Dark meat is not only the most forgiving part of a chicken to cook, but it's also the most underrated.
Braised chicken thighs are perhaps the easiest introduction to braising for anyone who hasn’t yet turned to this cooking method. By nature, the chicken’s dark meat (the thighs and drumsticks) is the most forgiving to cook and by far the most underrated. We know “breast is best” in terms of health, but chicken thighs retain juices better and are far less finicky to cook. The secret to eating this delectable dark meat guilt-free is to simply remove the skin. Because chicken thighs rank higher in cholesterol and fat, consuming them less frequently than white meat will still keep you lean.
Braising Is A Brilliant Start
The simplicity of braising involves first searing both sides of the meat over high heat. Then, add cooking liquid, turn down the heat, and cover the pot with a lid. Once the pot is covered, you can walk away from the dish for a while and work on sides, salad, and a dessert.
By far, my favorite piece of meat to braise is the glorious chicken thigh. Although I prefer to buy my thighs skin-on and bone-in, this recipe errs on the healthy side and uses skinless, boneless chicken thighs for the sake of lower cholesterol and saving time. Boneless chicken thighs will braise in under 25 minutes and require way less attention than bone-in chicken.
You can braise with all sorts of liquid, but my best experience is to use concentrated broth packets for braised chicken. Trader Joe’s used to sell these chicken broth packets that Amazon now carries. However, I have seen other brands popping up in the soup aisle in a few big box stores lately. In fact, post-pandemic, finding this flavor-packed broth concentrate is not so problematic. You can also now purchase vegetable broth concentrate, which is just as good and typically contains less fat and sodium. I have used it with great success on dark meat, and I’ll continue to do so if I don’t have the chicken version on hand.
Dark Meat Is Always Juicy
Seasoning the dark meat prior to braising makes this meal a stand-out that you will most definitely add to a bi-weekly rotation. The the juicy secret to seasoning meat , especially chicken, is to salt the thighs a full day before you intend to serve them. If you don’t have time for that, then earlier in the day is just fine. And, to be honest, if you can’t salt them earlier in the day, up to half an hour before braising will do. Alternatively, if you are on a low sodium diet, then completely opting out of salt won’t make this meal inedible, by any means.
My favorite sides for this dark meat dish are either roasted asparagus or broccoli in the air fryer. Program “air fry” on 400 degrees and cook for 10-15 minutes, turning halfway through. If you need a starch, quick grits round this out for a meal made in under 30 minutes. Guaranteed to please all members of your family, including the pickiest ones.
3-Ingredient Braised Chicken Thighs
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt optional
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs boneless, skinless
- 2 packets chicken broth concentrate reduced sodium
- Salt chicken thighs 30 minutes to 24 hours prior to cooking. Optional.
- Heat large cooking pan on medium high with olive oil. You'll need a lid for this, but if you don't have one, a cookie sheet will do.
- Pan sear one side of chicken thighs for 3-5 minutes. You want a nice golden brown color, but not too light. Flip, then squeeze packets over chicken. Sear for another 3-5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to simmer, cover with lid, Then leave for 15-20 minutes. Check temperature with a thermometer to 165 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, you can cut a thigh open to see if the juices are running clear.
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Try making these two asparagus dishes: Roasted Asparagus & Peppers and Simple Ways to Cook Fresh Asparagus (and Make It Taste Delicious)