Chicken thighs are a favorite cut of meat for grilling. They stay moist and flavorful when exposed to the high heat of the grill. But grilling bone-in chicken thighs can be tricky if you don’t get the cook time right. Undercook them and you risk unsafe undercooked poultry. Overcook them and you’ll end up with dry, rubbery meat.
So how long should you actually grill chicken thighs to achieve tender, juicy results every time? This guide has you covered on the best practices for grilling bone-in chicken thighs from start to finish. We’ll go over proper cooking times, the best test for doneness, flavoring ideas, grill preparation, and more tips for exceptionally delicious grilled chicken!
How Long to Grill Bone-In Chicken Thighs
- For medium-sized bone-in chicken thighs about 6-8 oz each, the target grilling time is about 25-35 minutes total.
- Shoot for about 15 minutes per side, with a quick flip halfway through.
- Smaller thighs may cook faster in 20-25 minutes while larger pieces can take up to 40 minutes.
These times are for grilling at medium heat around 350-450°F. The cooking duration can vary based on a few factors:
Size of the Thighs
Heftier thighs naturally require more time on the grill to cook through. Be sure to adjust times longer for larger cuts.
Temperature of the Grill
Cooking goes faster at higher heat. If grilling on high heat above 500°F, thighs may only need 12-15 minutes total.
Bone vs Boneless
Thighs with the bone still attached will take a little longer than boneless thighs. The bone partly shields the meat from direct heat.
Flipping more often cooks the thighs faster since heat contacts all sides. Flipping just once will extend the time slightly.
No matter the specifics, always rely on a thermometer for guaranteed safety and doneness.
Use a Thermometer for Guaranteed Doneness
While the times above provide a general guideline, the only sure way to know your chicken is fully cooked is to use an instant read thermometer.
Test the meat temperature in the thickest part of a thigh, taking care to avoid directly touching any bones. Chicken thighs are safely cooked and ready to eat once they reach:
- 165°F minimum for boneless thighs
- 170°F minimum for thighs with the bone still attached
At this point, the meat will be perfectly cooked with no pink color left. Waiting until it hits the USDA recommended 165°F-170°F is crucial for food safety and eliminating bacteria.
Tips for Flavorful, Juicy Grilled Chicken Thighs
Generously season under the skin
Lifting up the skin and rubbing seasoning directly onto the meat ensures fantastic flavor in every bite. Try dry rubs or wet marinades.
Partially cook then finish on the grill
Par-cooking in the oven or skillet before grilling helps avoid overcharring and locks in moisture.
Brine them first
Soaking thighs for 30-60 min in a saltwater brine seasons the meat and makes it super juicy.
Glaze the skin
Brush with sauce during the last 5-10 minutes. It caramelizes onto the skin for finger-licking flavor.
Don’t press down while grilling
Pressing squeezes out flavorful juices. Let the thighs cook untouched for best texture.
Rest before serving
Letting the thighs rest 5-10 minutes allows juices to redistribute internally for juicier meat. Dig in!
Step-By-Step Grilling Instructions
Here’s a simple start-to-finish overview for how to grill perfect bone-in chicken thighs:
1. Prep the thighs
- Trim off excess fat or skin
- Make slits and coat with marinade or dry seasoning
- Let marinate 30 min to overnight
- For extra flavor, brine 1 hour before marinating
2. Prep the grill
- Heat grill to medium-high, 350°F to 450°F
- Clean grill grates thoroughly
- Oil grates just before adding thighs
3. Grill the thighs
- Arrange thighs skin-side down on hot grill
- Grill for 15 minutes until nicely charred
- Flip and grill 15 more minutes until 165°F internal temperature
- Brush with glaze last 5 minutes if desired
4. Check for doneness
- Test temperature in thickest part with instant read thermometer
- Cook longer if needed until minimum 165°F (bone-in) or 170°F (boneless)
5. Finish and Serve
- Transfer thighs to a platter and let rest 5-10 minutes
- Serve warm with your favorite sides and enjoy!
Handy Tips for Grilling Chicken Thighs
Grilling up tender and juicy chicken thighs may take some practice but these tips make it foolproof:
- Opt for bone-in thighs – bones keep the meat moist
- Use indirect heat if grill doesn’t have a lid – no charring
- Invest in a good digital meat thermometer
- Resist the urge to poke, flip, or press the meat while cooking
- Brine for a super moist & flavorful outcome
- Apply sauces at the very end to prevent burning
- Arrange thighs at least 1-inch apart for even cooking
- Mix up marinades and rubs for exciting new flavors
- Let thighs sit at room temp 30 mins before grilling
- Soak wood chips for extra smoky flavor
Get answers to some common questions about grilling times for bone-in chicken thighs:
What if my chicken thighs aren’t done after recommended time?
Don’t ever rely solely on grilling times as all grills vary. Always check the inner temperature using a meat thermometer to determine doneness. If undercooked, keep grilling 3-5 minutes until the thermometer shows it’s safely cooked.
Can I grill chicken thighs from frozen?
It is safest to thaw chicken thighs completely before grilling. If in a rush, you can partly grill frozen thighs on medium-low heat for 15 mins per side until thawed, then increase heat to finish cooking. The safest approach is thawing in the fridge overnight before grilling.
Is it better to grill chicken thighs bone-in or boneless?
Bone-in thighs are preferred because the bone helps insulate and protect the delicate meat during grilling. The bone also imparts extra flavor. Boneless thighs can dry out faster on the grill.
What temperature should I grill chicken thighs?
Aim for medium-high heat between 350°F to 450°F for nicely charred outsides while keeping the inside moist. Any hotter risks burning. Go lower if grilling over indirect heat. Always monitor the heat closely.
How do I prevent grill flare ups with chicken thighs?
Flare ups come from excess marinade drippings on the grill. Try these tips: blot thighs dry before grilling; use non-sugary marinade; coat grill with oil before heating; spread thighs apart; flip only once.
With the proper technique and a little practice, you’ll be making restaurant-worthy grilled chicken thighs at home in no time. Just remember to take them off the grill once the thermometer hits 165°F for safety and optimum juiciness. Enjoy those succulent, smoky grilled chicken recipes all summer long!
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