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Looking for something to sous vide? Try these crispy-skinned chicken thighs

A new way to cook one of the most flavorful parts of a chicken.
Image: Crispy-Skinned Chicken Thighs with Tangy Corn Relish
Crispy-Skinned Chicken Thighs with Tangy Corn Relish.Steve Klise / America's Test Kitchen

Of all the common parts of a chicken, the thigh ought to be MVP. With more pockets of fat and collagen than breasts, thighs contain great potential for flavor. We found cooking thighs at a higher temperature (180°F/82°C) resulted in a fall-apart texture, while lower temperatures (160°F/71°C) left the thighs a bit too chewy. An intermediate temperature (165°F/74°C) gave the best balance of a cohesive but tender texture, and a juicy interior. We use a Dutch oven to press the thighs while searing. This method maximizes contact with the surface of the pan, giving us an even layer of crispy, crackly skin. To reduce cleanup, wrap the bottom of the pot with aluminum foil in step 3. Be sure to double bag the chicken thighs to protect against seam failure.

Serves: 4

Sous Vide Temperature: 165°F/74°C

Sous Vide Time: 1½ to 4 hours

To Make Ahead

Chicken and accumulated juices can be rapidly chilled in ice bath and then refrigerated in zipper-lock bag after step 2 for up to 5 days. To reheat, return sealed bag to water bath set to 150°F/65.5°C for 20 minutes. Proceed with step 3.

  • 4 7-ounce (200 grams) bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 tablespoons (84 grams) vegetable oil
  1. Using sous vide circulator, bring water to 165°F/74°C in 7-quart container.
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken and ¼ cup (56 grams) oil in 1-gallon zipper-lock freezer bag and toss to coat. Seal bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Place bag into second 1-gallon zipper-lock freezer bag and seal. Gently lower bag into prepared water bath until chicken is fully submerged, and then clip top corner of bag to side of water bath container, allowing remaining air bubbles to rise to top of bag. Reopen 1 corner of zipper, release remaining air bubbles, and reseal bag. Cover and cook for at least 1½ hours or up to 4 hours.
  3. Transfer chicken to paper towel–lined plate and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons (28 grams) oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place chicken skin side down in skillet. Place heavy pot on top of chicken to press it flat and cook until skin is well-browned and very crisp, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve.