Braised Chicken Thighs - World Famous


When I originally posted this recipe on Free Culinary School, it was a throw away post. I never thought that simple, braised chicken thighs would ever garner so much attention. It turned out to be my most re-created recipe and most commented post.


Chicken Thighs (Bone in, skin on)
1 lb
Cremini Mushrooms (Quartered)
4 oz
8 oz
Balsamic Vinegar
30 clv
Garlic (Blanched)
16 oz
Chicken Stock
1 bn


Braised chicken thighs are by far one of my favorite things to cook and eat. Working as a chef in an upscale restaurant, serving things like duck pate, prime beef and sous-vide yada yada up the yin yang, all I want to eat on my days off is something simple and comforting. For me, braised chicken thighs always does the trick.

In one of my forum posts I asked the readers to play a game with me, a little game called "the death row meal". It is a game that chefs and cooks have been playing for centuries, a good ice breaker to find out what a fellow food lover is all about.

Well, for me, this is it. If I were to die tomorrow, this is what I would eat tonight. Chicken thighs are the most used muscle of the animal, making it full or all sorts of great flavor. You see, the more exercise an animal’s muscle gets, the more connective tissue and collagen it is able to build up. This makes the cut of meat tough if cooked incorrectly (read seared rare), but if cooked low and slow in a braising liquid, all that collagen and tissue breaks down into gastronomic heaven!

How To Braise Chicken Thighs

Start by searing the chicken over medium-high heat, skin side down in a heavy bottom sauté pan, and then flip it over when the skin becomes a beautiful golden brown. The crispy skin is 80% of my motivation to eat chicken in the first place and is the secret to any great chicken dish.

Once the chicken skin is nice and crispy, remove it from the pan and set aside.

Braised Chicken Thighs - Step One

Place chopped mushrooms in the bottom of the pan with a nice large pat of butter. The moisture from the mushrooms and the butter will help to “deglaze” the pan, loosening all the nummy little chicken bits stuck to the bottom. Cook the mushrooms and butter, seasoning with a little sea salt, until they start to soften and brown.

Braised Chicken Thighs - Step Two

Once the moisture from the butter and mushrooms has almost evaporated, finish the deglazing process by adding some good balsamic vinegar, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Red wine also works great, but that just means less for you to drink later.

Reduce balsamic by half.

Once the balsamic vinegar has reduced by half, add in a bunch of blanched garlic. Now, looking at the pictures below, you might think that this is garlic overload, but it's not. If you blanch the garlic first, it will soften and become extremely mild, making your dish permeate garlic without it’s harsh, pungent taste.

Stir the mushrooms, garlic and balsamic together until all the ingredients get a chance to know each other.

Braised Chicken Thighs - Step Three

After the above ingredients have gotten good and acquainted, add in enough chicken stock to cover the thighs by 3/4s, leaving only the skin exposed.

Like I said before, there is nothing better than good, crispy, chicken skin, and soaking them in braising liquid for an hour ruins all the hard work that it took to get them to that beautiful state in the first place. Notice in the picture below, the chicken thighs are carefully nestled in the pan so that the whole thigh is covered except for the skin. This is the secret to perfectly braised chicken thighs!

Braised Chicken Thighs - Step Four

Once you have all the chicken thighs submerged in the braising liquid, bring it to a simmer on your stove top and then place into a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the thighs.

When the thighs have braised for about an hour, pull them out of the oven and remove the chicken thighs from the pan, setting them aside on a clean plate for later.

Place the sauté pan back on your stove top and turn your burner to medium-high heat and allow the braising liquid to reduce by about 3/4s or until it becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Braised Chicken Thighs - Step Five

When your sauce has reduced down to the proper consistency, add in a couple handfuls of fresh spinach and stir until it wilts, as shown in the pictures below. If your chicken has cooled off too much, add them back into the pan briefly to bring  them back up to temp.

Braised Chicken Thighs - Step Six

Finish the dish by placing two chicken thighs per person on a plate over freshly steamed rice. Spoon the spinach, mushroom and garlic jus over the chicken, and thank God you had some balsamic in your cupboard so that you didn’t have to use any of that nice red wine that you’re about to enjoy!

How to Braise Chicken Thighs - Finished Dish

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There are 75 Comments

Oto's picture

  it's really nice recipe, first of all there are very basic and cheap ingredients, which is great. 
cooking technics are pretty simple, and it would take about 30 mins. its great dish for whole family, and with white wine ore light beer it would be more delicious i think :D

DaveSmall's picture

This recipe has the best pan sauce. It is really delicious.

