Helpful tips and an easy recipe for perfectly seasoned and tender boiled chicken thighs. Learn how long to boil chicken thighs, including bone-in, boneless or frozen.
Boiled chicken thighs are convenient and versatile. But you already know that, right? That's why you've ended up here - you want to know how long to boil chicken thighs so that they turn out tender and flavorful.
But timing isn't the only information you need. The secret to tender, boiled chicken is both timing and temperature.
When I say temperature, I'm talking about the internal temperature of the cooked chicken and the temperature of the cooking water. You want to cook the chicken for the right amount of time with the right amount of heat.
The safe, internal cooked temperature for chicken is 165º F. Unlike chicken breasts, which turn dry after 165 degrees, chicken legs, drumsticks and thighs actually become more tender and flavorful when cooked to a slightly higher temperature.
When cooked to a slightly higher temperature, the connective tissue in dark meat has more time to break down and become tender. So, for the most tender chicken thighs, aim for a final cooking temperature between 175º and 190º.
There is one caveat: tender chicken can't be rushed. Both bone-in and boneless chicken thighs should be gently simmered over medium or low heat. Cooking chicken at a rapid boil makes it more likely that the chicken will be tough and rubbery.
Boiled Chicken Thigh Timing Chart
For the most tender dark meat, start the stove top heat on medium, then move it down to medium-low or low. Simmer the thighs very gently and try to avoid a full, roiling boil.
Bone-in thighs: 25 to 35 minutes
Boneless thighs: 15 to 20 minutes
Frozen Thighs: 45 to 50 minutes (bone-in) or 30 to 35 minutes (boneless)
Chicken is safely cooked when the internal temperature of the thickest part reaches 165º. However, dark meat will be even more tender once it reaches a temperature between 175º and 190º.
Boneless chicken thighs are more likely to turn rubbery if they're cooked too quickly, so make sure to keep the heat of the water at a simmer, not a full boil.
Boneless chicken thighs take between 15 to 20 minutes to cook at a gentle boil.
Bone-in thighs are more economical and also the easiest to keep juicy and flavorful.
Bone-in chicken thighs take between 25 to 30 minutes to cook at a gentle boil.
If using frozen chicken thighs, they should be separated and cooked in a single layer, not frozen together in a clump.
The USDA recommends increasing the cooking time for frozen chicken by 50 percent. So for bone-in thighs this means around 45 to 55 minutes, and for frozen boneless thighs around 30 to 35 minutes.
Pro Tips for Tender, Flavorful Boiled Chicken
- Keep the water at a very gentle simmer, not a full boil. Cooking chicken too fast will cause it to seize up and get tough or rubbery.
- Season the water generously. Add 2 teaspoons of table salt for every 6 cups water.
- Don't take the chicken out of the pot the minute the internal temperature is 165 degrees. Dark meat is even more tender when it's cooked between between 175º and 190º
- Let the thighs rest for at least 10 minutes, or until cool, before slicing the meat.
- Place chicken thighs in a pot or Dutch oven, in a single layer
2. Add enough water to cover the chicken (6 cups) plus 2 teaspoons salt. You can add more flavor enhancers, like fresh herbs, garlic or onion.
3. Cover the pot with a lid and turn the heat to medium. Bring to a gentle simmer. Turn the heat down and continue to simmer very gently. Check the temperature of the thighs after a total cooking time of 20 minutes. The temperature of the chicken is a better indicator of doneness than timing is.
Do you know what's even easier than boiling chicken thighs? Cooking them in a pressure cooker!
Your Instant Pot will make really tender, moist chicken thighs. Both bone-in and boneless thighs can be cooked for 8 minutes at high pressure with a natural release.
Frozen chicken thighs can be cooked in an Instant Pot for 15 minutes + natural release.
For both fresh or frozen chicken, make sure to add ½ cup water to the Instant Pot along with the chicken.
