Even the most well seasoned and cooked chicken can be bland and dry, but these dry brined chicken thighs are juicy and flavorful every time.
Back in the seventies and eighties, a funny thing happened to the American food landscape. Fat – saturated fat, to be more specific – got vilified. This turned us from a nation full of red meat, baked potato dripping with butter-eating, ice cream cone licking food lovers to a nation of people who were scared of anything that had more than a couple of grams of fat in it. We started dressing our baked potatoes with margarine (which, because of its trans fats, we now know is much worse for us than butter ever was). We decided to forego the juicy ribeyes for boneless, skinless chicken breasts; we followed up our meals with low-fat frozen yogurt, which, I don’t care how much you like frozen yogurt, is not a substitute for ice cream. For the record, though, I don’t even like frozen yogurt a little bit, unless it’s the white chocolate mousse from TCBY, which disappeared from the Chattanooga area when I was in college.
Even before the renaissance of saturated fat in the last ten years or so, when some health experts have started to say that it may not be as bad as once believed and coconut oil, avocados, butter, and whole milk have all made a comeback, I was suspicious of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Unless they were fried into a nugget or a strip, they were generally too dry or bland for me. I never understood my friends who scoffed at red meat (give me a steak over a piece of chicken any day, thank you) or chicken served on the bone, which is infinitely juicier and more flavorful than its boneless counterparts.
Sometimes, though, you just don’t want to deal with bones in your chicken. It takes much longer to cook, for one thing, and it’s definitely more difficult to eat. A few years back, I discovered that chicken thighs were far superior to chicken breasts. I’ve been using them in just about every application that calls for boneless, skinless chicken breasts ever since.
Still, I found that my chicken was missing something. Even though the higher fat content made the chicken thighs tastier than breasts, I was never completely satisfied. I started experimenting with making my chicken perfect – perfectly juicy, perfectly flavorful, perfectly tender, perfectly browned. Traditional brining (allowing the chicken to sit in salt water for a few hours) prevented the delicious brown crust that I wanted. Then I discovered dry brining, which is the practice of sprinkling salt on the chicken and letting it rest. The salt permeates the chicken and helps it to retain some of its moisture while also flavoring it.
Dry brined chicken thighs are pretty much a revelation. I’ve made them three times in the last two weeks, and plan to make them at least twice next week. They’re the perfect basis for any recipe that contains chicken. I promise you that if a recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken breasts, you will never regret using dry brined chicken thighs in their place.
They’re also infinitely dippable, which makes me very happy because I am a dipping sauce fanatic. So far I’ve dipped them in Japanese white sauce, Alabama white barbecue sauce (pictured here), and a basil aioli that I will be featuring in a recipe next week. I am quite certain they would be delicious with a barbecue sauce, Chick-Fil-A style sauce, or honey mustard. The technique for these dry brined chicken thighs was inspired by America’s Test Kitchen. However, I did not follow their directions; this is my own recipe. For other great recipes, check out the Weekend Potluck link-up on Served Up With Love!
If you are tired of dry chicken breasts, try my dry brined chicken thighs instead.
Have you ever checked out FaveSouthernRecipes.com? They’ve been a huge supporter of Chattavore, featuring many of my recipes over the years. I just wanted to give them a shout-out and encourage you to sign up for their newsletter, Everyday Southern Comfort.
Yield: 4 servings
1 hrTotal Time:
- 1 pound chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper
- Poke the chicken several times with a fork on each side. Sprinkle both sides evenly with the salt. Place on a plate, cover, and refrigerate for at least half an hour and up to two hours.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a 10-inch oven safe skillet (I use cast iron), preheat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.
- Season both sides of the chicken with black pepper. Place in the oil and cook for about 3 minutes on each side to brown. Place the pan in the oven and roast for about 15 minutes.
- If desired, shred or slice the chicken. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later use.
Prep time includes 30 minutes of inactive prep to allow the chicken to rest in the refrigerator.