The “Life-Changing” Trick That Guarantees Perfectly Crispy Chicken

Life-Changing Butter Chicken Thighs with green beans in skillet
Credit: Yossy Arefi Credit: Yossy Arefi

Before I dive into describing all the reasons why you should drop your dinner plans and run to the grocery store to make this life-changing chicken, let’s get one thing straight: I am absolutely someone who throws around the phrase “life-changing.” But that does not mean I am being hyperbolic here. I just happen to think that very small everyday things can indeed change your life in a meaningful way — like a comfy silk eye mask for plane travel, a helpful app to remind you to drink water, and a surprising technique for cooking chicken.

Okay, so let’s get to the story: Our former editor Megan Splawn, who developed this life-changing recipe, says it best: “I’d cook this recipe for the chicken skin alone!” And it’s true. If you are someone who loves the dreamy combination of impossibly crispy chicken skin and juicy chicken, this recipe is for you.

What Makes This Life-Changing Chicken So Life-Changing

When Megan developed this recipe, she stole a trick from the classic technique of cooking duck breast. I’ve attempted cooking duck at home precisely once. It was a total fail for my husband’s birthday, so if, like me, you’re someone who is more comfortable cooking chicken, stealing a trick from the fancier fowl without having to actually deal with it sounds like a brilliant plan. Beyond the crispy skin cooking technique that will change your life (you knew that’s what I was gonna say, right?), the chicken gets drizzled with garlic butter (just melted butter and minced garlic — doesn’t get any simpler!) to add dimension and make sure the chicken doesn’t dry out in the oven..

Life-Changing Butter Chicken Thighs with green beans in skillet
Credit: Yossy Arefi Credit: Yossy Arefi

Why This Recipe Really Works

This is when the cooking science comes in: You start the chicken in a cold pan. Yes, cold! Without any oil. In fact, you want to pat the chicken with paper towels to ensure that the skin is as dry as possible, ready to crisp once it gets hot. You do salt the chicken generously before it hits the pan, which helps the skin take on a nice crust. Turn the pan to medium, let the chicken sit undisturbed for about 10 minutes, then move around the thighs get them all brown for another five minutes or so. Pour over garlic butter and transfer to the oven to cook them through and get the skin wildly, deeply crispy — crackly even!

Here’s what Megan has to say about why starting with a cold (un-greased, preferably cast iron) skillet is mission critical: “As the pan slowly heats, the fat cooks out of the skin, and the chicken thighs begin to cook in their own flavorful fat. And as the temperature of both the pan and the fat increases, the skin gets crispier and crispier.” So crispy that this chicken might change your life.

Get the recipe: Life-Changing Garlic Butter Chicken Thighs