Oven-baked Buffalo chicken thighs are a weekday dinner dream. All you need are:
Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs; a cast iron pan; hot sauce; and a couple pantry items. No breading or frying. Read the whole article and learn how to correctly season and render skin-on chicken thighs to get the most delicious, crispiest Buffalo chicken thighs you’ve ever had. Too bad I can’t give a money back guarantee in an article, otherwise I would 😁
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
Freshly cracked black pepper
Garlic powder (optional)
How To Prepare Buffalo Chicken Thighs
Chicken thighs are by far the easiest to cook, juiciest to eat, and friendliest on the budget part of the incredibly versatile chicken. They’re even considered low-carb. When buying chicken thighs, I prefer bone-in, skin-on. The bone helps to cook the meat more evenly, and the skin, well, who doesn’t like crispy chicken skin.
When you take the chicken thighs out of the package, do not rinse them. It’s a misconception that rinsing poultry helps reduce the spread of harmful bacteria. It’s actually the opposite.
Any bacteria in and on the meat will be eliminated by cooking the chicken to an internal temperature of 160°F. Washing the chicken first will only splatter water droplets around the sink after hitting the chicken. Instead, all you need to do is pat them dry with a paper towel.
Depending on how well your butcher trims the thighs, you might or might not want to trim some of the extra skin on the side to remove some of this fatty (but delicious) part of the chicken. I think it’s a bit of a personal preference.
Mix the salt, pepper, and garlic powder (if using) in a small bowl.
Tip: To make the most out of the seasoning, lift the skin and sprinkle the seasoning directly on the meat below the skin. This way, you will flavor the meat and not the outside of the skin. The rest of the spice mixture goes on the skinless part of the thigh.
Get your cast iron frying pan ready. If it’s well seasoned and shiny, there’s no oil needed. If you haven’t used it in a couple of days, add a couple drops of neutral vegetable oil and rub it around the surface with a paper towel. You want a very thin coat. Too much oil will splatter once the pan gets hot.
Put the chicken thighs skin down into the cold pan and turn on the burner to medium. Yes, add the chicken thighs to the cold pan. First, nothing happens. After a couple of minutes, some of the skin’s fat will render and you’ll hear a slight sizzle. Be patient and you’ll achieve the crispiest chicken skin possible.
Tip: Make sure the thighs don’t touch. Where food touches, the moisture will steam during the cooking process. Cook in batches if necessary.
Once the skin starts to crackle and pop, cook for about 6 minutes without moving the thighs. Did I mention preheating the oven to 425°F? Of course not, I forgot again.
After 6 minutes, you should be able to flip the thighs to skin side up. Just be careful. Sometimes, part of the skin may be stuck a little to the bottom of the pan and will rip off the whole skin. That’d be a shame. To avoid this, use a spatula to carefully separate them from the pan.
After you flip the thighs skin side up, place the cast iron pan directly on the center rack of the preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes.
Remove the pan and use a digital meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature reaches at least 160°F at the thickest part (without touching the bone). If it’s over 160°F, no worries. Unlike a perfectly cooked steak with an internal temperature “allowance” of only a few degrees for the desired doneness, chicken thighs are extremely forgiving.
Buffalo Hot Sauce
Now we have perfectly cooked chicken thighs with the crispiest skin, ready for the sauce treatment. This part gets very personal. Everyone has their favorite hot sauce and I won’t argue against it. I’ve been growing hot peppers and making my own hot sauce for over ten years and still can’t decide. But whatever hot sauce you’re going to use (and there’s nothing wrong with using a well-known product like Frank’s Hot, because it is damn good), there’s one thing I highly recommend:
Melt some butter in a small saucepan, add your favorite hot sauce and paprika (if using), and stir.
Warm butter meeting crispy chicken skin is a perfect match. The butter also helps to thicken the sauce, which in turn will better adhere to the chicken. Win-win all the way.
For four chicken thighs, I mix 3 Tbsp butter with 3 Tbsp hot sauce and add 1/2 tsp paprika (optional).
Tip: Depending on the hot sauce you use (especially if it’s homemade!), you can make your own keto buffalo sauce this way!
And What Now?
Pour the sauce in a bowl, add the chicken thighs, and toss until every nook and cranny of the thigh is coated with the buttery hot sauce. Serve on a plate and spoon some extra sauce all over it.
Serve as-is or with your favorite side dish, like macaroni salad, and some paper napkins.
Yes, paper napkins. Even if you start eating them nice and proper with a fork and knife, that won’t last long. Before you know it, the thigh will be in your hands, your teeth hunting down the last morsel of meat still on the bone, and buttery hot sauce will be running down your face. You’d regret serving them with some lovely fabric napkins. And you know what else you’ll regret:
Only having made four chicken thighs for the two of you. Next time, I’ll make six thighs and skip the side dish….
Lodge cast iron skillet. I recommend using a cast iron skillet. Cast iron is oven safe, inexpensive, and will last forever when properly cared for. My everyday Lodge pan is 20 years old (young) and looks like a freshly oiled seal.
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Buffalo Chicken Thighs
- 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 3 Tbsp hot sauce
- 1/2 tsp paprika (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Mix the salt, pepper, and garlic powder (if using) in a small bowl.
- To make the most out of the seasoning, lift the skin and sprinkle the seasoning directly on the meat below the skin. This way, you will flavor the meat and not the outside of the skin. The rest of the spice mixture goes on the skinless part of the thigh.
- Put the chicken thighs skin down into the cold pan and turn on the burner to medium.
- Once the skin starts to crackle and pop, cook for about 6 minutes without moving the thighs.
- After 6 minutes, flip the thighs to skin side up.
- After you flip the thighs skin side up, place the cast iron pan directly on the center rack of the preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes.
- Remove the pan and use a digital meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature reaches at least 160°F at the thickest part (without touching the bone).
Buffalo Hot Sauce
- Melt some butter in a small saucepan, add your favorite hot sauce and paprika (if using), and stir.
- Pour the sauce in a bowl, add the chicken thighs, and toss until every nook and cranny of the thigh is coated with the buttery hot sauce.
- Serve on a plate and spoon some extra sauce all over it. Enjoy!
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