How Long to Grill Chicken Thighs on a Charcoal Grill: A Guide

Published By Kevin Turner

Last Updated Feb 5, 2024

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chicken thigh
Table of Contents

    Grilling the perfect chicken thighs over a bed of glowing charcoal can sometimes feel like an art form, and believe me, it doesn’t always come easy. With stats showing nearly 75% of American homes boast a grill or smoker on their back porch, it’s no wonder we’re all striving to up our BBQ game.

    Lucky for you, I’ve gathered some top-notch advice to elevate your grilling technique so that mouthwatering, succulent chicken is no longer just a thing of dreams. So roll up those sleeves and let’s turn that good ol’ backyard cookout into something unforgettable – get ready for your taste buds to thank you!

    Key Takeaways

    • For juicy and safe-to-eat chicken thighs, grill until the internal temperature reaches 165°F, which is about 6-8 minutes per side for boneless thighs and 10-12 minutes per side for bone-in.
    • Before grilling chicken thighs on a charcoal grill, choose between boneless or bone-in based on your flavor and texture preferences, trim excess fat to prevent flare-ups, and consider marinating for added taste.
    • Prepare the charcoal grill by arranging coals in a pyramid shape, igniting them until they’re covered with white ash, then spreading them out evenly before placing the cooking grate.
    • Use direct heat for grilling boneless chicken thighs and start with indirect heat before moving to direct heat when grilling bone-in thighs; brush marinade or sauce during the last few minutes of cooking.
    • Ensure leftover grilled chicken thighs are stored properly: refrigerate within two hours of cooking and consume or freeze within 3–4 days. When reheating, warm up to at least an internal temperature of 165°F.

     

    Preparing the Chicken Thighs for Grilling

    When preparing chicken thighs for grilling, you’ll need to decide whether to use boneless or bone-in thighs and consider marinating options to add flavor. The type of thigh and the marinade you choose can greatly impact the final result on the grill.

    Boneless or bone-in?

    Choosing between boneless and bone-in chicken thighs changes the grilling experience. Each type offers distinct flavors and textures that will influence your BBQ chicken thighs.

     

    • Bone – in thighs often retain more moisture, resulting in juicier meat.
    • They provide a richer flavor due to the marrow and fat around the bone during cooking.
    • Grilling time increases with bone – in varieties, as bones conduct heat differently than flesh alone.
    • Boneless chicken thighs cook faster, making them a quicker option for meals.
    • With no bones to navigate, they’re easier to marinate thoroughly, absorbing flavors more deeply.
    • Boneless thighs are typically more uniform in thickness; this means they grill evenly.
    • They’re also more convenient for creating sliders, wraps, or other handheld meals where bones could be problematic.
    • In advance of grilling, removing excess fat from either type is key to avoid flare – ups on the charcoal grill.
    • Whether you choose bone – in or boneless, always ensure your grilled chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F for safe consumption.

     

    Marinating options

    To prepare the chicken thighs for grilling, I usually start by considering whether to use boneless or bone-in thighs. Then, I like to experiment with different marinades to enhance the flavor. Here are some marinating options to consider:

     

    1. A classic combination of olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, and herbs like thyme and rosemary.
    2. A tangy marinade using soy sauce, honey, ginger, and a splash of rice vinegar for an Asian – inspired twist.
    3. A spicy kick with a mix of cayenne pepper, paprika, brown sugar, and apple cider vinegar for a barbecue-style flavor.

     

    Preparing the Charcoal Grill

    Once the chicken thighs are ready, it’s important to prepare the charcoal grill properly. Building the fire and knowing when the grill is at the right temperature are crucial steps for successful grilling.

    Building the fire properly

    To build the fire properly on a charcoal grill, follow these steps:

     

    1. Begin by arranging the charcoal in a pyramid shape at the center of the grill.
    2. Use lighter fluid sparingly to ignite the coals, allowing them to burn until they are covered with white ash.
    3. Spread the burning coals evenly across the grill using long – handled tongs.
    4. Adjust the bottom vents to control airflow and regulate temperature.
    5. Place the cooking grate on top once the desired temperature is reached.

