Grilling boneless chicken thighs can seem intimidating for some home cooks. How long should you cook them for? What temperature should you use? Will they end up dry or undercooked? Have no fear – grilling juicy, flavorful boneless chicken thighs is easy once you know the basics. Here’s a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about how long to grill boneless chicken thighs at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Quick Answer
The quick answer is that boneless, skinless chicken thighs typically take 15-20 minutes to cook through at 400°F direct heat on a grill. The exact time can vary a bit depending on the size and thickness of the thighs, as well as your particular grill and how hot it runs. But 15-20 minutes per side is a good general guideline to get tender, juicy results.
Why Choose Boneless Chicken Thighs for Grilling
Chicken thighs are a very popular choice for grilling. Here are some of the benefits of using boneless thighs:
- They stay juicier than chicken breasts. Chicken breasts can dry out quickly on the grill. Thighs have more fat and connective tissue to keep them moist.
- More flavor. The fat in thighs helps them absorb smoky grill flavors beautifully.
- Forgiving. Even if you overcook them slightly, boneless thighs will still be juicy.
- Economical. They are often much cheaper per pound than boneless breasts.
- Easy prep. No tricky butterfly-ing or pounding required – just season and grill!
Tips for Grilling Juicy, Flavorful Boneless Chicken Thighs
Follow these tips for the best grilled boneless chicken thighs:
- Pat the thighs dry before seasoning. Drying helps the seasoning adhere.
- Use a binder like olive oil, then season. A binder helps the seasoning stick to the meat.
- Preheat your grill properly. Let it fully preheat to 400°F before adding food.
- Go for direct heat. Cook over direct high heat, not indirect. This allows the thighs to caramelize.
- Don’t move them too soon. Let the thighs cook undisturbed for several minutes before flipping once.
- Check for doneness at 15 minutes. The juices should run clear when poked.
- Let them rest before serving. 5 minutes allows juices to redistribute.
Follow this simple step-by-step method for grilling boneless chicken thighs to perfection:
- Take your boneless, skinless chicken thighs out of the fridge and pat them completely dry. Dry off any excess moisture from the surface.
- Prepare your grill for direct high-heat cooking. Turn all burners to their highest heat setting. Close the lid and preheat for 10-15 minutes.
- While it heats, coat the chicken in a binder like olive or avocado oil. Use about 1 Tbsp per pound of meat. Then generously season all over with salt, pepper, and any other spices you want.
- Carefully oil the hot grates right before putting the chicken on. This prevents sticking.
- Place the thighs directly over the heat. Grill for 7-8 minutes without moving them so they get nice grill marks.
- Flip the thighs and grill for another 7-8 minutes on the second side until browned.
- Check that the thickest part of a thigh reads 165°F on an instant-read thermometer. If not quite done, continue grilling 1-2 minutes more and check again.
- Once cooked through, transfer the thighs to a plate and let rest 5 minutes before serving.
How Long to Grill Boneless Chicken Thighs Based on Thickness
The thickness of your boneless thighs will impact the grilling time. Here are general guidelines based on thickness:
|Thickness||Grilling Time Per Side at 400°F|
|1/2 inch thick||8-10 minutes|
|3/4 inch thick||10-12 minutes|
|1 inch thick||12-15 minutes|
The thicker the thigh, the longer it will need on the grill to cook through without burning the outside. Use an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness instead of relying on time alone.
How to Tell When They’re Done
There are a few ways to test boneless chicken thighs for doneness when grilling:
- Use a thermometer. Insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of a thigh. It should read 165°F when done.
- Cut into a thigh. Slice into a thigh to check that no pink remains inside.
- Check the juices. Cut into a thigh and check that the juices run clear with no traces of pink.
- Look for browned exterior. The thighs should be nicely browned on both sides when fully cooked.
The most reliable doneness test is checking the internal temperature. This eliminates any guesswork and ensures food safety.
Tips to Prevent Dry, Overcooked Chicken
To keep your grilled boneless thighs juicy and tender:
- Don’t cook over direct high heat much longer than 15-20 minutes total. The cut is prone to drying out past that.
- Bring them up to room temp before grilling. Cold chicken overcooks easily.
