Grilled chicken thighs are such a killer, underrated meal. They're super easy, quick, and utterly delicious.
The nostalgia factor for me is quite high here too. We used to go to baseball tournament fundraisers where the main part of the meal was grilled chicken. It was always ridiculously dry and overcooked, but we loved it anyway.
And I still do - but I promise these ones will be perfectly seasoned and perfectly cooked.
Grilled chicken thighs are amazing because they're juicy, flavorful, and easy to prepare. Plus, the bone-in, skin-on variety provides even more flavor and moisture to the meat, making them a go-to option for any barbecue or outdoor gathering.
Frequently Asked Questions
It depends on the size of the chicken thighs and the heat of your grill, but a general rule of thumb is to grill bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs for 6-8 minutes per side over medium-high heat, until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. In this recipe, mine took a bit longer, more like 10 minutes per side.
You don't have to, but marinating chicken thighs can add flavor and help keep them moist. Just be sure not to marinate them for too long, as the acid in the marinade can actually start to break down the meat and make it mushy.
The best way to know if chicken thighs are done grilling is to use a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, being careful not to touch the bone, and make sure the internal temperature has reached 165°F.
To keep chicken thighs from sticking to the grill, make sure your grill grates are clean and well-oiled before you start grilling. You can also brush a little oil or melted butter onto the chicken thighs themselves before placing them on the grill.
Yes, you can definitely grill boneless, skinless chicken thighs! Just be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly, as they will cook faster than bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs.
Why You're Going to Love This Recipe
- This grilled chicken thigh recipe is seriously bomb because the dry rub is loaded with tasty herbs and spices that make the meat so flavorful.
- The bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs give the chicken a crispy, juicy texture that'll have your taste buds doing a happy dance.
- This recipe is perfect for busy weeknights or weekend cookouts because it's super easy to make and requires minimal prep.
- You can totally make this recipe your own by adjusting the dry rub to your liking or serving it with your favorite sides.
- This chicken is versatile AF, so you can enjoy it with whatever you're craving - from grilled veggies to a big salad.
To Foil or Not to Foil
Using foil on the grill can help to keep the moisture in the chicken, but it's not always necessary. When grilling bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, the skin acts as a natural barrier to help keep the meat moist during cooking.
However, if you want to be extra cautious about moisture retention, you can try cooking the chicken on a sheet of foil. This can be especially helpful if you're using a charcoal grill where the heat can be more difficult to regulate.
To cook the chicken on foil, place a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil over the grill grates and lightly grease it with cooking spray or oil. Then, cook the chicken thighs on top of the foil as directed.
Just remember that cooking the chicken on foil may prevent the skin from getting as crispy as it would if it were directly on the grill grates. So if you prefer crispy skin, you may want to skip the foil and cook the chicken directly on the grill grates instead. (This is me. The crispier the skin, the better. But if you're grilling boneless, skinless, I would definitely use the foil method!).
What's in a Rub?
You can use whatever your favorite dry rub is for this recipe - here's the one I use. And I use it for super specific reasons!
This dry rub is the bomb because it's loaded with flavorful herbs and spices that perfectly complement the juicy and tender meat of the chicken. The combination of sweet brown sugar (more on that below), smoky paprika, pungent garlic and onion powder, earthy oregano, and thyme, and a dash of salt and pepper creates a mouthwatering blend that enhances the natural flavors of the chicken. It's super easy to make and gives your chicken an irresistible aroma and taste that will leave your taste buds wanting more.
The brown sugar in this dry rub recipe serves a few purposes. First, it adds a touch of sweetness that balances out the smoky and savory flavors of the other spices. Second, it helps to create a caramelized crust on the chicken as it cooks, which adds both texture and flavor. Finally, the sugar helps to tenderize the chicken meat by drawing out some of its natural juices and promoting caramelization.
Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs: Chicken thighs are a great choice for grilling because they have more flavor and moisture than chicken breasts, and the bone and skin help to keep the meat tender and juicy.
Brown sugar: Brown sugar adds sweetness and helps to create a caramelized crust on the chicken.
Smoked paprika: Smoked paprika adds a smoky flavor that complements the sweetness of the brown sugar and enhances the natural flavor of the chicken.
Garlic powder: Garlic powder adds a pungent and savory flavor that works well with the other spices and herbs.
Onion powder: Onion powder adds a sweet and earthy flavor that pairs well with the garlic and other spices.
Oregano: Oregano adds an earthy and slightly bitter flavor that helps to balance out the sweetness of the brown sugar.
Thyme: Thyme adds an herby and slightly minty flavor that works well with the other herbs and spices.
Kosher salt: Kosher salt helps to bring out the flavors of the other ingredients and adds seasoning to the chicken.
Black pepper: Black pepper adds a spicy and slightly floral flavor that complements the other herbs and spices.
Olive oil: Olive oil helps to coat the chicken and make it moist and tender, and also helps the dry rub to stick to the chicken.
How to Grill Chicken Thighs
First, fire up the grill and preheat it to medium-high heat (don't go higher than this; otherwise, the chicken will burn. Trust me on this one - with the brown sugar in the rub, it can happen quickly). Give the grill a good cleaning while you're waiting for it to heat up so your chicken doesn't stick to the grates.
While the grill is heating up, you can prepare your thighs. Remove them from the packaging and pat them dry with a paper towel.