     

    Knowing when the grill is ready

    I check the charcoal to make sure it is covered in white ash, indicating that it is hot and ready for grilling. I test the heat by holding my hand above the grill at cooking height; if I can only keep my hand there for 3-4 seconds, the grill is at medium-high heat, perfect for searing chicken thighs.

    Grilling Techniques for Chicken Thighs

    When grilling boneless chicken thighs, it’s important to watch for flare-ups and cook them over direct heat for about 6-8 minutes per side. For bone-in chicken thighs, start with indirect heat and then finish over direct heat, cooking them for about 30-40 minutes in total.

    And if you’re using a gas grill but still want that smoky flavor, try adding wood chips to the grill for an extra layer of deliciousness.

    Boneless thighs

    When grilling boneless chicken thighs on a charcoal grill, ensure they are evenly sized for uniform cooking. Place the thighs directly over the hot coals and cook for 6-8 minutes per side, flipping once. Use tongs to handle the chicken and avoid piercing with a fork to retain juiciness. Internal temperature should reach 165°F when fully cooked. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving to lock in juices. Brush with marinade or sauce during the last few minutes of grilling for added flavor.

    Bone-in thighs

    When grilling bone-in chicken thighs on a charcoal grill, it’s essential to prepare them properly for optimal flavor and juiciness.

     

    1. Start by seasoning the bone – in thighs with your favorite spices and herbs to add depth of flavor.
    2. Place the thighs on the preheated grill over direct heat, then sear each side for about 5 – 7 minutes to lock in moisture.
    3. After searing, move the thighs to an area of indirect heat on the grill to ensure they cook through without burning.
    4. Cook the bone-in thighs for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F, turning occasionally for even cooking.
    5. For added flavor, brush the thighs with a savory marinade during the last few minutes of grilling, allowing it to caramelize slightly.

     

    Using a gas grill for a smoky flavor

    To achieve a smoky flavor when grilling chicken thighs on a gas grill, I like to use wood chips. Soaking the wood chips in water for about 30 minutes before placing them in a smoker box or aluminum foil pouch creates a flavorful smoke when placed over direct heat on the grill.

    This method infuses the chicken with that classic smoky taste, adding depth to the overall grilled flavor.

    For even more intense smokiness, I occasionally add herbs like rosemary and thyme directly onto the coals while grilling. The combination of soaked wood chips and aromatic herbs adds an extra layer of complexity to the grilled chicken thighs that impresses guests every time.

    chicken thigh

    How Long to Grill Chicken Thighs

    Grilling boneless chicken thighs on a charcoal grill generally takes about 6-8 minutes per side, while bone-in thighs may take around 10-12 minutes per side. It’s important to ensure the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F before removing it from the grill.

    For more tips and techniques on grilling perfect chicken thighs, keep reading!

    Internal temperature to look for

    When grilling chicken thighs on a charcoal grill, it’s essential to ensure they reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Using a meat thermometer is the most accurate way to check the doneness of the chicken.

    This ensures that they are safe to eat without being overcooked, resulting in juicy and tender grilled chicken thighs.

    Monitoring the internal temperature is crucial for food safety, especially when grilling poultry. It guarantees that the chicken thighs are thoroughly cooked and free from any harmful bacteria.

    Tips and Tricks

    – Be sure to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken thighs for doneness.

    – When reheating and storing leftover chicken thighs, make sure to do so in a safe and efficient manner.

    Using a meat thermometer

    I use a meat thermometer to ensure the chicken thighs are cooked to perfection. I insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone for an accurate reading.

    Once it reaches 165°F (74°C), I know that my chicken is ready to be removed from the grill and enjoyed.

    Now, let’s explore reheating and storing leftover chicken thighs.

