The Chicken Thigh Manifesto
I’ve tried to write this blog post many times before, but I always get stuck at the prose here. In the interest of actually writing this blog post, I’m going to skip it and get straight down to the good stuff. Maybe I’ll come back and write a story here. I probably will not.
The key idea of these thighs is that we want to end up with bulk pre-cooked chicken that can enjoyed by itself or as an ingredient to other meals. For this, we have a few desirable qualities:
Tenderness: If we want thighs that can be re-cooked, they must be relatively tender after their first cook.
We’ll achieve this by using thighs (high fat content) and by using an instant pot (locks in moisture).
Base flavor: We want the thighs to have a flavor that will make them appealing to eat alone but will not overpower dishes.
Our garlic soy sauce will provide a subtle but helpful flavor boost to cut some of the “chicken taste” out of the thighs.
Manageability: I only want to cook chicken 1-2 times a week. I should be able to make 8+ chicken thighs at once.
The instant pot is a one-size-fits-all tool for doing exactly this.
Healthy: If I’m going to eat these almost every day, they better not kill me.
While chicken thighs aren’t as lowfat as breasts, they’re still pretty good for you, and we aren’t adding anything too egregious to them. If you’re watching calories or want to pump your protein consumption, you can switch to breasts at the expense of initial tenderness and recookability.
Ingredients & Recipe
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1 cup orange juice
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Misc. italian herbs (oregano, basil, etc)
- Chicken Thighs
Mince garlic and add all marinade ingredients to mixing bowl. The measurements on this are very inexact, so taste and test different combinations yourself! Just taste and adjust until you like it.
Steps below are optional but highly recommended
Dry thighs with a paper towel and season all sides with salt and pepper
Heat large pan on high heat with a neutral oil like canola until the oil is almost smoking.
Cast-iron or carbon steel are best here for their heat retention, but nonstick is perfectly fine.
Cook thighs until they develop a hard sear.
The texture from this sear is what will give the thighs texture, so don’t skimp on this if you want to eat these solo!
Remove thighs, taking care to not remove the sear.
If you’re in a nonstick, the thighs will come off with no problem, but if you’re in a cast iron or nonstick, use your heavy-duty tools to make sure the sear comes off with the chicken. The worst feeling is building a great sear and it getting stuck to the pan.
Once your thighs are seared, they should look something like this (peep the marinade in the back):
If you’re looking to cook up some veggies for the week, the fond left in your searing pan will make for some amazing sautéed vegetables. Just cut up some veggies, throw them in with bit of olive oil, and wait for delicious veggies that go with any meal. I’ll usually do something like the following:
- Add olive oil with diced onions, sliced mushrooms, sliced celery
- Once onions are translucent, add sliced carrots and diced bell pepper
- Once carrots have softened up, add sliced garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste
Wait until everything’s combined and store for later use! I love this combination standalone or along with proteins like these chicken thighs.
Now that we’ve got thighs and marinade, add both to the instant pot and cook on high pressure for 3 minutes. If you didn’t sear the thighs, do 5 minutes instead.
I’ll typically put a thigh on rice, spoon some of the marinade from the pot over top and garnish with green onions. Here’s what it looks like! These are actually breasts, but the thighs will look similar.
If you cooked up vegetables earlier, this is a great time to reuse them. Add those veggies on top of the chicken + rice for a full meal.
Separate the thighs and marinade, and store them however you desire in your fridge. The thighs will keep for a little over a week, and the marinade will keep for a few weeks.
To reheat this meal, just throw a thigh + rice + a spoonful of marinade in a bowl. Pop it in the microwave for 1.5 minutes, and you’ve got a hot meal ready to go.
For a twist on an omelette, try an Oyakomelette! It adds a little body to an omelette to turn it from a light breakfast into a hearty lunch or dinner.
If you’re looking for a grilled chicken salad, just slice the thighs, sear them off in a pan, and follow my recipe (or don’t; it’s just a salad).
Finally, if you’re looking for a greasy late-night meal, make yourself a quesadilla. Fry up diced chicken in olive oil, combine with cheese and carmelized onions, pack the filling into a tortilla, sear in a pan, and you’re good to go. I have made more quesadillas with this stuff than I’d like to count, and they never disappoint.
Don’t let these ideas limit you, though! You can use these thighs wherever you would use chicken. I’ve made fried rice, tacos, sandwiches, and more with this stuff.
These thighs have served me very well, and I’m sure they’ll serve you as well. Just make sure to stay creative with it! These being pre-cooked gives you lots of extra creative time to explore whatever dishes you desire.