I didn't have quite enough balsamic vinegar so I used a combination about 2/3 vinegar and 1/3 red wine. That worked very well. We braised the chicken in the oven uncovered. It took a lot more chicken stock than the recipe called for to nearly immerse our rather large chicken thighs (about a quart).

Since our chicken thighs were on the big side, I let the dish braise in the oven for a full hour. That was a mistake because they came out a little on the dry side from being a bit over cooked.

We were serving with a side dish of fresh picked green beans so we omitted the spinach. The dish didn't seem like it minded.

I believe this sauce would also be great with pork. I'm planning to give it a try with extra thick pork loin chops.

Susan 199's picture

This recipe sounds yummy.  I was wondering if you seasoned the thighs before you seared them?  The recipe only mentioned sea salt on the mushrooms.
Can't wait to try this over the weekend.

jacob burton's picture

Yes, I'll season with a little kosher salt. Generally speaking, anytime I cook a protein I'll season it with kosher salt unless I've already brined the meat. Let me know how it turns out.

garylynn13's picture

Made the chicken thighs tonight they are GREAT!! My daughter who is not a fan of either mushrooms or spinach LOVED IT!  I am already trying to figure out how to do it large scale for my church. I have already done braised short ribs for 80 and it should be similar.  Thanks again for the recipe and all your info.

jacob burton's picture

@ Gary,

I'm so glad you liked the braised chicken thighs. I've done this recipe for a large group of people and it works great. I would recommend a couple changes though.

  1. Brine your chicken thighs in a 5% brine for 12 hours. A lot of people will advise against this because they think it will make the braising liquid salty, but if you only brine for 12 hours you'll be golden. This will be the only salt you need in the dish, so don't season as you cook. If the sauce seems a little under-seasoned when it comes time to serve, you can add some salt then. Rinse the thighs under cold running water, pat dry and if you have time, allow to sit on a rack in the fridge for another 12-24 hours. Brining you chicken first will make it more tender, but it is also your insurance policy against it drying out while in a chaffing dish.
  2. Before you sear your chicken, dust it in some seasoned flour. The small amount of residual flour left on the chicken thighs during the cooking process will help slightly thicken your sauce without turning it into a gravy. This will keep you from having to reduce large amounts of chicken stock.
  3. Sear you dusted thighs in a large pan, or a rondo if you have one. Remove the thighs and then make your sauce on top of that, minus the spinach. Place your chicken snuggly into hotel pans, and then fill with enough sauce so that the skin is just exposed. Braise as suggested in this recipe.
  4. If you want to add the spinach, remove the chicken thighs first. Wilt the spinach into your warm braising liquid (that's still in the hotel pans) and then place the chicken back on top. At the restaurant, we have the luxury of having lots of hotel pans, so I'll actually lay the spinach at the bottom of a clean hotel pan, pour the braising liquid on top, place the chicken on top of that, and then put it into a chaffing dish. This will give you a little bit of a cleaner presentation.
garylynn13's picture

This sounds like it will work well for me. I do have a good kitchen at my church with rondos hotel pans and chaffing  dishes and the cost of  this meal is a very reasonable. I think I will wait till the fall to do the meal as braising seems to go better in cooler months. I see how the flour will help thicken the sauce saving me time. 
This will be another meal to make my church members that will please and surprise them.
Thanks Again.

davis110's picture

OMG! I simply googled "Braised Chicken" and I came across this site. It was incredibly simple and quick to make. I didn't have rice so I used orzo, my husband loves pasta so that small change made it extra special :) This will definitely be in our dinner rotation.  Thanks!

jacob burton's picture

Hey Davis,

Glad you enjoyed the braised chicken thigh recipe, and welcome to the site. We have a lot of great info here for people who love to cook, and please, let me know if you have any cooking questions. If they're off topic, you can start a new thread in the forum, or e-mail me directly,

rkelli's picture

I'm making this right now and I'm having the same problem I always seem to have. The skin always sticks. How do I make it stop?

jacob burton's picture

@ rkelli,

To prevent sticking, heat a heavy bottom saute pan over high heat. Thin aluminum won't do. Only after the pan is hot should you add your oil, and enough oil to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Allow the oil to heat up in the pan until it becomes fluid and starts to "wrinkle" or form streaks. At this point, lay your chicken in skin side down and allow to brown, un-touched, until the edges of the skin start to turn golden brown.

