Get out your large cast-iron skillet because today, we are making the juiciest pan-seared chicken thighs in a garlic-butter sauce.
Not only is this recipe a flavor-bomb, but I’m also showing you how to make perfect pan-seared chicken thighs for a mouthwatering entree you’ll want to make again and again.
What is Pan-Seared Chicken?
To pan-sear chicken means cooking chicken in a hot skillet, or cast iron pan, with oil until the surface takes on a beautiful golden-brown crust. It’s a technique that adds delicious flavor to any cut of chicken or meat and can be used to cook it fully on the stovetop or before finishing it in the oven.
A crucial step to pan-searing chicken is not to touch the meat once placed on the pan until it’s ready to be flipped. It needs enough meat-to-hot-skillet contact to develop that golden crust on both surfaces.
You can pan-sear chicken with your favorite spices and herbs, and in this recipe, I’m using a mixture of seasonings, garlic, butter, and fresh cherry tomatoes.
You can’t go wrong with the garlic/butter combo, and the tomatoes give this dish a bright pop of flavor.
Here’s everything you’ll need to make this chicken happen:
- chicken thighs: for this recipe we use skin-on and bone-in chicken.
- salt & black pepper: the basic flavors for juicy chicken.
- seasonings: smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder.
- olive oil: to grease the skillet.
- garlic cloves: add delicious flavor and aroma to this dish.
- butter: cooks with the garlic and cherry tomatoes for an incredible sauce.
- cherry tomatoes: adds a burst of fresh flavor, and optional. You can use cherry or grape tomatoes.
Bone-In Skin-On Chicken Thighs
If dark meat wasn’t already the most flavorful and tender cut of chicken, bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are the epitome of juicy cooked chicken. As the meat cooks, the skin locks in moisture, and the bone adds flavor.
However, the bone slows down how quickly the meat heats up, causing bone-in cuts of chicken to take longer to cook. Read all about baking bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs here.
To speed things up, you would use boneless chicken thighs, which still have great flavor and tend to stay moist. Just reduce the cooking time to about 4 minutes per side, and remember to check for doneness with a meat thermometer.
How to Pan-Sear Chicken Thighs
Below I take you step-by-step on how to make pan-seared chicken thighs. Follow each step, and yours will turn out just right.
- Heat the oven
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Pat dry the chicken thighs with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
- Make the seasoning blend
Combine paprika, cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl. Distribute the seasoning on both sides of the chicken thighs.
- Cook the chicken
Place a large cast-iron skillet or a stainless-steel pan over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add the oil. Place the chicken thighs skin-side down and sear until the skin is golden and crispy, about 7 minutes. *Remember not to move them!
Flip the chicken thighs and add garlic and tomatoes to the skillet. Continue cooking until the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 175F.
- Finish in the oven
Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes until the chicken thighs are cooked through to an internal temperature of 175F.
- Time to serve
Remove the skillet from the oven and spoon the garlic butter sauce over the thighs. Let the meat sit for 5 minutes before serving.
When to Season Seared Chicken Thighs
Season the chicken before adding it to the hot skillet. The spices and herbs will adhere to the raw chicken and create a flavorful crust in every bite once added to the hot oil.
Checking for Doneness
This is where having a meat thermometer comes in handy. To check chicken thighs for doneness, insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken. Dark meat chicken is finished cooking once it reaches an internal temperature of 175F. Anything past that point and the meat will dry out.
While I always recommend you cook according to temperature, if you need a visual aid, both sides of the chicken should have an even golden-brown exterior.
Keeping Seared Chicken from Drying Out
The best way to prevent seared chicken thighs from drying out is to cook them until the internal temperature reaches 175F. Thankfully, chicken thigh meat is naturally very moist so this is rarely a problem!
Note that chicken breasts should be cooked no higher than 165F.
Can You Reheat Seared Chicken Thighs?
Chicken thighs reheat great in the oven, microwave, and in a pan because they are naturally juicier meat.
If you have leftovers or want to cook this recipe today and enjoy it later, in this post, I share step-by-step directions on how to reheat chicken so it doesn’t dry out.
For bone-in, skin-on chicken, the oven is the preferred method along with the reheat function in an air fryer. Both evenly reheat the meat and retain as much seasoning on the skin as possible.
What to Serve with Seared Chicken Thighs
There’s no shortage of delicious sides you can serve with this recipe. Below you’ll find a list of easy, family-favorite options that match the flavor and feel of these garlic-butter infused chicken thighs:
- Southern Mashed Potatoes
- Brussels sprouts with Bacon
- Carrot Fries
- Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
- Healthy Zucchini Au Gratin