What are your favorite cuts of chicken? We love full-flavored and succulent chicken, so we tend to be big fans of leg meat—chicken thighs and drumsticks.
These two cuts are loaded with dark meat and delicious fat, yielding the most delicious chicken for lunches, dinner, or any time. They’re also incredibly easy to bake.
We’ve compiled some quick tips for baking perfect chicken thighs and drumsticks, every time.
- Marinating chicken thighs and drumsticks.
- How to get crispy skin.
- The best seasoning for chicken thighs and drumsticks.
- How long to bake chicken thighs and drumsticks.
- And more!
Let this guide get you baking more succulent dark meat. You won’t regret it!
What are Chicken Thighs?
Chicken thighs include the rich and juicy dark meat taken from the upper leg of the bird.
Thighs have a bit more fat than chicken breasts, especially those still on the bone, which make any recipe flourish with flavor. You can also enjoy thighs boneless and skinless. With the higher fat content than chicken breasts, you can get great crispier edges when cooking thighs. Extremely versatile, they’re flavorful on their own and take well to any robust marinade.
What are Chicken Drumsticks?
Cut from the lower portion of the chicken leg quarter, chicken drumsticks are a flavorful dark-meat cut loved by kids and adults alike. When you need to shake up a classic chicken meal, give drumsticks a try.
9 Tips for Perfect Baked Chicken Drumsticks and Thighs
1. Consider a chicken marinate.
Both chicken thighs and drumsticks take well to a any marinade—this is especially true for boneless, skinless chicken thighs. With a proper marinade, you’ll infuse the chicken with a kick of flavor and allow for a bit of tenderizing in the process.
The possibilities really are endless when it comes to chicken marinades. Here are a few we’ve found that we’ll go back to again and again.
- Killer Chicken Thigh Marinade
- Honey Soy Marinated Chicken Thighs
- Juicy Lemon Chicken Marinade
- 7 Juicy Chicken Marinades
2. Dry your chicken thighs and drumsticks.
You may have just marinated your chicken thighs or drumsticks, but you’ll still want to get them super dry before their trip to the oven. This is to ensure a crispy skin all-around.
So, take a paper towel and pat your chicken completely dry before baking. It will still carry all those delicious flavors from the marinade, but with crispy skin. Yum.
3. Use a rack when baking.
Here’s another step for crisping up chicken thighs and drumsticks: Use a rack when you bake them.
A rack will allow all of the excess fat to drip away from the chicken, keeping the skin dry and ultimately crispy. That’s because less moisture equals more crunch.
4. Season your thighs and drumsticks liberally.
It seems basic, but this is a fact: The best tasting chicken is well-seasoned chicken. If you’ve used a marinade, you’ve already imbued your chicken with plenty of flavor. But if you haven’t, you’ll want to liberally apply your favorite herbs and spices to your chicken thighs and drumsticks.
Try this all-purpose dry rub for chicken thighs and drumsticks. It’s made with just five ingredients that you likely already have on hand!
Don’t forget: Herbs and baked chicken are the ultimate combination. Here are some of our favorites to use on chicken thighs and drumsticks:
5. Fat is key.
Part of what makes chicken thighs and drumsticks so delectable is their higher fat content and dark meat. Still, you’ll want to amplify that succulence by adding a great high-temp cooking fat. This will help keep the meat juicy and the skin crispy.
Some great options include avocado oil, olive oil, ghee, coconut oil, and butter.
6. Use your meat thermometer when it comes to thighs and drumsticks.
No matter the cut of chicken, it needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F. This is the point that chicken is safe to eat. There’s really no other way to gauge that temperature without a meat thermometer, so break yours out when you bake chicken thighs and drumsticks.
You’ll also want the juices to run clear, so let it rest for a few minutes.
7. How long to cook chicken thighs and drumsticks?
The time needed to cook your chicken thighs and drumsticks depends on a few factors, including the size of the cut, as well as the temperature you use for baking your chicken. Many cooks swear by higher temperatures for the crispiest, juiciest results (so, 375-400°F range).
Here’s a basic estimate for how long to bake chicken thighs and drumsticks at 400°F. Remember, the size of the cut will certainly add or decrease time. If you’re using boneless, skinless thighs, decrease the time by 10 or 15 minutes.
- Bone-In Chicken Thighs: 35-45 minutes
- Chicken Drumsticks: 30-40 minutes
8. Let your chicken rest.
This step is often-overlooked when you’re scrambling to get dinner on the table, but it’s worth the wait. Let your chicken thighs or drumsticks rest for just five to 10 minutes in foil. You’ll be rewarded with ultra-juicy, delectable meat.
9. Try a pan sauce for extra oomph.
Did you sear your chicken in the pan before baking, or bake it on a rack? Congrats, you’ve been blessed with some unctuous pan drippings. Don’t throw them out! Instead, whisk them together with some delicious aromatics and ingredients like wine, stock, or butter.
This tip is also great if you’ve accidentally over-baked your chicken thighs or drumsticks. A pan sauce is a quick way to add som moisture and flavor back into your chicken.
Recipes to Get You Started
- BBQ Dry Rubbed Drumsticks
- Lemon Basil Chicken Thighs
- Mushroom and Tarragon Chicken Thighs
- Chicken Thighs with Gluten-Free Apple Stuffing and Sage Pan Sauce