If you follow all of these steps, the chicken shouldn't stick.

rkelli's picture

Thank you so much for the incredibly quick response!! I will try all of that next time I make this :)

ThePamperedNonChef's picture

This dish sounds great, but my wife is allergic to mushrooms.  Any suggestions for a replacement?


jacob burton's picture

You can leave out the mushrooms completely. Also, try tossing in some roasted squash right at the end.

PamperedNonChef's picture

Thanks for the quick reply, Chef.

The other thing I noticed is that you're using pretty high heat in the oven.  I always thought braising was more 'low and slow'.  Any particular reason other than shorter cooking time?  Would it matter if you went longer and lower, or would it not turn out as well?

I'm shooting to master braising this fall/winter, so picking your brain seemed to be a good start!

Thanks again.  Great site.

jacob burton's picture

Chicken legs don't have as much collagen as beef and it's structure is slightly different so it doesn't take quite as long to break down. No matter what temperature the oven is at, the braising liquid can only reach 212°F/100°C at sea level. This method for braising chicken thighs can be considered a "combo" technique; the braising liquid is there to break down the collagen in the thighs and make the meat tender, but the high heat of the oven will help to reduce and concentrate the sauce while keeping the chicken skin crisp.

If you were braising beef, you'd definitely want to do it at a lower temperature. If your goal is to master braising this fall and winter, then I would highly suggest listening to the Stella Culinary School Podcast Episode 7. Lots of good info and techniques discussed there. I also plan on shooting a few videos on braising in the coming months.

garylynn13's picture

Today at my Church I made your WFCTs. We feed 115 people a buffet luncheon with three choices for entrees, Eggplant Parmesan, Chicken Fried Steak and your WFCTs. Although I got a lot of complements on all the meals the WFCTs received the most. Thanks Jacob for the help in doing the recipe for a large group and for all the other info I have got from your podcast and web site.

sabuff's picture

Can this recipe be made with a dutch oven? I don't have a saute pan that is oven safe (at least I don't think we do).


m sless's picture

I have made a version of this dish substituting a dark beer, such as Guinness for all or part of the chicken stock. When the sauce is reduced the sweetness of the balsamic and the beer make for one delicious dinner.

thanks for the tip about not coating the skin with braising liquid. It seems obvious when you read it but some how I never thought of that.

CJ's picture

Thanks Chef Burton.  What a great dish.  I prepared it for an important guest (trust is a wonderful thing).  I blanched the garlic and prepared the dish with wine instead of Balsamic ( I bought and extra bottle) and it worked out wonderfully.  Yes, I can see why everyone loved it.

Sec0nds0n's picture

Just made this for myself for lunch because I couldn't wait for dinner. I cut the recipe in half and added onions with the shrooms b/c I can't seem to cook without them. Realized halfway through that I had no rice, so I gave it a southern twist and served it over stiff cooked grits. I'm glad I was eating alone, it would have been embarrassing licking my plate clean If someone else had been around.

jhugh's picture

I noticed that someone asked this question earlier, but I didn't see a reply.
I don't have a saute pan that is oven safe.  Would it work to use a dutch oven instead?  If so, what modifications to the recipe would be required?

jacob burton's picture

@ jhugh,

Oops, must have missed that one. Thanks for bringing it up again. A dutch oven will work fine. As long as you keep the skin above your liquid line in the braise you're good to go.

Rosemary's picture

Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe.  I love to cook for my family and friends and was looking for something a bit different.  I am ready to try new things, and this came out SUPER!!  I could not believe what a difference this type of preparation made!  I just joined and can't wait to try more and learn more.  

The blanched garlic was new for me.  All I can say is WOW!  oh, and Thank you!

jacob burton's picture

Thanks Rosemarry, I'm glad you enjoyed this recipe. Welcome to the site!

Kevin Curtis's picture

Great recipe... have made multiple times. I also have a problem with the thighs sticking to the pan. I do as you've instructed above... with no luck. I use a stainless pan (fairly heavy) with aluminum core... could that be the problem?


jacob burton's picture


It's hard to say without actually watching you make the dish, but here a few suggestions.

  • Because aluminum is a poor conductor of heat, there may be hot spots and cold spots in your pan that lead to sticking. Do you have issues with other proteins sticking in that pan when being seared, or is it just the chicken thighs? If it's just the chicken thighs, then the problem probably isn't your pan.
  • You can also try adding more oil to the pan after it heats up, doing more of a pan fry just to crisp the skin and make the process more forgiving. After the skin is crisped, you can poor off any excess fat and continue with the process as outlined.
  • If you have a large, oven safe, non-stick pan, this might also be a good option for you. Non-stick pans aren't good at high temps such as searing (they can actually give off toxic fumes if they get too hot), but if you brown your chicken thighs over medium heat it should take care of the sticking problem while still resulting in a nice, crisp skin.
  • You can also try lightly dusting your chicken thighs in flour which will help with the sticking issue while having the added benefit of slightly thickening your braising liquid.