- Brush on a glaze of sauce just during the last few minutes of grilling. This adds flavor without burning.
- Spritz with a water bottle if the chicken starts browning too quickly. This cools the surface.
- Err on the side of slightly underdone if worried about overcooking. Carryover cooking will finish it off the grill.
Flavor Ideas for Grilled Boneless Chicken Thighs
The flavor pairing options are endless for spice-rubbed grilled boneless chicken thighs! Try out combos like:
- BBQ chicken – Rub with a sweet and tangy barbecue spice blend.
- Jerk chicken – Jamaican jerk spices like allspice, thyme, garlic and chili peppers.
- Tandoori chicken – Smoked paprika, garam masala, cumin, ginger and garlic.
- Fajita chicken – Chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic, onion and lime juice.
- Italian chicken – Oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, garlic and lemon.
- Honey garlic chicken – Minced garlic, parsley, honey and soy sauce.
For extra flavor, try marinating the boneless thighs for 30 minutes up to overnight before grilling. The possibilities are endless for delicious grilled chicken!
Grilled boneless chicken thighs pair excellently with so many sides, toppings and sauces. Here are some tasty serving suggestions:
- In sandwiches or wraps
- Chopped in salads
- Topped with fresh salsa
- Served with grilled veggies
- On skewers with peppers and pineapple
- With chimichurri or pesto sauce
- In tacos with fun toppings
- On top of rice, couscous or quinoa
- In a chicken caesar wrap
- On a flatbread with hummus and toppings
You really can’t go wrong – the tender, juicy grilled chicken pairs well with so many flavors and textures. Get creative with your meals!
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
Grilled boneless chicken thighs keep well for 4-5 days refrigerated and are easy to reheat.
- Let thighs cool completely before storing in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Reheat in the microwave, toaster oven or regular oven until warmed through.
- They can also be quickly reheated in a skillet with a little oil or sauce.
- Slice or shred leftovers to add to soups, salads, tacos, etc.
- Refrigerate any sauce or glaze leftovers separately to prevent sogginess.
Proper storage will help prevent leftovers from drying out. Use within 4-5 days for best quality and food safety.
Common Grilling Mistakes
It’s easy to end up with dry, burnt chicken if you make some of these common grilling mistakes:
- Putting cold chicken directly onto a hot grill. Always let it sit out to lose chill first.
- Grilling over direct high heat much longer than 15-20 minutes total.
- Forgetting to preheat the grill fully before starting.
- Overcrowding the grill so the chicken steams instead of browning.
- Using thick barbecue sauce too early before the surface has browned.
- Not letting the chicken rest before cutting into it.
With high-heat quick grilling methods, there’s less room for error. Following the tips in this article will set you up for juicy, flavorful success!
Frequently Asked Questions
Should the grill be oiled before grilling chicken thighs?
Yes, lightly oiling the hot grates right before adding the chicken helps prevent sticking. Use a high heat-safe oil like avocado, peanut or grapeseed oil on a folded paper towel.
Does the thickness of the thigh affect cooking time?
Yes, thicker chicken thighs take longer to cook through to the proper internal temperature without burning the outside. Add a couple extra minutes per side for thicker cuts.
Can I grill boneless thighs on a sheet pan?
You can, but it’s better to cook them directly on the grill grates if possible. The hot air flow around the chicken helps improve browning and flavor.
What temperature should I reheat leftover grilled chicken thighs?
Reheat grilled chicken thighs to 165°F. Use a microwave, oven, toaster oven or skillet to gently reheat leftovers without overcooking the already cooked meat.
How can I add more flavor to grilled boneless thighs?
Marinating, spicing, glazing and saucing are all excellent ways to add flavor. A post-grilling toss in a flavorful sauce is a simple way to finish them off.
Grilling juicy, delicious boneless chicken thighs is easy when you follow a few simple guidelines. Allow 15-20 minutes total cook time on a hot grill preheated to 400°F. Use an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness at 165°F internal temperature. Let the thighs rest 5 minutes before serving to lock in the juices. Savor the tasty results on their own, in salads and wraps, on grain bowls and beyond. With a little practice, you’ll be a pro at making crowd-pleasing grilled chicken thighs all summer long.