Perfectly Grilled Bone-In Chicken Thighs
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Perfectly grilled bone-in chicken thighs – tender and juicy in the middle, packed with flavor, and perfectly charred outside with the BEST homemade marinade! A quick and easy summer-time protein the entire family will love!
With summer finally here, I am sure you are ready to oil up those grills and plan your next cookout. Alongside burgers and hotdogs, well-grilled bone-in chicken thighs are one of my favorite proteins to grill (on a gas or coal BBQ). The meat has a slightly higher fat content than chicken breasts, making it juicier, more flavorful, and harder to overcook.
By pairing the meat with a delicious salty, sweet, acidic, umami-rich marinade, you’ll achieve grilled chicken perfection. Crispy skin and flavorful outside, juicy and tender inside, and perfectly cooked throughout.
Best of all, grilling chicken thighs with bones is a budget-friendly option that cooks in under 15 minutes. There’s no need for long direct-indirect cooking methods (that take up to 40 minutes!) to achieve super flavorful, tender, juicy results.
Grilled bone-in chicken thighs ingredients
- Chicken thighs: You’ll need bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs for this method. Having them be a similar size and thickness will help them cook more evenly.
- Chicken marinade: I used a super flavorful homemade marinade with ingredients including olive oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, honey, garlic, and black pepper. It really takes these grilled bone-in chicken thighs to the next level. Use an alternative marinade, though, if preferred.
Check out my recipe for grilling boneless skinless chicken thighs, if preferred.
Should I use a marinade or dry rub to grill bone-in chicken thighs?
Technically, you can use either. However, I am a big fan of a well-made marinade for grilled chicken.
A dry rub focuses on creating a crisp and super flavorful crust and takes just minutes to prepare. In comparison, a flavorful marinade made with oil and acid will infuse flavor more, will help tenderize the meat, and – most importantly for this high-heat cooking method – will lock in the juices and will create a thin barrier against the direct heat of the grill, for the most tender, juicy meat.
How to grill bone-in chicken thighs
If you haven’t already, first prep the homemade chicken thigh marinade. Then toss it with the chicken in either a large baking dish or a Ziplock bag.
Leave the chicken to marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes (at room temperature) up to 12 hours (in the refrigerator).
Be careful not to marinate it for longer. The acid in the marinade will begin to over-tenderize and break down the meat until it becomes mushy.
How long to grill bone-in chicken thighs?
When you’re ready to grill the chicken, first, bring it to room temperature for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the gas grill to medium-high heat (about 450ºF/230ºC) or prepare your charcoal grill. Liberally oil the grill grates.
Once ready, remove the marinated chicken thighs from the marinade. Shake off any excess, and place them in a single layer, skin-side down, onto the grill.
The grill time for bone-in chicken thighs is 10-14 minutes (over direct heat), depending on their size and thickness. Flip them once when the skin has turned brown and crispy (usually after 4-5 minutes).
How to tell if grilled bone-in chicken thighs are done?
The best way to check for doneness is to use a meat thermometer. Insert it on the thickest part of the meat (avoid touching bones) and check the internal temperature. It should read 155-160ºF/68-71ºC.
Chicken is safe to eat at 165ºF/74ºC. By removing it from the grill 5-10 degrees early, the residual heat will cook it the rest of the way while it rests to avoid dry chicken.
If you don’t have a thermometer, use a fork or the tip of a knife to pierce the thickest part of the meat. There should be no pinkness, and the juices should run clear.
Once you remove the chicken from the grill, let it rest, loosely tented with foil, for 5 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute and settle, then serve and enjoy!
Should I grill chicken thighs skin side down first?
Grilling chicken thighs skin side down first is the best method for achieving the most flavorful and juicy meat. Here’s why:
- The skin acts as a barrier to help seal in the meat’s natural juices and prevent them from evaporating/drying out too quickly while grilling.
- At the same time, some of the fat from the skin will drip onto the grill and create a flavorful smoke that actually helps to enhance the flavor of the meat.
- Grilling the chicken thighs skin-side down first will achieve the best grill marks.
Allow the chicken to cook until the skin is browned and crisp, then flip them over to continue cooking until the proper internal temperature (165ºF/74ºC) is reached.
