5 Ingredients or Fewer

Canal House's Chicken Thighs With Lemon

July  7, 2021
43 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 2 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

"Short of turning chicken on a spit over live wood embers, I know of no better process for cooking chicken, nor one that delivers more satisfying or true flavors,” Paul Bertolli wrote of this technique, which he calls "bottom-up cooking," in Cooking by Hand.

You don’t sear, and you don’t roast, and you don’t grill—you don’t do any of the things we’re taught to do to chicken. Instead, you lay the chicken, skin side down, in a barely hot pan. Then you leave it mostly alone for about 30 minutes, flipping only once. The skin becomes impossibly crisp, enough so to satisfy your darkest fried chicken cravings.

Bertolli’s is a worthy technique to play with, but Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer of Canal House have streamlined it for us. They use only thighs, which lie flat, maximizing the crisping area, and jigsaw easily into a round skillet. Unlike Bertolli, they also allow for a bit of olive oil to get the process rolling.

The simplest version of the sauce has only minced-up preserved lemon stirred into the pan juices at the end, but you can play with this technique as you like. Hirsheimer and Hamilton suggest two more seasoning variations—sherry and mushrooms, or bacon and olives. You can deglaze and make a gravy or a fancy pan sauce. Or just eat all the chicken as fast as you can.
Reprinted with permission from Food52 Genius Recipes by Kristen Miglore, copyright © 2015. Recipe courtesy of Canal House. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
Photography credit: James Ransom © 2015 —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Canal House's Chicken Thighs With Lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • rind from half of a preserved lemon, finely chopped
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  1. Put the olive oil into a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add them to the skillet, skin side down. Cook them like this, without moving them, until the fat has rendered out and the skin is deep golden brown and crisp, 15 to 30 minutes. Fiddle with the heat, reducing it to medium-low if the skin begins to burn before it gets evenly golden brown. Turn the thighs over and stir the preserved lemon rind into the fat in the skillet. Continue cooking the thighs until the meat closest to the bone is cooked through, about 15 minutes more. Serve the thighs and lemony pan drippings with the lemon wedges.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Lynette Martyn
    Lynette Martyn
  • Ann Smyth Horton
    Ann Smyth Horton
  • jlriddell
  • aplatefulofhappiness
  • jennifer
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

