continue cooking for another 15 minutes, moving the skillet and the meat a few times in between.
- Check if the chicken is cooked through with a meat thermometer(Amazon affiliate link); the internal temperature should be 165-170°F/74-77°C (Note 4). If the chicken thighs are on the larger side, you might need to increase the cooking time slightly. Give them 2-4 more minutes and check again.
- Spices: The sweet paprika is optional. You can also replace it with other spices, like spice mixtures for chicken, different sorts of paprika powder, curry powder, and so on.
- If using garlic cloves and fresh rosemary, remember to turn them around in the pan and remove them if they turn too dark.
- Using a splatter guard is recommendable. Don't cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil, or the chicken will steam, and the skin will become soggy.
- If you don't have a meat thermometer, cut with a small sharp knife near the bone, the meat should be thoroughly cooked through, with no signs of red or pink.