Simply grilled or pan-fried salted chicken thighs


Continuing on the chicken-fit-for-bento theme, here is another very simple grilled or pan-fried chicken recipe. This time, instead of chicken breast, chicken thighs are used. I know that many dieters avoid dark meat, and it is admittedly higher in fat content than white. But I think it’s so much more flavorful, especially when it comes from ordinary supermarket chicken.

When I was in college, I did the bookkeeping for a midtown Manhattan Japanese restaurant for a few months. The pay was mediocre and the work itself was quite boring, but I did at least get free lunch. Even though theoretically I could choose anything from the menu (barring the really expensive sushi or sashimi) on most days I chose the chikin shioyaki teishoku (Grilled salt chicken set). It was just a large salted chicken thigh with side vegetables (broccoli and something else, which I can’t remember), a bowl of miso soup and a bowl of white rice, but that chicken was so delicious! I couldn’t figure out why it was so crispy on the outside yet juicy on the inside. Some time later, I found out their ‘secret’ in a roundabout way. The key is to salt the chicken meat, then let it rest for a while. This causes the chicken to exude excess moisture, and firms up the meat. It does mean you need to plan ahead a bit to allow for the resting time, but it’s well worth it. You might wonder if a chicken dish can be so good with just salt and a little pepper, but it really is!

Recipe: Simply grilled or pan-fried chicken thighs

Trim any excess fat off boneless chicken thighs, but keep the skin on. Salt thorougly on both sides (be fairly light-handed or it will be too salty), then let rest, loosely covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for at least an hour. You can leave it like this overnight.

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, heat up a grill pan or a non-stick frying pan. No oil should be needed for the frying pan, but you may want to lightly brush some oil on a grill pan. (This method also works great for the barbeque grill.)

After the resting time there will be a little or a lot of moisture around the chicken (free-range chicken will have just a little, while cheap supermarket chicken may be sitting in a pool of water!) Blot off all the moisture completely, plus any excess salt on the surface. Add some freshly ground pepper at this stage.

Put the chicken skin down on the grill pan or frying pan, making sure not to crowd the pan. Cook over medium heat until the skin is golden brown. Turn over, and cook a few minutes more until the meat is cooked through. Let it rest for a few minutes before slicing.

Alternatively you can bake the thighs at 200°C / 400°F for 20 minutes with the skin down, then 20-25 minutes with the skin up. Tossing a few rosemary sprigs on the baking sheet enhances the flavor even more.

Serve with a wedge of lemon. This chicken is great hot or cold, and makes a great bento chicken or sandwich filler. Try it for a picnic as an alternative to fried chicken.

(Sorting note: I’ve put this in the Not Japanese recipe category, even though it is a Japanese recipe, because it doesn’t use any inherently Japanese ingredients - just chicken, salt, and a bit of lemon to finish!)

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That chicken looks soooo

That chicken looks soooo tasty! I love dark meat and crispy skin. The salting technique is new to me but I’ll have to try it. I have the perfect flat colander to put the chicken in - it fits on top of matching shallow bowl so that the liquid will drain into the bowl and the chicken won’t be sitting in a pool of moisture. Thanks for this great idea!

Putting the chicken in a

Putting the chicken in a colander would be an improvement - thank you for the idea! :)


This sounds super tasty! I love it! Will it matter much if I use skinless chicken? (When I buy boneless thighs, it’s always skinless too… never saw it just bonless with skin on!) Mmmm….. luv it! Thanks for the great recipe! BTW, I tried the lemon chicken the other day, yummy!!! Thanks for sharing<333

Sounds good

Reminds me of How to Turn Cheap “Choice” Steaks into Gucci “Prime” Steaks. Well, this confirms it at least =]


In the States I’ve only ever seen completely boneless/skinless thighs, or bone-in/skin-on thighs and no in between. Do you think this recipe would work w/ bone-in thighs? I have read (on America’s Test Kitchen) that you can salt and sit a whole chicken with great results, too.

It would probably work with

It would probably work with bone-in, since the bone would add flavor, especially if cooked in the oven. The only difference is the post-cooking prep of bone removal (hopefully the meat will fall off the bone!

