Healthy Chicken Thigh Recipes (Instant Pot vs Air Fryer vs Grill)
With all the new kitchen gadgets these days, how many people are still using their oven to cook chicken thighs? Show of hands.
If you are one of the many folks who are still using your oven to cook chicken, I am about to show you three foolproof delicious chicken thigh recipes that will have you ditching your oven…maybe even for good, and tell you which of these three reigns supreme.
Instant Pot Chicken Thigh Recipe
- Season chicken thighs with dry rub or seasonings of your preference.
- Spray the bottom of your IP (Instant Pot) with cooking spray, and set the sauté function to medium.
- Once the display says “Hot,” place the thighs into IP.
- Brown the chicken thighs on each side for roughly 3 minutes.
- Remove the chicken thighs with tongs, and place them on a plate.
- Add chicken stock (or broth), the trivet, and place thighs on top.
- Cook at manual high pressure for 10 minutes, and allow the IP to do a full natural pressure release.
From start to finish, this chicken thigh recipe took less than 40 minutes.
The Instant Pot is usually known for its speedy cooking time; however, in order for the chicken thighs to get a crispy outside, you have to sauté the outside first which creates one additional, very critical step. I have played around with the time for this step, and while I am not quite sure I have perfected the time of this, I have come pretty darn close to perfect (at least I think so).
I coated each side of the thighs with my rub and sautéed for 3 minutes on each side, and once I removed and added the chicken broth, I gently scrubbed the bottom of the IP with a wooden spoon to get the leftover seasonings (bits, if will) removed and incorporated into the broth.
Place the trivet in, and add the chicken thighs and begin the pressure cooking. This is the easy peasy part.
The chicken thighs literally began to shred themselves when I went to pick them up with my tongs. They were so moist and juicy, they were falling apart. This is where I keep wondering if I had sautéed them longer if they would hold up a little more, but in doing so, it makes them tough on the outside and sometimes they burn, so I don’t recommend going for longer than 3 minutes on each side, unless you keep a watchful eye on them.
You could also let them rest for a little bit longer than I do, but I am always too anxious to get them out of the IP and try them.
Overall, the instant pot chicken thigh recipe is melt-in-your-mouth delicious. You could opt for cooking in just water instead of chicken broth, but I use chicken broth in place of water even when I am boiling pasta, rice, etc., and take any chance I can to incorporate added flavor.
Air Fryer Chicken Thigh Recipe
- Season chicken thighs with dry rub or seasonings of your preference.
- Set temperature to 370 degrees.
- Place thighs on racks (do not overcrowd).
- Set timer for 15 minutes.
From start to finish, this air fryer chicken thigh recipe took less than 20 minutes.
Not to sound like Chandler Bing, but “could this BE any easier?” No really, could it? This is the ultimate set it and forget it piece of cookware, and I ask myself all the time, what did I do before this was invented?
The Air Fryer used to be the big bulky black box I cooked my children’s frozen food in instead of cooking it in the oven because it tasted like it had been fried, but in a “healthy” way, and they gobbled it up. I felt better about serving them “junk,” and it took half the time as in the oven, and everyone went to bed happy.
Once I began really pressing all the right buttons and seeing what this bad boy could do, I started to get creative. But just because you can get creative doesn’t mean you can’t stick with the basics like chicken.
With this air fryer chicken thigh recipe, you really cannot mess it up. There is a button for the basics, and there is even a button for chicken. There are two, in fact. However, these buttons are for much larger size birds, so for today, we are going to ignore those and just set the temperature and time manually.
Simply coat the individual pieces of chicken thighs with your seasoning and place them onto the metal racks inside your air fryer. Set the temperature to 370 degrees, shut the door, wait for 15 minutes, and that’s it.
When the timer goes off, you will have the most crispy on the outside, tender and juicy chicken on the inside you have ever seen. My mouth was watering as I was plating this, and I couldn’t even wait for it to cool off to take my first bite. Chicken perfection is what my oldest child called it.
I have one child who is a super picky chicken eater, who doesn’t do “healthy chicken,” which means she likes chicken nuggets and not grilled (blackened) or baked (bland white) chicken. This chicken was just toasty enough on the outside to give it some crisp, and still tender on the inside, so she ate every last bite.
Grilled Chicken Thigh Recipes
- Preheat your grill.
- Season your chicken thighs and place them on the grill.
- Evenly grill both sides until the middle is no longer pink (raw).
Depending on your grill, this grilled chicken thigh recipe could take anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes from start to finish. This happened to be the first time firing up the barbie for me this year, and it took a little priming to get started. One of the back burners decided to add a little char to one of my thighs, but it’s all good.
I have always been partial to barbecue or grilling—depending on where you are from. You can find me in all types of weather—rain, snow, sleet, and hail. I grill fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood—you name it, I can find a spot for it on my grill.
I generally find that grilling is the best method of cooking pretty much ANYTHING.
Air Fryer vs Instant Pot vs Grill: Which One is Best?
That was until I met the Air Fryer. The Air Fryer is giving my grill a run for its money.
The IP is inching in there, as well. I will tell you why my vote may be swayed, and it has to do with the way my healthy lifestyle is set up. It has to do with meal prep. Most of my meals are planned and prepped well in advance. I generally do the majority of my weekly cooking on Sunday; therefore, my meals are typically reheated.
I have noticed that chicken thigh recipes cooked in the IP and the Air Fryer tend to stay tender and moist. However, chicken cooked on the grill dries out almost instantly, especially when reheated. This is not very good for me to stay adherent to my meal plan because I end up searching for something to add to it to make it more palatable, and that only adds unnecessary calories, etc. Sort of defeats the purpose of my meal prep.
Don’t get me wrong, I love grilled food—it has a whole social aspect to it, and there is a time and place for it, and it’s wonderful if you are going to eat it right then and there.
For everyday weeknight meals and for meal prep, though, I side with the Air Fryer.
There is definitely a time and place for the IP too…probably not for chicken thighs, although they were definitely super tasty, they were just a lot more time-consuming than the Air Fryer, the end result was comparable.
Regardless, they are all winners in my book—I would never turn my nose up at any of them and definitely didn’t. 😉