Making BBQ chicken in the oven should be part of every cook’s bag of tricks. Oh sure we grillers would rather fire up some lump and put some nice thighs on the grill, but sometimes things just don’t work out properly. Here’s a method I’ve been using lately that’s not just easy, but delicious.
When making “BBQ” chicken you naturally think of thighs. That’s great because dark meat has a higher moisture content than white meat so it’s much harder to dry out. So thighs it is.
It doesn’t matter if your thighs are still slightly frozen or have ice crystals on them, you just don’t want them rock hard frozen. That really won’t work.
Preheat the oven on its lowest setting, around 220*-250*. Much like grilling a steak, you don’t want to start cooking with real cold chicken. This will help bring the internal temperature of the chicken up slowly and lend itself to more even cooking.
While that’s working we need to get the chicken ready. Begin by trimming the thighs with a pair of shears. Remove any exposed fat, that strip along the side will still be there after cooking if you don’t trim it off, and clip off any hanging bits of skin, it’s unattractive and may burn.
To get that nice “bite through” skin you need to start with it dry. Firmly pat and squeeze each piece of chicken dry with a paper towel. Use as many towels as it takes, just make it dry. Wet skin will not do what you want. For best results, put in the fridge for a couple of hours uncovered to dry the skin.
Now this is important for the taste. You want to layer flavors on the chicken. Some people will start with a brine of salt, sugar and some spices and/or herbs. I don’t brine, but only because I haven’t tried it. I start with a seasoning rub at this point. Something as simple as Lemon-Pepper salt will work. Sprinkle your desired amount of seasoning on the chicken and spread around evenly. Be sure to get the bottom.
Arrange the chicken on a broiler pan, not a cookie sheet. You want to use the broiler pan because the drippings are able to escape the chicken. If the thighs just sit in their own fat you’re going to have some nasty stuff. You want the fat to baste the chicken, not soak the chicken.
I generally don’t watch the clock when cooking so I can’t give exact times. I do it by feel, by what I think… OK, I guess a lot…
Put the thighs in the oven, skin side up, for about half an hour. This really helps to bring the internal temperature up so you don’t get a done outside and an undercooked inside. Don’t ever serve undercooked chicken. Not only is it unhealthy, but it’s gross.
At the half hour mark just go ahead and bump the temp to 350* for 45 minutes to an hour. Do NOT put your sauce on at this time.
At the hour mark you have two ways to go so I’ll start with the way I generally do it. I turn the broiler on and move the rack down a spot from the middle. I brush my sauce on both sides of the chicken being sure to make it thin and even, not thick and heavy. I then return the pan to the oven with the skin side down. I want to try to crisp the bottom some because it’s been sitting in some of the fat that didn’t drain down.
After a couple of minutes go ahead and flip the chicken, skin side up and return to the broiler. Listen here, you MUST watch the chicken carefully. Burned chicken is burned chicken, not good chicken, not BBQ chicken, not appetizing chicken. Don’t burn the skin. When it’s just crispy again pull it, let it sit for a few minutes and serve.
The other way to finish is bump the temp to make sure the skin is crispy, again watching it carefully so as not to burn it, then brush a pre-heated sauce, not a cold sauce, on just before serving. It’s your choice. I prefer one way, you may prefer the other or another.
I hope this helps some of you who are looking for an easy way to cook chicken thighs in the oven. Of course the best way to cook thighs is over fire, but sometimes life steps in.