You can also try these favorite Instant Pot chicken thigh recipes:
- Instant Pot Jerk Chicken
- Instant Pot Chicken Thighs and Rice
- Instant Pot Chicken and Dumplings
- Instant Pot Chicken Adobo
- Instant Pot Turmeric Chicken and Rice
How to Tell if Chicken is Done
The best indicator of cooked chicken is the internal temperature of the chicken. All types of chicken should be cooked to a minimum of 165 degrees F. This is because bacteria can be found on raw or undercooked chicken.
Use an Instant Read thermometer and test the chicken in several spots. Make sure to stick the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken.
When taking the temperature of bone-in thighs, make sure that the thermometer is not directly touching a bone.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a safe minimum cooking temperature chart for all types of meat.
In addition to checking the temperature of chicken, you can look for other indicators of cooked chicken:
Juices run clear: When you cut into the chicken, the juice that comes out should be clear, not pink
Opaque flesh: The meat should be opaque, not translucent or shiny. The flesh of bone-in chicken will sometimes remain pink around the bones, due to pigment in the bone marrow.
Shape: Cooked chicken thighs and breasts plump up. The shape is higher and rounder than uncooked chicken, which is more limp and flat.
Leftovers and Storage
Store the boiled chicken in an airtight container. It can be stored as whole thighs, or sliced/shredded. It will stay fresh for 3 to 5 days.
You can shred boiled chicken and use it for chicken salad or chicken enchiladas. You can add it to green salads or grain bowls. You can also just keep a container of plain, cooked chicken in your refrigerator as an easy source of protein for quick meals throughout the week.
Boiled chicken thighs can make a delicious dinner when served with a side dish like orzo rice.
Freezing and Safe Defrosting
Shredded chicken or whole cooked thighs can be frozen for up to 6 months. Place chicken in a freezer safe sealed freezer bag or freezer safe containers. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
The safest ways to defrost frozen raw chicken are in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.
If you thaw food in cold water, change the water every half hour to make sure it stays cold.
Only defrost in cold water or in the microwave if you are going to fully cook the chicken immediately after defrosting it.
FAQ About This Recipe
Using chicken broth instead of water to boil thighs is an added cost that is unnecessary. Seasoned water works just as well.
Yes. Chicken skin is a flavorful layer of fat that helps keep chicken moist, even when you're boiling the chicken. It isn't absolutely necessary, however, and skinless chicken thighs are also quite tender when boiled.
According to the USDA guidelines on cooking chicken, frozen chicken can be safely boiled or simmered. The cooking time is approximately 50 percent longer than for fresh chicken.
It is not safe to put frozen chicken in a slow cooker or Crock Pot. The meat will be in the "danger zone" for too long, which is the temperature range that bacteria is most likely to grow (between 40 and 140 degrees F).
No, store bought chicken should not be rinsed before cooking it. This is an outdated practice that simply spreads raw chicken bacteria around your sink and countertops. Rinsing raw chicken does not destroy bacteria. Only cooking will destroy bacteria that might be present on fresh chicken.
If you like crispy skin, you're better off cooking chicken thighs in the oven or on the grill. Try my sheet-pan honey mustard chicken and cauliflower or sheet-pan soy sauce chicken and broccoli.
If you really want to boil the chicken first, then it works okay to put boiled thighs under an oven broiler. Place the thighs on a baking sheet. Brush oil or butter over the skin. You can also add spices, seasonings, or sauce (like BBQ sauce). Broil the chicken until the skin is crispy, making sure to keep a close eye on the chicken so it doesn't burn.
Yes. The cooking time for boiled drumsticks is usually around 20 to 25 minutes. Chicken leg quarters take longer, closer to 30 minutes or more.
Ideally, don't let raw chicken sit out of refrigeration. Although this is unavoidable when buying groceries. According the the FDAs cold facts about food safety, "poultry should be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking or purchasing if held at room temperature. Refrigerate within 1 hour if the temperature outside is above 90° F."