Sides to serve with grilled chicken thighs
This delicious and versatile protein main will form endless varieties of meals. Some of my favorite side dishes are:
- Grilled vegetables: You can’t go wrong with buttery grilled corn on the cob, bell peppers, asparagus, zucchini, eggplant, cauliflower steaks, and/or tomatoes.
- Baked potato: From the oven or wrapped in foil over the grill.
- Grains: Make a more complete meal with white or brown rice, quinoa, etc.
- Pasta: A warm pasta dish or a pasta salad.
- Salad: Grilled chicken thighs pair well with a fully loaded salad, light leafy green salads, and options like Greek Salad, Spinach Strawberry Salad, or tomato salad.
- Side salads: Dishes like coleslaw and potato salad are grill-time favorites that complement grilled chicken thighs well.
- Baked beans: I might be taking inspiration from KFC here, but the sweet and savory flavor of baked beans (British, Boston, or BBQ style) is great with grilled chicken.
- Bread: i.e., a crusty loaf, cornbread, or fluffy dinner rolls (well buttered!).
More easy chicken recipes
- Oven-Baked Boneless Chicken Thighs
- Crispy Breaded Chicken Cutlets
- Easy Crock Pot Chicken Thighs
- Grilled Chicken Drumsticks
- Chicken Quarters
If you try this grilled bone-in chicken thighs recipe, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
Perfectly Grilled Bone-In Chicken Thighs
- 21 oz chicken thighs 5, I used bone-in, skin-on
For the Marinade
- 3 Tbsp soy sauce use regular or reduced-sodium; use tamari/coconut aminos if gluten-free
- 3 Tbsp honey or maple syrup/brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp olive oil or avocado oil
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil optional
- 1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp lemon zest from 1 lemon (or lime)
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice from 1/2 lemon (or lime)
- 4 cloves garlic minced or garlic powder
- ½ tsp black pepper
- If you haven't already, start by preparing the homemade chicken thigh marinade and tossing it with the chicken in either a large baking dish or a Ziplock bag.
- Leave the chicken to marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes (at room temperature) up to 12 hours (in the refrigerator).Be careful not to marinate it for longer, as the acid in the marinade can begin to over-tenderize and break down the meat until it becomes mushy.
How to grill the chicken thighs
- When you're ready to grill the chicken, first, bring it back to room temperature for 20-30 minutes while you preheat the grill to medium-high heat (about 450ºF/230ºC) or prepare the charcoal BBQ. Liberally oil the grates.
- Remove the marinated chicken thighs from the marinade, shaking off any excess, and place them in a single layer, skin-side down, onto the grill.
- Grill for about 10-14 minutes (when cooked constantly over direct heat), depending on their size and thickness, flipping them once when the skin has turned brown and crispy (usually after 4-5 minutes).
- Check for doneness. The best way to do so is to use a meat thermometer. Insert it in the thickest part of the meat (avoid touching bones) to check the internal temperature. It should read 155-160ºF/68-71ºC.Chicken is safe to eat at 165ºF/74ºC. By removing it from the grill 5-10 degrees early, the residual heat will cook it the rest of the way while it rests to avoid dry chicken.If you don’t have a thermometer, use a fork or the tip of a knife to pierce the thickest part of the meat. There should be no pinkness, and the juices should run clear if it’s fully cooked.
- Once you remove the chicken from the grill, let it rest, loosely tented with foil, for 5 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute and settle, then serve and enjoy!
- Use room temperature chicken: This will ensure the most even cooking.
- For the crispiest skin: Pat excess marinade from the meat with paper towels.
- Preheat and oil the grill: These steps are important to ensure the meat cooks in the best time to avoid the outside burning while the inside dries out and prevents sticking.
- For extra flavor: Keep some unused chicken marinade to one side to baste the meat in the last few minutes.
- The direct-indirect cooking method: Having tested my method against a direct-indirect heat method (which is meant to ensure a juicy middle and charred skin with no risk of burn), I have found that the results aren’t different enough to warrant so much additional cooking time when I have hungry friends and family waiting.
- In the fridge: In an airtight container for up to 4 days.
- In the freezer: In a freezer-safe container or Ziplock freezer bags for up to 3 months. Allow them to thaw in the fridge overnight before using or reheating.
- To reheat: My preferred method is to warm the chicken in an aluminum foil-covered baking dish in the oven at 350ºF/175ºC, adding a cup of chicken broth. However, a microwave will work for smaller amounts, though the risk of it drying is higher.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.