Lemon-Rosemary Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs have a bad reputation, and the majority of folks opt for the white breast meat over the juicier dark meat. “Oily” and “fatty” are how many describe chicken thighs, but with the right preparation, they explode with fresh flavor.

I like to call this dish “thighs and whispers” because it is so easy and effortless that you can steal away for a little quiet time while it cooks. A cold cast-iron skillet is the platform for caramelizing the skin—no seasoning, no oil. I weigh the thighs down with a heavy pot and let low heat against the iron surface do its job. The result is ultra-crisp skin.

Before she tasted these little beauties, my wife refused to eat chicken thighs. Now she’s a convert and lovingly calls me the chicken whisperer.


Cooking MethodSkillet

Total TimeUnder One Hour

One Pot MealYes

Recipe CourseMain Course

Five Ingredients or LessYes



  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken leg quarters with thighs (about 11/2 pounds, or 680 g)
  • 2 large lemons
  • 4 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) chicken stock
  • Kosher salt


  1. If still attached, trim the rib bone from the end of each chicken thigh. Using a sharp paring knife, slice around the leg bone about an inch (2.5 cm) from the end and peel back the skin and meat. Cut away any tendons. Pull the skin down to the end of the leg bone and using kitchen shears or a heavy knife, slice off the tip end of the bone. Push up on the rest of the leg meat and expose the bone.

  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C, or gas mark 6).

  3. Place the chicken in a cold (not preheated) cast-iron skillet, skin-side down. Weigh down the meat to make maximum surface contact by placing a pan that is a bit smaller than the diameter of the skillet on top of the chicken. Add weight to the pan (stacked up canned vegetables work well) and push down.

  4. Turn the heat to medium and let cook undisturbed for 20 minutes. You will hear sizzling and see oil leaching from the skin, but do not be tempted to check the chicken.

  5. Remove the pan from the heat and using a metal spatula with a sharp edge, scrape up the chicken pieces along with the crust and fond underneath. Flip them over and inspect that the skin is browned and crispy.

  6. Slice one of the lemons and quarter the other. Place the lemon slices on the bottom of the skillet, under the chicken. Remove the leaves from the rosemary branches and add to the skillet. Place the skillet in the oven. Roast uncovered until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F (74°C), about 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken pieces to a platter to rest.

  7. Place the skillet with the lemon slices, rosemary, and pan juices over medium-high heat and add the chicken stock. Bring the sauce to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook until the stock has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and serve with the chicken.

Table Tip

With no added oil, this is a healthy way to cook chicken thighs, and the herbal flavors are fresh and bright. I tried this technique with chicken breasts, with lackluster results; the lack of added fat resulted in dry meat.


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