Let me know if you have any more questions.


PS: Welcome to the site!

ihunger's picture

This has already become one of my favorites, I'm on my second go-round in the space of a week. I'm also having trouble with sticking skin, however - I partially solved the problem this time around by using a non-stick pan, but wasn't as happy with the sauce as the first time, as you don't end up with nearly as many nummy bits to deglaze, and a transfer is necessary due to the non-stick coating being inappropriate for a 400F oven.
This sticking thing is one of my cooking mysteries that I'd like to solve. It shouldn't be due to the low conductivity of aluminum - aluminum is actually an excellent conductor of heat, second only to copper among materials used for cookware, and 4-5 times as conductive as cast iron or stainless steel (see Due to this fact, the sticking is a bit mystifying to me. Can I ask what brand/model of pan you use for this recipe? I know what one does can be nearly important as what one does it in, so I'll try some of your other suggestions as well, but I'm not terribly knowledgeable about cookware (just the stuff it's made of), and wouldn't mind trying some of the tools used by the pros.
Thanks again for a fantastic and simple recipe that I'm sure I'll be tweaking and enjoying for years to come.
Ian Hungerford

blueaaa's picture

I am new to the site and I am excited about this recipe.  I will be making tonight.  While I am not a chef, I believe for searing in a stainless steel pan your meat should be at room temperature.  When I do chicken or salmon when it's at room temperature and I following the other instructions of Jacob, my meat doesn't stick....
Just a thought.

ummgood's picture

I've been trying to find a recipe for more than average braised chicken thighs for ever, it seems, and found your recipe today; cooked it tonight and the results were better than I expected.  I used an enameled cast iron Dutch oven rather than a saute pan and a combination of Balsamic vinegar and red wine.  Followed the recipe, to the letter, otherwise.  There are leftovers and it's all I can do to stay away from the refrigerator.  Thank you.  Thank you.  I'll explore the web site more thoroughly.  I know there's much to learn and many more excellent meals awaiting.

jacob burton's picture

Welcome to the site and glad you enjoyed the recipe! It seems like the enamel coated dutch oven is a good forgiving option for this recipe.

pdavidthomas's picture

Thanks for the recipe, Jacob! I also attempted this in a dutch oven. I don't think I let the balsamic and water reduce down enough, so I had to finish the reduction after the braising, to get the proper consistency for the sauce... it tasted amazing and was definitely a hit. I did notice that the skin didn't stay crispy. I braised uncovered for almost an hour, and made sure to leave the skin just above the surface of the braising liquid. 

jacob burton's picture

@ iHunger,

It's important to remember that there is a difference between conducting heat and retaining heat. Also, it helps to think of cooking materials not as conductors or retainers of heat, but conductors or retainers of temperature.

So an aluminum pan will heat up quickly, because it is a good conductor of temperature, but it will also cool down quickly when a cold chicken thigh is placed in the pan, for the exact same reason. Now the portions of the pan that are left exposed will heat up much quicker then those that are in contact with chicken thighs, leading to uneven heat distribution which causes uneven browning and sticking. Not to mention that aluminum is cheap, so it's usually used to make cheap pans that are extremely thin and have poor temperature retention.

Cast iron on the other hand, since it's not the best metal for temperature conduction, takes a long time to heat up. But in the same vein, once the cast iron pan is nice and hot, it will retain it's heat better then a metal that is more temperature conductive, giving you a more even sear.

The pan I use in this post is a 12" heavy bottom Calpholon. It works good, but a bit spendy.

m1illion's picture

First attempt and the wife said she would have paid for it in a restaurant. And she is no push over for flavor, seasoning, texture, etc. 

Knaiad's picture

Hello chef. I was hoping to make this with Brussels sprouts and parsnips. Would you recommend? If yes, when should I add them? I was thinking to cook then with the mushrooms.

BloomingNutria's picture

Well, I was very excited to make this given all of these positive reviews, but I must say, I was extremely disappointed. I am a very experienced cook and make complex gourmet meals on pretty much a daily basis, so I usually adapt recipes as I see fit while I am making them. This time, though, I did not. I thought 8 oz of balsamic vinegar was way too much, but the reviews were so great that I thought I would trust the recipe. I guess I thought that maybe something magical would happen to all that vinegar as it cooked.

