How to Debone Chicken Thighs


The first time I became aware of Smart Chicken, I spotted it on a menu at The Glady, in Phoenix, Arizona. I asked the chef, Bernie Kantak, with whom I went to culinary school in the late 1990s, if he was sending his chickens to school.

He laughed and said no, but he told me about a farm in Nebraska called Tecumseh Farms, which was humanely raising and processing chickens — chickens that taste like chickens. The more I read about Smart Chicken, the better I feel about them. This article explains how Tecumseh farms raises and processes their chickens, including gently putting them to sleep before killing them. When I saw the organic Smart Chicken brand at my local grocery store, I decided to try the thighs.

I had been thinking about a grilled chicken recipe for a while, and I wanted to use thighs, not breasts. Thighs are more flavorful and more forgiving when cooking — it’s harder to dry them out by overcooking. They’re also less expensive than breasts.

I’ll share that grilled chicken thigh recipe next week (it has a fantastic, Vietnamese umami bomb flavor.)

This week, let’s do a lesson on how to debone chicken thighs. You could leave the bone in, but deboning the thighs shortens the cooking time and makes it easier to eat.


Step one (above): First, I leave the skin on. It will help add flavor and protect the flesh during the grilling process. Place the thigh, skin side down, on a cutting board and grab your sharp boning knife. I’m still using the Henckels boning knife I received in culinary school (sharpened regularly, of course.)


Step two: Place the tip of the boning knife just below the knob of the bone. Thighs have one large bone, which makes boning them a breeze.


Step three: Hold the top of the thigh steady and make an incision with the tip of the knife all the way to the bottom. You should feel the knife tip touching the bone all the way through the slice.


Step four: continue slicing all the way down the bone, separating the flesh from the bone. It may take several slices to fully expose the bone.


Step five: Once the bone is fully exposed, start working the tip of the knife underneath the bone to release the flesh underneath. Use your other hand to lift the bone so you can get the knife tip underneath it.


Step six: By now you should be able to life the bone up and away from the thigh. Continue scraping the flesh away until the bone is completely free of the thigh. (see below)


There is one last butchering task and it’s a little tricky, but do you see the white cartilage on the bottom the thigh?


Cut away that white cartilage. It won’t break down during the short grilling time we have planned for these thighs.

You’ll have four bones left over from the package of chicken. Don’t discard them. Put them in a zippered plastic freezer bag. You can add to it the next time you debone chicken. Eventually you’ll have enough bones to make a stock.

How easy is that? Don’t forget to come back next week when I share the Vietnamese-inspired recipe for grilling these beautiful, deboned chicken thighs.

Class dismissed.

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