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May 25, 2011 02:29 PM

Chicken Pot Pie - Thigh Prep

Got a pack of skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs that'll be going in a stew-like chicken pot pie filling

What would be the most delicious way to prepare them?

The straightforward thing would be to bone and skin 'em, but then I'd be throwing away some potentially nice tastes and textures

I can't think of a way that keeping the bones in would work, so I will probably take them out

The skin, on the other hand - Would it be worthwhile to sear them crispy, then slice the meat in to bite-sized pieces capped with skin bits? Would the stew-like cooking process ruin the final texture, leaving the skin potentially gross and chewy?

If I didn't have you guys to guide me, I would sear the skin, bone in, then remove the meat from the bone, slice, and add to the stew - wagering that the "fried" skin would retain some sort of favourable quality through to the end


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  1. I would probably roast them skin-on, bone-in, then remove the skin and eat it all myself (I love chicken skin!). Then take the chicken off the bones and add it to the filling (and not cook it any further outside of whatever time is required for the pot pie crust to bake). The liquid in the stew will make the skin soggy no matter what.

    1. One trick that I saw (by J Pepin?) is to slice the thigh on the skinless side to the bone. This speeds cooking.

      If you do bone and skin them, you could make a quick stock of the bones and skin, and use that while cooking the meat, or for some other purpose.

      Are you familiar with Chinese 'Red cooking'? Skinless thighs work well. The chicken is simmered in a sauce that is rich in soy sauce.

      1. Having grown up expecting any chicken skin (other than fried) to be soft, rather than crisp - it's called The Midwest, kids! - I frequently encountered chicken with dumplings or noodles that had some skin left on, usually because Grandma just couldn't be bothered, and although I never thought it gross I take mine off (and the meat off the bones) as an intermediate step. I would never do either of these things at the beginning, because you want the broth to have all the flavor it can.

        Your recipe appears to be about adding cooked chicken to an existing stew, which seems like a bit of a waste; the classic procedure is to cook the chicken gently in liquid until it's just done, then take it out and bone/skin it, strain the broth, then proceed. You can brown the chicken first, if you want, but there's not a lot to be gained from that. The skin and the bones are there to hold the chicken pieces together and to provide flavor and substance, after which they are off the stage.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Will Owen

          I was basing my procedure off of an Alton Brown reciple:

          I'm thinking of using some of the gelatinous beef bone stock that I made the other day to give the gravy some heft - Maybe a mistake given the chicken, but it makes everything else so good that I thought it would be worth a try - hence not really needing all of the stock-power of the chicken bones.

          Good point with the "just stew the whole thing and de-skin/bone near the end" though

          1. re: Will Owen

            that's the way I was taught to do it -- my grandmother on one side and my great-grandmother on the other side were considered the local champions of chicken and noodles in their respective communities...and they *always* basically made a stock with the chicken...pull out the chicken when it's done, bring the stock to a boil while the chicken cools a little (although 2 forks works well to strip the meat when its hot), cook the noodles, and then stir the shredded meat back in.

            No lack of substance or flavor, and NO WAY would I make chicken anything with beef stock...the chicken just disappears into the woodwork and becomes a neutral animal protein source. Chicken with chicken, beef with beef.

            1. re: sunshine842

              Two comments: a bit of other-meat presence in chicken broth is not necessarily a bad thing; one of the secrets of a good Chinese chicken stock I've read is a ham bone in the pot (just don't mention that to your Jewish grandma!), and I've added a spoon of beef glace de viande to mine more than once. Salty bouillon-y broth, no, but a bit of a good bone stock - not too much - would not be a bad thing, and if you don't care for it that much eat it anyway, and then don't do it again …

              sunshine842, the only way I can think of to perfect your grandmothers' method is to use nothing but good homemade noodles, which I am very sure they did. Noodles or dumplings, there's nothing like the aroma of freshly-made dough cooking in freshly-made chicken broth to revive the dreams of childhood, or to create them.

              1. re: Will Owen

                yep -- homemade noodles, and they taught me how, so I always make my own noodles for chicken and noodles.

          2. Roast the thighs.

            Debone, and de-skin.

            Make stock with the bones and use it in your chicken pot pie gravy/stock/sauce, along with the thigh meat.

            Fry up the skin in pan so that they are nice and crisp, chop them into rough pieces, then crumble over on the pot pie crust before baking.

            You have now used every part of those thighs in one form or another.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              Simple... yet so brilliant! The idea of crisping the skin and crumbling over the pie a la bacon... *drool*

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Ipse - your method is the same as mine, really, except that in your method you have to SHARE the skin instead of eating it all yourself! : )

              2. Regardless of what I do with the skin and bones, is it not true that once chicken has been cooked past a certain point, that it will only become more tender (as long as it's immersed in liquid)?

                With a dish like boeuf bourguignon, from a beef tenderness standpoint, it doesn't seem to matter if you cook it for three hours or six - the tissue has already broken down.

                My impression chicken would probably go like this:
                Refrigerator - tender but inedible
                160F - relatively tender, edible
                180F - getting tough
                hold at 180F in liquid for a couple hours:
                tissue breaking down, tender again
                hold at 180F for another eight hours
                tissue broken down to mush - unpalatable

                If this is true, then would I not be well advised to make sure that the chicken has stewed to tenderness before popping it in the oven to bake the crust? Otherwise, if I put the pies in the oven with the chicken raw or lightly cooked, it would seem that I would risk the final product coming out at a point in the cooking process where the meat has overshot the optimal 160F, and not cooked long enough to re-tenderized.