It didn't. The dish tasted way, way too sweet and vinegary. I think 3 oz of vinegar and a few more oz of wine would have been the way to go.

I liked the technique of this recipe (crispy-braising is the way to go with chicken thighs!), but all the sweet vinegar just ruined it. I could barely eat it.

Thanks anyway, though.

Nordicgd's picture

I also thought too much balsamic, and I can't help but tweek. I used 4 oz vinegar and 6 oz burgandy and it was perfect. A little balsamic goes a long way. Plus it's very expensive. Unless I was reducing to make a glaze, I wouldn't use that much. I don't think I've followed a recipe exactly in decades. Better Crocker was a good start, but after the years, my buds (taste) know what I like and invariably gude me to succesful conclusion in the kitchen.

voluptuous1's picture

I joined this site today because of this recipe. I am very excited to try this. I think this will be my dinner tomorrow. :-)

voluptuous1's picture

Made this today and it turned out great!!! I used boneless skinless thighs but still seared them 1st. I thought 8 oz of balsamic might be too vinegary so I did 4 oz balsamic 4 oz wine. I also added extra mushrooms since i really like them and added a little fresh basil. This is definately going to be made again.

Paul Fredericks's picture

I was searching the net for menu ideas for this week and I found this recipe. This is tomorrow night's dinner. I would make it tonight but I have my first culinary arts class.
I read the reviews and was happy to see professionals offering their comments and experiences. I have joined the site and will be learning from all of you.
Thank you.

Paul Fredericks's picture

Instead of rice, how well would this dish work if it was served over
Spätzle? I see photos of the dish being served over rice and one poster mentioned orzo. Would Spätzle work? Opinions please.
Thank you.

jacob burton's picture

This dish would go great with Spätzle, especially since it is commonly served with braised meats.

Nordicgd's picture

This is a great base recipe that can be tweeked any number of ways. Chicken thighs are the best, like Rib eyes are the best cut of beef and shoulder (butt) is the best of the pig. The harder the work the better the flavor, and tender so long as you have the patience to wait for excellence. I added a drained jar of garlic stuffed olives instead of just blanched garlic, added a handful of baby carrots with the shrooms, and stirred in a couple spoons of tomato paste to bring it closer to Coq au vin. Great classic treatment all around.

asher6406's picture

i love creating new and delicious meals and recieve so much inspiration from websites. My family is very picky about the items they eat but with any inspiration its easy to change and alter to your needs. thank you

Nina's picture

At this point I have made this dish many times and we always enjoy it. Thanks again for sharing.

"People who love to eat are always the best people." -- Julia Child

jacob burton's picture

Awesome Nina. Thanks for the feed back. Glad you're enjoying the technique.

labradors's picture

After all this time here, I'm amazed I had somehow missed this recipe.  Next to the oyster, the thigh is my favourite part of the chicken.  The mushrooms, garlic and balsamic are yet more of my favourite things.  The only odd man out, for me, is the spinach, but I know I would like it in this - or, I could just adapt the recipe to use broccoli (which IS my favourite), instead.
How could this be anything short of a perfect dish?

Sighter's picture

Made this for the first time tonight.  Had to change a lot based on what I had -- I only had boneless/skinless thighs, and based on the recipe and everyone's comments I can't wait to try it again with the skin!  Sounds like it really makes it pop.  I also didn't have spinach or mushrooms, but I did my best with what I had.  Even without it all, the dish was very flavorful and delicious -- Meat was tender and juicy!
My problem is that the sauce really didn't work out for me.  I ended up with a pan full of two things; one a thick, goopy mess of reduced balsamic and who knows what, and one a more fluid leftover from the chicken stock.  Not sure what I did wrong; it wasn't bad, per se, except it was very salty and the consistency was exceptionally thick, like semi-chewed gum.
I'd appreciate any thoughts on what happened!

darcy dietz's picture

Just making this right now for my immediate family, but I've also made it (using the recipe multiplier at the upper right) for 130 people, and it works out perfectly, if you follow simply the exact ingredients. This is a show stopping dish. 

Joanner's picture

I made this for my husband tonight and I felt like we were dining in a very expensive restaurant. It was absolutely delicious. He has never been a big fan of chicken thighs but he just loved this.

Thank-you so much for sharing this fantastic recipe.