Time to make the rub - combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and mix them together until they're well blended. That's it! You're now ready to use the rub to season your chicken before grilling it up.
Now it's time to season. Use your hands to rub a generous amount of the dry rub all over each chicken thigh, making sure to get it under the skin and into any crevices. If you have time, you can let the chicken marinate in the dry rub for an hour or so to let the flavors really sink in.
Once the grill is hot, place them on the grill, skin-side down, and let them cook for about 6-8 minutes. You'll know they're ready to flip when the skin is crispy and golden brown.
Flip the chicken thighs over and let them cook for another 6-8 minutes on the other side, until they're cooked through and the internal temperature reaches 165°F. You can use a meat thermometer to check the temperature, or you can cut into the thickest part of the chicken to make sure it's cooked all the way through. Highly recommend the meat thermometer though.
Once the chicken is cooked, take it off the grill and let it rest for a few minutes before serving. This will help to keep the juices inside and make the chicken even more delicious.
That's it; you're done!
What to Serve Them With
Corn on the cob: Grilled corn on the cob is a classic summertime side dish that pairs perfectly with grilled chicken. Serve it with some butter and a sprinkle of salt and pepper for a simple and delicious side.
Grilled vegetables: Grilled veggies like zucchini, peppers, and eggplant make a colorful and healthy addition to your meal. Toss them in a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper before grilling.
Potato salad: Creamy and tangy potato salad is a classic side dish that's always a crowd-pleaser. Try making it with red potatoes for a pop of color.
Caprese Salad: Caprese salad is the height of summer eating, in my opinion. Fresh, ripe tomatoes, basil, and gorgeous mozzarella would pair so well with the smoky flavor of the chicken.
Warm Zucchini Salad: This is one of my all-time favorite warm-weather salads. The zucchini is just grilled to get warm, and the parmesan and lemon bring everything together.
Pasta al Pesto: There's nothing quite like this fresh and summery side dish. If you're looking for something a little different, it would pair perfectly!
Chardonnay: A full-bodied Chardonnay with notes of oak and vanilla pairs well with the smoky flavors of grilled chicken. Look for a California or Australian Chardonnay for the perfect pairing.
Pinot Noir: A light-bodied Pinot Noir with flavors of cherry and raspberry is a great choice for those who prefer red wine. It pairs well with the sweet and savory flavors of the brown sugar in the dry rub. Pinot Noir is also a classic choice for chicken.
Rosé: A dry rosé with notes of strawberry and watermelon is a refreshing choice that pairs well with the summery flavors of grilled chicken. Try a Provencal or Spanish rosé for a light and crisp pairing.
Sauvignon Blanc: A crisp and acidic Sauvignon Blanc with citrus and green apple notes is a great choice for cutting through the rich flavors of grilled chicken. Look for a New Zealand or Chilean Sauvignon Blanc for a zesty outing.
Zinfandel: A bold and spicy Zinfandel with flavors of blackberry and black pepper is a great choice for those who prefer a full-bodied red. It pairs well with the bold flavors in the dry rub.
Sparkling wine: A dry sparkling wine like Prosecco or Cava is a versatile choice that pairs well with a variety of flavors. Try serving it with your grilled chicken for a celebratory touch!
- Season the chicken ahead of time: Letting the chicken marinate in the dry rub for a few hours before grilling will allow the flavors to penetrate the meat and create a more flavorful dish.
- Start with a clean grill: Make sure your grill grates are clean and well-oiled to prevent the chicken from sticking.
- Use indirect heat: Chicken thighs can be fatty and prone to flare-ups, so it's best to cook them over indirect heat. This means placing the chicken on the cooler side of the grill, away from the direct flame. I highly recommend this - the first time I tried this recipe, I definitely burnt the crap out of the chicken. Keep an eye on the temperature, and don't be afraid to move it away from any flames!
- Don't flip too soon: Let the chicken thighs cook for a few minutes on one side before flipping them. This will allow the skin to crisp up and prevent the meat from sticking to the grill.
- Use a meat thermometer: To ensure that the chicken thighs are cooked through, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. The chicken is done when it reaches 165°F.
- Let the chicken rest: After grilling, let the chicken rest for a few minutes before slicing or serving. This will allow the juices to redistribute and create a more tender and juicy dish.
Storage and Reheating
Allow the chicken thighs to cool to room temperature, then transfer them to an airtight container or plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
- Oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Place the chicken thighs in a baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until heated through.
- Microwave: Place the chicken thighs on a microwave-safe plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes or until heated through.
- Grill: If you have leftover chicken thighs and want to reheat them on the grill, brush them with a bit of olive oil or butter and place them over medium heat for a few minutes on each side until heated through.
Remember that the key to reheating grilled chicken thighs is to do it slowly and gently so that the meat stays moist and doesn't dry out. And always ensure the chicken's internal temperature reaches 165°F before serving.
More Great Chicken Dishes
Grilled Chicken Thighs
- 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
- In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme, salt, and black pepper.
- Rub the chicken thighs with olive oil and then generously sprinkle the dry rub mixture over each thigh, making sure to coat all sides.
- Place the chicken thighs on the grill, skin-side down, and cook for 8-10 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. (See notes)
- Remove the chicken from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Hi, I'm Cara! I'm a food writer, journalist, and recipe developer. I'm obsessed good food, good wine, good cocktails and entertaining. I've picked up a few tips over the years, and love sharing them with others.