The method will do wonders

The method will do wonders for skinless chicken thighs too, and it’s great for bone-in chicken as well. You don’t get the crispy, salty skin with a skinless chicken of course, but it still makes the chicken meat itself taste a lot better.

bone-in/skin-on works great!

I made this last night with skin-on bone-in drumsticks and thighs, in the grill pan. I threw a rosemary sprig into the pan. It was amazing! Everyone loved it and I’ll be making it again.

Preparing Frozen

I plan on making this later, but I was wondering if the chicken can be frozen while your salting it? Or does it have to be defrosted?

One of the purposes of the

One of the purposes of the salt is to draw out the excess water in the chicken, but if you freeze it the moisture will just sit there on/in the meat. So for this it’s best to salt it after defrosting.

Horray Chicken!

I love this recipe! It is so simple, I can do it anytime! It was so yummy. Really great way to dress up chicken if I am low on everything. I did it with drumsticks and then grilled them, and it was so simple and tasty (my girlfriend wants to try it next time with bbq sauce though, can’t appreciate simplicity that one).

I am making more right now — they are baking in the toaster oven. We will see how that goes!

LOVE the easy chicken recipes too! We go through a lot of chicken (and ground turkey) here, so good new recipes are such fun!

Too salty!

Dear Maki, I tried this recipe for my today’s bento and it still was too salty. I did try to be as light-handed possible in salting the meat (didn’t even pat the chicken), but still I cringe when I ate my chicken.

How much salt exactly did you use to dehydrate the chickens? I was maybe too generous ( I pour about 3 tablespoon of salt for 2 thigh fillets).

Please tell me what I did wrong. Thanks!

Yipes, 3 tablespoons is a

Yipes, 3 tablespoons is a bit too much. Try about 1 teaspoon or so per thigh next time! Hold your hand up high to sprinkle - that way you can get even coverage. If you coat both sides evenly it will be enough to draw off the moisture, which is the main goal of the salting.


I just tried this yesterday on thighs where I removed the bone. It was the best chicken I’ve made. Thanks!

alternate way . . .

You can also dissolve 6 Tbsp. salt, 1/4 sugar (don’t worry, it doesn’t get sweet) in 1 quart of water and just soak the chicken in it. The sugar molecules are too big to get into the meat, but they help draw out excess moisture without making the meat too salty. I’d recommend a soak of 30 min to an hour, depending on how salty you like it, then be sure to pat dry. I usually do this with bone-in skin-on whole legs. You can then put it in the oven on a lower rack with the over on “broil” and cook about 13 minutes each side. I never thought I could cook chicken right until I found this way. It’s like fried chicken without the breading and extra grease.

Great dinner!

Thanks Maki for yet another great recipe! We just finished eating this. I made the chicken (my first time deboning the chicken thigh, it was easier than I thought) along with the carrot kinpira, lotus root stir fry and the green bean/carrot/ginger quick side dish. Hubby was very complimentary of the food. And we are back to the table now to drink some home made miso soup. I have 3 more pieces of chicken salting in the fridge, it will be cooked tomorrow for hubby’s lunch.


I just found your blogs over the weekend and I spent a happy few days perusing the recipes. It seems like we must have the same tastes, because almost everything you post looks delicious to me! Anyway, tonight I tried out this chicken along with some carrots topped with your miso tahini paste and some steamed greens (mysteriously labeled “vietnam vegetable” from my local Korean store) with sesame oil. All I can say is yum! Even my husband, who is an avowed chicken thigh hater, cleaned his plate. Here is a picture of our dinner if you are interested:

Re: Simply grilled or pan-fried salted chicken thighs

can i cook chicken with bone on grill pan.does it work or not.chicken coook properly?plz someone tell me abt this

Re: Simply grilled or pan-fried salted chicken thighs

I don't know why you are asking this here, since this recipe calls for boneless chicken thighs and furthermore is not grilled. But to answer your question briefly, if your grill is not so hot that the outside of the chicken burns before the inside can cook, it should cook through.

Re: Simply grilled or pan-fried salted chicken thighs

You should tag this recipe as being low carb too.

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