Chicken thighs are one of my favorite parts of the chicken (aside from drumsticks). One of the major reasons for this is the price - chicken thighs, whether they're bone-in or boneless, are cheap.
If you're following a recipe that calls for boneless chicken thighs and only the bone-in, skin-on thighs are available, deboning them is fairly simple.
In order to debone chicken thighs, you will need:
1. The first thing to do is start with the chicken thigh oriented skin side down.
These days most chicken thighs are sold as either bone-in, skin-on or boneless, skin-off; It's pretty rare to find skinless, bone-in thighs.
Here's a bone-in chicken thigh - skin side up.
For the sake of this article, the "skin" side of a skinless chicken thigh will look like this when skinless:
The bone-in side, regardless of having skin or not, will look like this:
2. Locate the femur bone.
The bone (the head of the femur) or joint will be exposed on bone-in thighs; It will physically protrude from the meat.
Using the tip of your knife, make an incision across the length of the bone. Keep the knife as close to the bone as possible so that you're maximizing your edible meat yield.
Ensure you're not entirely cutting through the length of the muscle. You're simply cutting superficially to remove the bone.
Note: Chicken can be rather slippery to work with. Be mindful with your knife work and keep your fingers away from the blade.
3. Now that the top of the bone is exposed, continue by making quick cuts with the tip of your knife across the top of the bone.
Again, keep your cuts as close to the bone as possible.
I've seen way too many guides where they say to make a cut to the left and right of the bone, but then you're left with a good portion of meat still on the bone.
Here's the wrong way to do it, just so you can see what I mean:
Here's the bone removed:
Don't do the above! You're leaving good meat on the bone, rather than on the thigh for you to eat.
Instead, use the tip of your knife and make quick, but pointed cuts at the top of the bone, slowly working the meat off the bone.
Then, use the bone as an inflection point so that the lean meat is off to one side - You can actually layer the lean meat on top of itself.
The bone should be then off to the other side.
4. Use the tip of your knife to follow the back-side of the bone. You could also insert the blade through the backside of the bone at this inflection point.
From there you can cut and pull the bone away from the meat.
Due to how slippery chicken can be I prefer just to use the tip of my boning knife to make quick incisions at the bone until the bone is removed.
5. Remove the cartilage.
This is something that most guides miss or fail to mention.
There is cartilage that sits next to the bone that will remain on the chicken, even when the bone is removed.
You can simply take your knife and slice this portion off.
Here's the thigh deboned and cartilage removed:
I personally love chicken skin but if you're not a fan, it's easily removed. In most cases you don't even need a knife and you can do so with your hands.
The skin of chicken thighs will typically have one "open-end" as well as an end that's attached to the fat/meat.
From the open end simply peel back the skin until it reaches this attachment point.
From there, you can either use your knife to slice the skin off or use your hands to pull and tear the skin from the meat.
No matter the brand, boneless skinless chicken thighs (also called chicken thigh filets) are more expensive than bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. The difference between the two is usually about $1/lb; The reason for this is the labor involved to do so.
Deboning chicken thighs is a super straightforward process and truly takes around 30 seconds per thigh or less.
With that said, if your recipe - like mine for Chinese chicken on a stick - doesn't call for skin or bones. I'd opt to buy boneless, skinless chicken thighs, just to save some money.