When I first met Steve, he was not a big fan of chicken. To the point that if we went out to eat and I ordered chicken, it would frustrate him.
See, when we were dating and then newly married, things were really tight. Date nights were special occasions and he wanted it to be the best experience for me. He was convinced chicken was not a best experience for anyone. He thought it was dull. He thought it was ordinary.
Steve now tells me that chicken factors into many dishes that really make him happy. I think a combination of things contributed to his about-face on our feathered friend, but I suspect a lot of it has to do with seasoning and cooking methods.
This grilled, boneless, skinless thigh dish is one of the ways he now really loves chicken. Not only is it “delish” (as Steve likes to say), but it is so versatile! It can be made for one, for a few, or for a group at a party. It can be served as the main protein in a meal with sides, it can be cut into slices to top a fresh salad, or it can go straight into a sandwich with the fixings of your choice. It is so savory and juicy that it works with just about anything.
Well, maybe not peanut butter, but that’s the only thing I can think of at the moment.
This may be a little misleading because it looks like 4 little ingredients only. Which it is, after you put the rub together.
I first made this rub for boneless, skinless thighs, so it is what I like to use now every time. It is also good on corn on the cob, other meats, sprinkled on gourmet quesadillas…but’s that’s another recipe.
I first came up with this rub once I learned that part of the success of cooking is not being afraid to use plenty of seasonings, AND that many pre-made rubs are TOO SALTY! I couldn’t get foods as seasoned as I liked without suffering from salty-dry-mouth later. Too much salt really is not good for you, but I only get preachy with Pops (my father-in-law). He likes it by the bucketful, and we like to bicker about it all the time. It’s a love thing.
So I read the labels of the rubs I like, buy the components in bulk canisters, and then mix my own when I want to. I still use pre-made seasonings if they have low or no salt content. Then I add my own amount of salt.
I have included the rub instructions with the recipe below.
Here are some key tips
If I’m grilling chicken, it needs to be dark meat. To me it is juicier, has more flavor, and tolerates grilling better.
I do know some people who are not fans of dark meat. Hey, nothing wrong with that. So, if you try this with breast meat, use a boneless filet, cut it thin (about 1/4 to 3/8 inch), then place it in a plastic bag. Lay it flat on a wooden cutting board and give it a couple of good whacks on each side with the flat side of a heavy skillet.
This breaks down the muscle fibers, making the meat less dense and more tender. It will cook faster, and for this reason, it will stay juicier.
Believe it or not, I do make some dishes without it (mostly desserts), but I make a lot of dishes with it. I can’t help it. There’s too much Brazilian/Portuguese/Spaniard in me.
Olive oil really makes a difference here. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons on the chicken in a big bowl, then stir it in so that all pieces are evenly coated. It helps both with keeping the outside skin from drying during grilling, as well as holding on to the rub spices so the finished product still has its lovely flavor speckles.
Most cooks will tell you not to grill with olive oil. Or if you do, go for the light because the extra virgin has a low burn threshold. I like the flavor of the extra virgin. For this recipe, I keep the grill on medium and watch for burning.
I list the rub ingredients for you, along with suggested measurements. The beauty of making your own rub is that you can adjust the components to fit your taste. If you’ve got the salt, brown sugar, and other ingredients to your liking, don’t be shy. I sprinkle 2-3 teaspoons on the chicken, and then stir to distribute evenly.
I then sprinkle some more and distribute again. You want your chicken to look a little “George Hamilton-like”. All you generation Y and millennials can Google George Hamilton to see what I mean.
Add the Italian seasoning and stir.
Keep any remaining rub for other uses. Get creative!
Like I said, don’t be afraid to spice.
We have a gas grill, which I like because it reminds me of the stove. I can control the heat intensity with a knob.
After pre-heating and cleaning the grill slats, I lower the flame to medium and lay out the thighs.
Go for defined grill marks to make it pretty, but again, careful not to burn. Remember there is some brown sugar in the rub, which will have a tendency to caramelize the meat. If the flame is too high, the sugar will burn. And burning will also make the Italian herbs a little bitter.
Don’t be afraid to flip them over more than once. Use your grill tongs to gently press down on the meat to get a feel for when it is done. The dark meat and the olive oil coating will give you some wiggle room, but still be careful not to overcook.
Goodness gracious! How can anyone resist these (if you are not a vegetarian, I mean)! All I can tell you is that they taste every bit as good as they look.
I couldn’t resist. I paired mine with a light, little baby greens salad. The chicken was the star of the plate, and I am a happy little camper now.
- 2 packages (6 each) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of extra fat
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 teaspoons rub or to taste (see recipe below)
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- FOR THE RUB
- 3 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1½ teaspoons sweet paprika (or Hungarian paprika)
- 2 teaspoons granulated onion or onion powder
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon lemon and herb seasoning
- 1½ teaspoons loose brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¾ to 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- Prepare the rub by mixing all of the ingredients from the paprika to the salt.
- Stir well, taste, and adjust as needed, to taste.
- Trim any excess fat from the chicken thighs and place in a large mixing bowl.
- Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil and stir to coat all of the chicken pieces.
- Sprinkle chicken with 2-3 teaspoons of the rub and stir to distribute the spices evenly.
- Sprinkle another 2-3 teaspoons and stir to distribute again.
- Then add the Italian seasoning and stir to distribute.
- Grill on medium heat until cooked.