There are two ways to eat chicken: messily and delicately. You won’t hear us complain if you prefer to use the bone as a handle and gorge away – in fact, sometimes there’s nothing else more satisfying – but a little extra care goes a long way. The simple chicken has a place on fine dining plates too.
For that, you’ll need to debone your chicken first. Here we’ll talk you through the easiest way to debone chicken thighs and, in case you’re wondering what to do next, throw in a couple of bonus recipes at the end. But if you want to know how to debone a whole chicken, we urge you to check out this enthralling video of legendary chef Jacques Pépin doing just that. Not only will you get to see his own deboning technique, honed over several decades of experience, as he demonstrates how to make chicken galantine in front of an enraptured audience, but he also teaches you how to become a culinary craftsman.
Anyway, with no further ado, let’s start deboning...
How to debone chicken thighs
With just five steps, this is the easiest way to debone chicken thighs without wasting any meat.
Step one: Prepare your tools
First of all, you will need:
Two bowls. One for the deboned meat and one for the discarded bones, skin and fat.
A knife. If you have a deboning knife, use that. Otherwise, any knife will do so long as you’re comfortable using it and, just as importantly, it’s sharp. Do not use a dull knife. The extra pressure may cause the knife to slip and injure you.
A cutting board. Make sure it’s flat. Wooden ones can warp and, subsequently, wobble when you use them. You need your cutting board to be flat and sturdy for this deboning method.
Chicken thighs. Obviously.
Step two: Cut and expose
Place the chicken thighs skin down on the cutting board. Use your sharp knife to slice along the entire length of the bone. Then, using the blunt end of the knife, scrape as much of the meat away from the bone as possible. (Always scrape away from you to avoid injury.)
Step three: Remove the bone
You will now completely separate the bone from the meat. If you pull the bone gently, you should be able to see the stretch of the white tendon where the bone and meat connect. Carefully slice along the bone and through this tendon.
Now pat down the meat to check for bone splinters and cartilage (gristle). They will feel sharp or hard, respectively, compared to the rest of the thigh. Remove these parts with your knife.
Step four: Remove the skin
Obviously, you can skip this step if the recipe calls for the skin to be left on. Otherwise, work your fingers between the meat and skin. Gently pull the skin away while pinning the deboned chicken leg to the cutting board with the flat side of your knife.
Step five: Trim the fat
Almost done. Quickly check the meat for any excess fat and trim it off with your knife.
Hold the handle of your knife loosely while firmly pinching the base of the blade between the tip of your thumb and the inside knuckle of your index finger. It won’t feel very intuitive at first, but it will give you more control over the knife.
Keep the bones. You can use them to make chicken stock later. Freeze them in a food-safe plastic bag if you don’t know how much later “later” will be.
List of all the steps
Let’s just summarise those steps quickly before moving onto the delicious chicken recipes:
Prepare your tools: Chicken thighs, two bowls, cutting board, and a sharp knife.
Cutand expose: Cutalong the length of the bone and scrape the meat away from it.
Remove the bone: Slice along where the bone meets the thigh to detach it from the meat.
Remove the skin: Gently pull away the skin with your hands.
Trim the fat: Remove excess skin and fat with your knife.
Recipes and ideas with deboned chicken thighs
Spicy grilled chicken in lemon leaves
These delicious chicken thighs are just the right amount of sweet and spicy. They’re incredibly easy to make – so long as you can get the ingredients – and perfect for adding some East Asian flair to your barbecue.
It starts with a mouthwatering marinade for your chicken. Just mix together chilli, ginger, garlic, huoc nam (fish sauce), and sugar, with a little lime juice to taste. Then toss the chicken in the marinade and refrigerate for an hour before wrapping in lemon leaves and throwing on the grill. You can even reduce any remaining marinade in a pan to act as a dipping sauce.
Or, to give it its full name, langoustine, chicken and white asparagus with chanterelle and langoustine veloute. As you may have guessed, this gourmet seafood and chicken recipe by South African chef John Vadas, is pretty complex. But if you’ve got people to impress and the best part of a day to spare, go see if you’re up to the challenge here.