144 Reviews

Mark C. March 12, 2024
The skin-crisping worked fine, but large thighs require way more cooking time than the recipe calls for. Next time I might try a reverse sear idea - cook the bottoms first, probably a good 45 minutes, then put skin side down at the end.
Pete February 29, 2024
Three strikes and this recipe is out! Tried it with my cast iron skillet and the skin shredded every time, the most recent attempt welding itself to the pan requiring an overnight soak to get it off. The video shows 5 thighs - 8 thighs in the biggest cast iron skillet I could get from Williams Sonoma was crazy over crowded. I’m sure there’s an idea that might work in this recipe but no - this is a guaranteed fail in my house. Never again.
ARLENE Z. August 23, 2022
Great base for crispy skin chicken thigh recipes. I chop up the preserved lemon and add it in at the very end, otherwise tends to burn. Also use recipe as base for various Alison Roman chicken thigh recipes - her instructions for getting crispy skin are also good and much faster but not as foolproof.
Lynette M. October 19, 2020
Would this recipe benefit from a brine amd can I use a cast iron pan? Thanks
deanna1001 October 20, 2020
I always use a cast iron pan. Just keep flame low. Never tried a brine. What I love most about this recipe is the simplicity and quick timing. Hope that helps.
SuzQ117 June 15, 2020
This was a one pan, easy meal and with a splatter screen clean up was simple. Very tasty and will definitely will make again. Served with Israeli cous-cous.
Ann S. October 3, 2019
This sounds delicious! But when it comes to "What Genius Recipe Do You Cook Most Often," am I alone in saying I never cook the same thing twice?
Paulskiogorki July 17, 2019
I tried this today and got soggy skin. I did it with the lid mostly on to prevent splatters, and turned the heat down because I was afraid it would cook to fast if covered. Do you suppose the lid or the low heat fouled me up a little?
SarahWarn July 17, 2019
Have to crank up the heat. It will work with lid on but you need to be past medium for sure. I do this in a stainless pan; I suspect it would be less successful in a nonstick pan.
SarahWarn July 17, 2019
Once the skin is browned, turn the chicken and take the lid off. You can cook it the rest of the way on low heat. You’ll know it’s ready to turn because it will release from the pan.
Lisa B. July 18, 2019
The lid made it soggy by trapping steam. You essentially steamed your chicken. Try using a splatter screen, also handy for bacon. They can be purchased in most cookware stores.
jlriddell May 27, 2019
Anyone make this with boneless thighs?
Hector L. May 28, 2019
I have not, but it should work exactly as in the recipe. Trust me. Read the recipe and the comments carefully. The temperature of your pan will be important but there is plenty of room for error. Use a spatter guard, as always. You'll love this recipe, I'm sure. Enjoy!
Julie K. October 2, 2019
I've even made it with boneless, skinless thighs, and it's still fabulous (if not quite as juicy). A superb recipe, shockingly simple.
aplatefulofhappiness April 28, 2019
I made this tonight. It was wonderful -- I'll definitely make it again. The skin came out so much crisper than when I oven-roast thighs. I did not use a lid, but did use a splatter guard. I did not experience any of the mess others mention. My skillet was probably too small (10") for the number of thighs I cooked (6). Next time, I'll do just 4. I didn't have any preserved lemon but followed the suggestion in Kara W.'s comment and stirred in the zest and juice of one lemon when I flipped the chicken. We loved it!
Claudia C. February 24, 2019
Wow. What a great easy recipe. Tasty! But I couldn’t find the preserved lemon, (someone please tell me where to get this), so I used a tip from another recipe that I as following and I used red grapes! A totally different flavor, I’m sure, but sooooo good! I put them in this recipe when the lemons were to be added. More sweet than tart, but either way, it was a big hit!
Christina S. May 8, 2019
You can find preserved lemons at middle eastern markets! Or, if you're up to it, make your own if you have a surplus of lemons.
Tammy A. May 8, 2019
Hi, I found some preserved lemons at World Market. If there is one near you, check them out.
Claudia C. May 8, 2019
Thank you! I did end up finding the ones in the recipe at Amazon!
Sonya January 7, 2024
They are very easy to make. I slice my lemons into thickish rounds, add lots of kosher salt between each layer and cover the entire thing with lemon juice until submerged. Don’t really use a recipe anymore but I’m sure you could find one online as a guide. It needs to sit for a week or so before putting in the fridge and using.
Rachel October 6, 2018
Has anyone used the sherry/mushroom variation? I don't have time to scan all 114 reviews right now, or I'd see for myself.
lynneR April 28, 2019
I added mushrooms, halved Brussels sprouts (because I had them) and dry Madeira. I really liked the results.
jennifer August 31, 2018
So, for those of you've who've tried this with the lid on for the skin side down portion of the cooking - is the skin truly as crispy as it would be without the lid? AND, do you find that this cooks the chicken faster, shortening the cooking time after the flip?
SarahWarn August 31, 2018
Yes, I find them to be as crispy as long as you don't put the lid back on after the flip. Just turn down the heat a bit after the flip to reduce spattering. And cooking time will be shortened a few minutes.
marilu July 18, 2018
My first fried chicken! Two of the four I cooked turned out excellent. The other two still had a little pinkish liquid seeping out of the bone area. Any tips on how to keep that from happening? I thought about semi-covering it per one of the suggestions below but couldnt bear to accidentally steam that skin I was so patient to wait for! Can't wait to practice again!
Bernice July 18, 2018
