Skin-on Boneless Chicken Thighs
In Japan, skin-on boneless chicken thighs are the most popular cut of chicken, and they're used in most of the chicken recipes on this site. It's a flavorful, juicy cut, and when prepared well, the skin turns into a crisp crackling shell that's loaded with umami.
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Why Debone Chicken Thighs?
While bone-in thighs or whole legs are great for stews, they're not suitable for stir-fried and pan-fried preparations. Although boneless skinless thighs are available, finding boneless skin-on chicken thighs in the US can be challenging unless you live near a Japanese grocery store. Thankfully you can enjoy the crispy chicken thigh skin and flavor of skin-on thigh meat by deboning chicken thighs or whole chicken legs. The first part of the video below shows you how to perfectly and easily debone chicken thighs.
How to Debone Chicken Thighs
Start with the bone-in thigh skin-side down and feel it with your finger to locate where the bone passes through the meat.
Run the tip of your knife down one side of the bone to expose that side. Do not cut through the meat.
Run the knife along the other side of the bone so that you have two flaps of meat with the bone resting on top.
Insert the tip of the knife below the bone with the edge facing the knuckle that's more exposed. Slice the meat from the bone, and cut through any gristle holding the meat to the knuckle.
Stand the bone up and cut around the knuckle on the other side to remove the bone.
Feel the meat with your fingertips to look for any stray cartilage and trim off any excess fat or skin from your boneless thighs.
How to Debone Chicken Legs
In the second part of the video below I demonstrate how to handle deboning a whole chicken leg. This is the way most chicken thigh meat is sold in Japan, and it's why the chicken in my recipes looks so much larger than a typical thigh in the US. You get to enjoy that whole piece of delicious, crispy skin from the entire leg. As a bonus, leg quarters in the US are usually the least expensive cut of chicken you can buy, so you'll be saving money as well.
Lay the chicken leg with the meat side facing up. Insert the tip of your knife off to one side of the bone at the tip of the drumstick (the knife should go into the inside of the curve in the leg).
Follow the bone towards the base of the leg, following the contours of the joint until you reach the end of the thigh bone. Be careful not to cut all the way through the meat.
Now the inside of the joint should be visible. Cut through it with the tip of your knife and fold the leg meat in half.
Use your knife to cut around the large knuckle on the thigh side to detach all of the tendons.
Scrape the meat away from the thigh bone using your fingers. When you reach the knuckle, use the knife to cut around it to release the thigh bone. You can also do this with kitchen shears.
For the drumstick bone, use your knife to scrape the meat off both sides of the bone. Then, insert the tip of your knife under the bone with the edge facing toward the tip of the drumstick. Cut through the meat and tendons to release the end of the bone from the meat.
Now scrape the meat away from the drumstick bone towards the joint where it was connected with the thigh bone, and use your knife to cut around the cartilage to free the bone.
Trim off any remaining tendons, connective tissue, or excess fat.
Recipes using Deboned Chicken Thighs
- Chicken Teriyaki
- Chicken Nanban
- Chicken Katsu
- Shio Karaage (salt)
- Karaage (soy sauce)
- Crispy Chicken with Ginger Scallion Oil
Ideally, you want to use a sharp knife with a narrow blade, such as a paring knife or a sharp boning knife, but any kitchen knife with a sharp tip will work. If you plan to use a chef's knife, I recommend holding the blade in a pointed finger grip, so you can control it like an extension of your finger.
I usually keep a freezer-safe bag of chicken bones and any remaining flesh scraps in the freezer that I add to over time. Once the bag is full, wash the bones, throw them in a pressure cooker, cover them with a few inches of water, and throw in some onions, celery, carrots, konbu, and salt. Cook it on high pressure for 1 hour to make chicken stock.
A lot of people talk about raw chicken as if it's radioactive, but in reality, it's no different than any other raw meat. You should be fine if you follow a few basic safety precautions. The first thing is to use a dedicated chopping board for raw meat. If you don't have one, I recommend disinfecting the cutting board with an antibacterial spray such as bleach. After disinfecting the board, I usually run it through the dishwasher. To avoid cross-contamination, you also want to thoroughly wash all utensils and surfaces that come into contact with the chicken with soap and hot water before using them for anything else. Of course, you can wear gloves if you want to avoid contact with the raw meat, but it's not strictly necessary. Just wash your hands thoroughly when you're finished.
- 4 whole chicken legs
- Lay a chicken thigh on your cutting board with the meat side facing up. Run the tip of your knife from one end of the bone to the other, scraping the tip as close to one side of the bone as possible.
- Trace a similar path on the other side of the bone so that you have two flaps of thigh meat with the thigh bone sitting on top.
- Insert the knife under the center of the bone with the blade facing the tip of the bone that is more exposed. Next, slide the knife towards the end of the bone, scraping the meat away and cutting through any connective tissue holding the thigh to the bone.
- Stand the thigh bone vertically and use the tip of your knife to cut around the other knuckle to free the bone.
- Trim off any remaining white connective tissue from the meat and any excess fat or skin.