How to Give Your Chicken That Perfect Crisp

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Photograph by Travis Rathbone - Food and Prop Styling by Michelle Grotto

A great chicken thigh should have skin as crispy as a potato chip. To achieve that audible crackle, forget about flamethrower-hot searing. Instead, the chicken thigh’s natural juiciness allows you to use another technique: low-heat searing, which lets the fat slowly render out of the skin until all that’s left is a concentrated wafer. Since thighs, unlike breasts, don’t mind a nice long cooking, the meat stays tender and moist even as you remove most of the fat. There’s no smoke, not a lot of cleanup – and no fear.

SuperCrisp Chicken Thighs (Serves 2 to 4)


  • Vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 lb chicken thighs (3 or 4)
  • Salt and pepper


Step One
Lightly coat a heavy 10-inch skillet with oil, and warm over medium-low heat.

Step Two
Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels, and season the skin side evenly with salt. Add the thighs to the pan, skin side down, laying them flat. Salt and pepper the flesh side well.

Step Three
Now let it ride. The sizzle will get louder, with some pops, but it should max out.

Step Four
After 10 minutes, tilt the pan and spoon off some of the fat, leaving just enough to keep the sizzle going.

Step Five
Wait another 5 minutes, then use a thin metal spatula to lift the thighs and check on the skin. It should be light golden. If it’s darker, lower the heat.

Step Six
Check again after another 15 minutes: The skin should be almost orange. Spoon off the remaining fat, flip the thighs, and cook the flesh side for 5 minutes, or until the juices run clear.

Step Seven
Remove the thighs and let rest, skin side up, on a plate for 5 minutes before serving.

Spicy Seared Cabbage with Avocado (Serves 2 to 4)

This great side dish for chicken on the bone – spicy, crunchy, and rich – was inspired by Molly Wizenberg and Brandon Pettit of the Delancey pizzeria in Seattle.


  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 lb cabbage, cut into ¼-inch ribbons, with the core finely chopped (about 5 lightly packed cups)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp Sriracha
  • 1 avocado, cut into wedges
  • Lime juice, to taste


Divide everything in half and cook in two batches. Heat a large, deep sauté pan with 2 tbsp oil over high heat until it smokes. Add half the cabbage, spread it out, and sear without touching for 90 seconds, or until browned on the bottom. Then stir for 2 minutes, until it starts to wilt. Add ½ tsp salt and keep stirring. After 1 more minute, add 1 tsp soy sauce and 1 tsp Sriracha. Cook another 30 seconds, stirring. It should be tender with just a little crunch. Transfer to a plate. Rinse out the pan, and repeat with the second batch. Serve with avocado wedges spritzed with lime juice.

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