This happens to me too sometimes but when it does, it's usually because my thighs are different sizes and the ones that are larger need more time. It's also the placement in the pan so I try to rotate the pan a few times to make sure that every piece is getting in the really hot spot for a good amount of time or they will be uneven (most stoves have an unevenness to them). I hope this helps.
marilu July 19, 2018
Very helpful! I'll keep this in mind for next time. I think I'm addicted to salty fried chicken skin...
msmely December 2, 2018
Smaller chickens are usually younger, and their bones are not totally ossified (converted from cartilage to bone.) What you are seeing is actually bone marrow seeping out at the growth plate. The chicken is fully cooked! If you have any doubts use a meat thermometer. The only way to prevent this in smaller chickens is to overcook them! Salting them heavily will improve moisture retention but is one of those reasons people think they hate white meat poultry when really all they've ever had is overcooked poultry.
CuriousH July 2, 2018
I love this recipe!! So easy to make a show stopping dish with staples I always have on hand. One question - my lemon peels always seems to burn, past the point of carmelized. Any suggestions to avoid, without undercooking the chicken?
Nicole L. January 10, 2019
don't rush the first skin down part. it truly should cook long enough that there's not much left to cook on the other side. are your peels preserved? I use whole preserved slices chopped up and it doesn't burn.
Karen M. June 13, 2018
Found this recipe a few years ago, commenting now in defense of it....this is hands down my family's favorite way to eat chicken thighs on a weeknight (in fact, I'm making it tonight). First time I made it was an attempt to figure out other uses for my jar of preserved lemons - now I make this more than I make tagine. We love preserved lemon so I use the rind from a whole one instead of just a half...otherwise it's exactly as written. 14" Lodge cast iron pan (ni lid), good quality olive oil, plenty of sea salt and fresh ground pepper, and absolutely no moving (or even touching) of the chicken for at least the first 20 minutes. Skin is always crispy, chicken is always cooked through, kitchen is never a mess (wondering if the messy kitchen folks are using shallow frying pans ? My big Lodge has nice tall sides ). I do tend to grab the smaller thighs for this as I find the recipe works better with them (some of the chicken thighs out there look more like turkeys !) If you like preserved lemon (and chicken thighs, of course) I urge you to try this one again if it didn't work the first time. Can't wait for dinner tonight !!
Kristen M. June 13, 2018
Hey, thanks so much for sharing your experience and super helpful tips, Karen! Really happy it's been a keeper for you.
Lea C. May 16, 2018
After reading all the failed attempts I had very little hope that my chicken would turn out to look just like the picture. BUT IT DID! Loved this recipe! I cooked it on the cheapest of cheap electrical stovetop with a good old cast iron pan (without any lid action) and was so surprised when I ended up with the most delicious crispy chicken. I think patience is the key, because it wasn't a quick fry up but definitely worth the wait. I was also proud of myself for fighting every urge to move my chicken in the first 25 mins. NO TOUCHY!
70&holding April 11, 2018
through many years of cooking, I have learned a few things about... successful cooking! May I share...
1: Always listen to your elders/inlaws, They do know, more than you!
2: If possible, start out with, really good, cookery!
3: YOU do NOT need all of the, gadgets, just a good set of knives!
4: If cooking from a recipe, read it ALL way through, Before touching anything else!!
5: Make sure you have every thing you need, BEFORE beginning!
6: Forks, or any sharp objects are for, finished meats, poultry, fish! Use tongs or spatula for turning!
7: If something does go wrong, do not toss the recipe, just note the problem on the page, try it again in a few weeks.
8: Patiences!! If you are stressed, take a few deep breaths, or, go a walk!
9: If 8 does not work, go for take out, put it on your serving pieces, NEVER say a word!! But, do not FIB either!!
10: Okay, once you have successfully followed the first three, buy that new device you covet!
Try to enjoy cooking as much as you hope your family/guests,enjoy eating! If you give up on more recipes than you master, meals will become, boring, no matter how good they are! Never be afraid to ask!raf
Bob Q. April 11, 2018
To Chasomores comments on this being a failure recipie I just have to say:
Um after reading your negative comment..and then making this recipie...and having a few martinis...I think I found your problem. First, what were you drinking? And second, were you drinking alone? Only use the best cocktail ingredients, ones you would cook with, and try not to drink alone. Having someone to chat with while cooking and drinking, will help to keep you from annoying the chicken ("using a spatula and peeknig every so often") while it's doing as it was toldto do in the recipie...browning and crisping. Let us know if this helps.
Bob Q. April 11, 2018
To Chasomores comments on this being a failure recipie I just have to say:
Um after reading your negative comment..and then making this recipie...and having a few martinis...I think I found your problem. First, what were you drinking? And second, were you drinking alone? Only use the best cocktail ingredients, ones you would cook with, and try not to drink alone. Having someone to chat with while cooking and drinking, will help to keep you from annoying the chicken ("using a spatula and peeknig every so often") while it's doing as it was toldto do in the recipie...browning and crisping. Let us know if this helps.
kathy February 23, 2018
Thanks for "permission" to cover the pan during the first half of cooking... way too much grease escaped from the screen/spatter guard cover! But I've made this before in a cast iron pan & it's always delicious, tender, crusty, & much of the chicken fat is rendered. Also drained cooked thighs on paper towel for a few minutes before serving.
My favorite way to cook chicken thighs... oh, except for Country Captain Chicken!