Growing up, I was always a big beef eater, with pork being my second meat of choice. Unless it was battered and fried, I didn’t have much time for chicken. I thought it was boring, tasteless, pedestrian. But a proficient cook can make chicken taste really good, and a creative cook can make it taste outstanding. Ali Slagle is one such creative cook, and her caramelized lemon curd chicken is one such bird.
It’s a simple, clever recipe—one that she shared on TikTok—a lemon chicken without any lemons. She spatchcocks the bird, then shoves seasoned lemon curd under the skin before brushing the rest on top. She then roasts it in a 400℉ oven until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165℉. Easy peasy.
At first blush, you might be worried that this chicken is a bit too sweet. Curd contains a lot of sugar, but sugar is delicious, and a lot of the sugar gets caramelized or, in my case, a bit charred.
I was excited to make this bird, but two things kept me from grabbing a whole chicken: My feeble air conditioner, and my broken fridge. My air conditioner is barely keeping up with the weather as it is, and adding a 400-degree oven to the mix was not appealing, so I wanted some bird parts that would fit in my air fryer. I’m also currently working out of a mini fridge, and storing two leftover chicken thighs is much easier than storing a leftover chicken carcass.
I scaled the recipe down a bit for four thighs, then shoved and smeared them with seasoned curd as directed by the TikTok video. I omitted the water in the pan, as puddles of water are not compatible with the air fryer, but kept everything else exactly the same. I then roasted the thighs in a 400-degree air fryer, which may have been overkill, because the skin got very dark.
I needn’t have worried, however, because these were some of the best chicken thighs I’d ever tasted. The meat was incredibly juicy and, though the skin looked carbonized, it wasn’t really bitter at all. (I would, however, recommend dropping the temp down to 350℉ to give you a little more control over the browning.)
The resulting glaze and pan juices were sticky sweet and tangy, like the citrus-glazed chicken you find at the mall. The curd beneath the skin had infused into the meat, making it incredibly succulent and flavorful. I housed two thighs in rapid succession.
This recipe is pretty perfect as is, but would take well to some tweaking. You can add cayenne for sweet heat, cumin for character, or MSG for extra umami. You can (and should) curd a whole chicken, but thighs are a nice place to start if you wish to work on a smaller scale.
Sticky Lemon Curd Chicken Thighs
- 4 chicken skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
- 1/4 cup lemon curd
- 2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- Olive oil
Pre-heat oven to 400℉, if using. If using an air fryer, wait until your chicken is smeared with curd before setting it to 350℉ (unless you want your skin really dark like mine).
Mix the curd with 1 teaspoon of salt and the white pepper. Then season the thighs all over with the remaining salt and more pepper (if you really like pepper). Shove about 3/4 of the curd mixture under the skin, then brush or smear the rest on top of each thigh. Place the thighs in the basket of your air fryer (if using) or place them in a roasting pan with a 1/4 cup of water. Drizzle the tops of the thighs with olive oil.
If using an air fryer, cook at 350℉ for 15 minutes or so, or until the thickest part reaches 165℉. If using an oven, roast at 400℉ until they reach that same temp in that same spot. Serve immediately, with a squeeze of fresh lemon.