For tired home cooks, the boneless, skinless chicken thigh can feel like a dinnertime paragon of protein. There are many reasons to love it: Unlike its more finicky cousin — the boneless, skinless chicken breast — the dark-meat thigh is able to retain its moisture even when blasted with high heat, so it’s difficult to dry out. And without the bone, the cut, sometimes referred to as a “chicken thigh fillet” in England, is easier and quicker to prepare, not to mention more flavorful.
It is, arguably, the best cut of chicken for everyday cooking.
But its popularity is fairly recent, and we might have Gene Gagliardi — the inventor of Steak-umm — to thank for increasing the its modern availability at supermarkets in the United States. In the early 1990s, Mr. Galiardi sold KFC a patented method for deboning thighs with a machine, resulting in the invention and great commercial success of popcorn chicken, Craig Cavallo wrote on the website Serious Eats.
While people have probably boned and skinned chicken thighs for as long as we’ve been eating chicken, the U.S.D.A. began reporting prices for this particular cut in 2003, and the demand for boneless meat has been rising steadily since. (Sales for deboned chicken thighs have grown about 50 percent in the past year alone, said Stephen Silzer, a senior director of marketing for Tyson. “It is the fastest growing form of fresh chicken,” he said.)
Those of us who partake in the many delights of boneless thighs know that they need little more than salt and pepper, and a couple turns in a hot oiled skillet, to become dinner. One common misconception is that dark meat takes longer to cook than white, but the difference in cooking time is minimal when it comes to boneless chicken and it always stays juicy.
The following dishes, each anchored by a flavorful marinade, showcase the potential of this cut, which, like any protein, can be dressed up in all manner of ways (though a fried chicken sandwich is never a bad idea).
The main draw is this: If you marinate your chicken in the morning or the night before, then dinner will be waiting for you, not the other way around. The cooking method is up to you; boneless thighs can be roasted, sautéed or pan-fried.
In this sheet-pan number, the glazed chicken is sweet, tangy and warmed through with chili powder (the spice blend used for chili, not powdered chiles). Mayonnaise serves at once as marinade, cooking fat and, once mingled with the pan juices, glossy sauce, which should be sopped up with fluffy rice.
This comforting pasta dish tastes great warm, right off the heat, as well as cold, straight from the fridge, making it a top contender for lunch. The deeply savory sun-dried tomato and basil vinaigrette marinates the chicken, to keep it tender when stir-fried, and doubles as a sauce for the orzo and feta.
Parsley stems are puréed in a bold and garlicky buttermilk marinade that tenderizes the meat, then the leaves and their tender stems are sautéed like spinach and spritzed with fresh lemon. After a quick sear on the stovetop, the well-marinated chicken thighs gain caramelized edges — and their bright, herbaceous flavor will make you think, “Oh, that’s what parsley tastes like.”