Pan-Fry

Crispy Chicken Thighs Under a Brick

by:
June 12, 2021
5 Stars
Photo by James Ransom Prop Stylist: Andrea Foti Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Achieving crispy chicken skin is an art form. While you certainly can get ultra-crunchy chicken skin from a basic pan-sear, you can get the skin even crispier with the help of an unlikely object: a brick. By using something heavy to press down on the chicken while it cooks, all of the skin comes in direct contact with the pan, making for an even, deeply golden sear.

This method of cooking chicken under a brick, also known as pollo al mattone in Italian, is one that dates back many centuries to Tuscany, where cooks would prepare chicken under terra-cotta tiles. Typically, these days, chicken under a brick is made with a whole spatchcocked chicken on a grill, but in this version, I’m swapping a whole chicken for thighs, and instead of firing up the grill, it all goes down on the stove. I will be the first one to admit that deboning chicken thighs is certainly an annoying task, but it’s one that is definitely worth it. By deboning the thighs, it allows for all of the chicken skin to make even contact with the pan while also loosening up the thighs so that the pressure of the brick can really sink in (plus, you can save the bones for future homemade chicken stock).

If you’re not comfortable deboning the thighs yourself, you can always ask the butcher to do it for you. Also, if you don’t have two bricks laying around, you could use a heavy cast-iron skillet filled with some cans of beans.

Regardless of the heavy object you use to press down on your chicken thighs, you’re going to render a ton of fat from the skin. Once the thighs are out of the pan and you’re left with all that schmaltzy goodness, the only thing left to do is toss some parboiled baby potatoes in said chicken fat. Hello, crispiest-ever chicken skin. Now that’s true art.
saratane

Ingredients
  • 1 pound mixed creamer or baby potatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 4 or 5)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill leaves and tender stems
  • cups finely chopped fresh parsley leaves and tender stems
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from about 1 lemon)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Boil the potatoes: In a medium pot, cover the potatoes with 2 to 3 inches of cold, heavily salted water (about 3 tablespoons kosher salt) and cover the pot. Bring to a boil, uncover the pot, then reduce to a heavy simmer. Cook until the potatoes are easily pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Debone the thighs: Place the chicken thighs skin side down on a cutting board. Using a boning knife or another thin, sharp knife, cut straight down into flesh, feeling for the thigh bone that runs through the center of the thigh, until the tip of the knife gently hits the bone. Without slicing through the skin, slice from the top of the bone to the bottom in order to wiggle it loose from the thigh meat. Staying as close to the bone as possible and using short strokes, gradually cut the meat away from the bone on both sides until the bone is completely detached from the flesh. You may need to set the knife down and use your hands to gently wiggle the joint from the flesh. Set aside onto a plate or sheet pan.
  3. Pat the chicken dry, then season on both sides with salt and pepper. Wrap two bricks with foil (or use a heavy cast-iron skillet—no need to wrap).
  4. Pour the oil into a medium cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Place the chicken in the pan skin side down in a single layer (it’s okay if they’re touching each other). Place the prepared bricks on top of the thighs, distributing the weight of the brick as evenly as possible. (If using a cast-iron skillet, place a layer of foil over the chicken then place the pan on top). Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook the chicken, rotating the pan on the burner halfway through to ensure even cooking, until the flesh is nearly cooked through, or registers at least 155°F on a thermometer, about 10 to 14 minutes.
  5. Carefully remove the bricks (and the layer of foil, if using the skillet method). The chicken skin should be deeply golden brown and there should be a bit of barely cooked flesh on the top side of the thigh. Using a fish (or rubber) spatula, gently turn over each piece of chicken flesh side up, making sure not to tear the chicken skin. Cook until the flesh is cooked through (reaching 165°F on a thermometer), about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside on a plate.
  6. Still over medium-high heat, add the boiled potatoes to the schmaltzy pan and toss to coat with fat. Cook until the potatoes are browned, about 2 minutes. Add the dill, parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice and toss to coat while scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken and any juices back in, skin side up (some chicken may rest on top of the potatoes), and serve immediately.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

saratane

Recipe by: saratane

Food writer, recipe developer, and private chef

1 Review

Marcusrd3 June 13, 2021
I have not made this yet, however, I want to make a suggest or two. First, why would this recipe call for “bone in” when you are then going to debone them? And second, you never put salt in a pan of water and then bring it to a boil ( unless you have cheap pots and pans). The salt will sink to the bottom of the pot causing Pitt marks to appear.
If it were I making this, I would also cook the potatoes at the same time as cooking chicken, so they are hot when adding to the pan.