Preparing to bake boneless chicken thighs typically involves adding the desired flavoring to them, spreading them flat on a baking sheet, and placing them in the oven for about 20 minutes. Boneless chicken thighs are usually thinner than bone-in thighs and therefore cook much faster. Home cooks looking to save time may prefer to bake boneless thighs rather than bone-in chicken, which can take almost twice as long.
If frozen, defrosting is often the first step to preparing to bake boneless chicken thighs. Removing the thighs from the freezer and placing them on a towel overnight should allow them to thaw all the way through by the next day. If defrosting the thighs in the refrigerator, cooks should remove them from the freezer up to 48 hours ahead of time. Chicken defrosts more slowly in the refrigerator, but it also reduces the likelihood of spoilage.
Preheating the oven to about 400°F (about 204°C) before preparing to bake chicken thighs ensures the oven will be hot enough to bake them completely. These thin cuts of meat require high temperatures and short cooking times to bake them through quickly. Low, slow baking will often dry them out.
To bake boneless chicken thighs with maximum flavor, home cooks should add some kind of seasoning to them. Marinades add both moisture and flavor, while dry rubs can give the thighs a crunchy crust. Garlic and onions, lemon-flavored pepper, barbecue sauce and honey mustard are just a few seasoning options to choose from. Both dry rubs and marinades should be added to the chicken at least 10 minutes before baking.
Spreading the thighs flat on a lightly greased baking sheet ensures they bake evenly. They should look like misshapen hearts or butterflies on the sheet. Lightly greasing the sheet prevents the chicken thighs from sticking to it, while helping the undersides crisp up slightly. A single coating of cooking spray or barely visible layer of butter or oil both work well.
Home cooks should generally bake boneless chicken thighs for about 20 minutes. When the thighs are fully cooked, they will be surrounded by clear juices. Pink juices indicate chicken must bake longer to ensure that they are cooked all the way. In such a case, they can be returned to the oven for an additional five more minutes. Inexperienced cooks, unsure of specific cooking times, may slice into the thickest part of the thigh and peer into the center. If the center is still pink, the chicken is not fully cooked and must bake a little longer. Five minute increments allow the person preparing the food to check the thighs and prevent them from overcooking.