    Reheating and storing leftover chicken thighs

    To reheat and store leftover chicken thighs, I usually follow these steps:

     

    1. Refrigerate the leftover chicken thighs in an airtight container within two hours of cooking to maintain freshness.
    2. When reheating, use an oven preheated to 350°F (175°C) or a microwave set on medium power to avoid overcooking the chicken.
    3. If using an oven, place the chicken thighs in a baking dish with a little broth or sauce to keep them moist, covering with foil to prevent dryness.
    4. Reheat bone-in thighs for about 25-30 minutes, while boneless thighs may only need 15-20 minutes.
    5. Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer to ensure it reaches at least 165°F (74°C) before serving.
    6. Avoid reheating chicken more than once to prevent bacterial growth and foodborne illness.
    7. When storing leftovers in the refrigerator, consume within 3 – 4 days for optimal quality and safety.
    8. For longer storage, wrap cooked and cooled chicken thighs tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil before placing in a freezer bag or container.
    9. Frozen cooked chicken can last up to four months if stored properly to maintain taste and texture.
    10. Thaw frozen leftovers in the refrigerator overnight or using the defrost setting on the microwave before reheating thoroughly as described above.

     

    Serving suggestions and side dishes

    When serving grilled chicken thighs, consider the following side dishes and serving suggestions:

     

    1. Grilled Vegetables: Serve a medley of grilled vegetables such as zucchini, bell peppers, and mushrooms for a flavorful and colorful accompaniment to the chicken.
    2. Fresh Salad: Pair the chicken thighs with a refreshing salad, combining mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, and a tangy vinaigrette dressing for a light and healthy option.
    3. Creamy Coleslaw: A creamy coleslaw made with shredded cabbage, carrots, and a creamy dressing adds a satisfying crunch and texture to complement the grilled chicken.
    4. Garlic Mashed Potatoes: Indulge in classic comfort food by serving garlic-infused mashed potatoes as a hearty side dish that pairs well with the savory grilled chicken.
    5. Corn on the Cob: Grill or steam fresh corn on the cob and serve it alongside the chicken thighs for a traditional barbecue touch to your meal.
    6. Quinoa Pilaf: Offer a nutritious alternative with quinoa pilaf featuring sautéed onions, colorful bell peppers, and fragrant herbs as an elegant side dish.
    7. Baked Beans: Enjoy smoky baked beans as a flavorful accompaniment to your grilled chicken thighs for a satisfying and hearty addition to your meal.

     

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, grilling chicken thighs on a charcoal grill is a delicious and enjoyable cooking experience. The bone-in or boneless options provide versatility for different tastes.

    With the right preparation and grilling techniques, achieving perfectly grilled chicken thighs is achievable. Remember to use a meat thermometer to ensure they are cooked thoroughly but not dried out.

    Enjoy experimenting with different marinades and side dishes to complement your grilled chicken thighs.

    FAQs

    1. How long should I grill chicken thighs on a charcoal grill?

    To get juicy barbecue chicken thighs, you typically need to grill them for about 35-40 minutes over indirect heat on a charcoal grill.

    2. Is there a difference in grilling time between bone-in and boneless chicken thighs?

    Yes, grilling bone-in chicken thighs usually takes longer than grilling boneless ones because the bones affect how the heat distributes through the meat.

    3. Can I use marinade on grilled chicken thighs?

    Absolutely! Using a grilled chicken marinade adds flavor and helps keep them moist while cooking on a charcoal grill.

    4. Should I cook my chicken over direct or indirect heat?

    Start by searing your marinated grilled chicken over direct heat for a few minutes each side, then move it to indirect heat to finish cooking thoroughly without burning.

    5. Are these instructions different if I’m using a gas grill instead of a charcoal one?

    The basic idea is similar when cooking chicken on any type of grill; however, managing temperatures may vary with gas grills so adjust accordingly to ensure perfectly cooked grilled chicken breasts or thighs.

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    Kevin Turner
    Hi there, I'm Kevin Turner, Founder and CEO of thegrillingmaster.com. I started this website to share my passion and knowledge with you. You can leverage my years of experience as a pit master and professional to grill great food!

    About The Grilling Master

    Hi there, I'm Kevin Turner, Founder and CEO of thegrillingmaster.com

    My passion has always been grilling, smoking and BBQ delicious meats that satisfy my inner carnivore!

    I started this website to share my passion and knowledge with you, the hungry reader who wants to prepare the perfect meal. 

    You can leverage my years of experience as a pit master and professional. 

    Send me a message and let's connect on Twitter here.

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