The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

October 5, 2012

Versatile and cheap, thighs are a chicken's best feature

By Dave Lobeck
CNHI News Service

— If you read my column frequently, you know how much I love chicken thighs. They can be smoked, grilled or broiled. They can be made to taste like oversized Buffalo wings for a football game, or they can be dressed up to carry their weight as a fine dining main course.

And they are reasonably priced. This past week I bought four pounds of bone-in chicken thighs for $3.56. Yes, you read that correctly. You'll spend almost as much for a hot dog and chips at your local gas station.

So to say there is real value in chicken thighs in these tough economic times is like saying it hurts to fill up your gas tank.

Plus, chicken thighs are difficult to mess up.

Long considered the premium cut of the chicken, the breast can be temperamental, especially on the grill. In Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned competitions, the breast was the meat used for years in the chicken category. (The official categories are chicken, ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket.) Now, the cut of choice is the thigh.

Not only does the thigh have a richer flavor, it is a moister cut with a larger margin of error. With the breast, there is about a two-minute window between perfectly done and dry and leathery.

Today's recipe is simple. And while I prefer it on a real charcoal grill, it is easily made on a gas grill, as well.

If you are using a kettle grill, set up the grill with indirect heat, which means piling 30 or so lit briquettes on one side of the grill. For a smoky flavor, sprinkle the coals with wood chips; any type will work. If you are doing gas, preheat the grill be lighting two or three of your burners, leaving an area of the grill without direct heat. We want the grill temperature to be 325 to 350 degrees.

Make sure you buy bone-in thighs with the skin included. Wash the thighs well and pat dry. Now peel back the skin on each, but leave a portion of the skin attached. You want each thigh to resemble an opened book.

Sprinkle the exposed meat with salt and pepper, or better yet, your favorite poultry seasoning.

Cut a lemon into slices approximately 1/8th of an inch thick. Then cut each piece in half. You'll end up with a bunch of “half moon” pieces of lemon.

Take a pice of lemon and place it directly on the flesh, then “close the book,” by simply laying the skin over the lemon. If you plan on eating the skin, lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper, as well. (You can at least have a bite, can't you?)

Place the thighs on the portion of the grill that does not have a fire directly under it, and close the lid. Allow to cook for 30 minutes or so, or until the internal temperature of the thighs reach 160 degrees.

If you are careful, you can place the thighs over the flame toward the end to give the skin a little crispness. But be careful, as you will probably have some flaming.

Bring in, allow to rest for a few minutes, then serve. Warn your guests that they will need to remove the lemon peel before eating, as the pulp will have disappeared into the meat.

Smoky, moist and lemony. We accompanied with acorn squash and steamed broccoli for a fantastic autumn meal.

Enjoy! Drop me an email and let me know how it turns out!


Dave Lobeck, of Sellersburg, Ind., is a financial advisor, barbecue chef and Kansas City Barbecue Society judge. He writes a column for CNHI News Service. Visit his website at