close-up of several chicken thighs in a cast iron skillet, coated in a garlic ginger soy sauce

Garlic Ginger Soy Braised Chicken

Juicy chicken thighs braised in a garlicky, umami, sweet and savory sauce with a bit of heat from ginger and sriracha. This garlic ginger soy braised chicken is a fast, easy main for weeknight dinners and freezer-friendly. The cooking is almost totally hands-off, the soy marinade can be started the night before, then the oven does all the work. No need to stand over the stove searing meat or fiddling with a sauce. Top with fresh scallions and nutty sesame seeds and serve with rice and Asian greens or mashed potatoes and stovetop carrots.

Choosing the Right Cut of Chicken

  • I almost always opt for bone-in skin-on chicken thighs for most chicken recipes, including this one. I like thighs better than breasts because they are more flavorful, cheaper and their dark meat stays juicier, due to their higher fat content. For this reason, they are more forgiving to cook - juicy even when you slightly overcook them. 
  • I like bone-in, skin-on cuts better than boneless skinless because, again, they’re cheaper, and cooking meat on the bone results in more flavorful meat. And, of course, chicken skin is delicious! But, if you don’t like it for some reason, you can always remove it (and shred the meat from the bones) after cooking if you don’t want them on your plate.
  • It’s not strictly necessary, but trimming the excess skin and fat from the chicken thighs will give the finished dish a neater, more appetizing, appearance.
  • One good reason to go with a boneless skinless cut is if you want to use the entire thigh (or breast) in something like a chicken sandwich - as I do for these spicy jerk chicken sandwiches - or if you want to serve your chicken in even slices, perhaps over a salad. (Though, in that case you can always also go with bone-in cuts and serve the meat shredded instead).
  • You can still opt to use chicken breasts or boneless skinless thighs if you want, just know that they won’t take as long to cook as meat on the bone will. Start checking the doneness temperature of your boneless meat about 10-15 minutes earlier than the recipe suggests. 

Preparing Chicken in a Soy Sauce Marinade

This recipe uses a soy sauce marinade, which adds flavor and umami to the chicken but differs somewhat from marinades that rely on acidic ingredients to do the work of tenderizing the meat. Under most circumstances, salt draws moisture out of meat, which you don’t want. But with a soy sauce marinade, the sodium-rich soy sauce actually functions like a brine. 

Wet brining allows the flavor from the seasonings to absorb into the meat all the way through and works to tenderize it first by increasing its moisture-holding capacity, and then by allowing it to take up some of the moisture from the brine. Since the meat is then more moist than it otherwise would be before cooking, meat that has been brined will be juicier even after it inevitably loses some moisture during the cooking process. 

Looking for more things to do with chicken thighs? Try these jerk chicken sandwiches or this one-pot chicken and cardamom rice. 

Chicken is a relatively tender meat, so the brining process requires less time than, say, it does for pork. Ideally, you want to give the chicken at least 30 minutes in the soy sauce mixture, but 2-4 hours is even better. If it’s easiest for you to prepare the chicken in advance the night before, the chicken can also be left in the soy-marinade-brine overnight in the refrigerator. However, you don’t want to leave the chicken in the brine for much longer than that, or the texture of the chicken will deteriorate. 

Tips for Serving, Storing and Freezing

  • My favorite way to serve this chicken is with buttery mashed potatoes and a really simple side of sauteed kale or collard greens. It would also go well with rice and a salad. Either way, you want something fresh and green, and some starch element to soak up the extra garlic ginger sauce.
  • Store any leftover chicken in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. 
  • This recipe works beautifully as a freezer meal. Simply prepare the marinade and transfer to a freezer-safe plastic or reusable silicone bag. Transfer the chicken to the bag, turning each one to coat with the marinade, then seal the bag, making sure to remove as much air as possible. Freeze for up to 3 months.
  • To cook from frozen, transfer the bag to the refrigerator to thaw overnight. The next day, set the bag on the counter about 30-45 minutes before cooking, to bring it to room temperature and continue with the recipe as written below.
  • If you forget to take the chicken out the night before, you can still have it for dinner, but don’t just leave the bag on the counter to thaw. To be safe, place the frozen bag inside a slightly larger dish and cover it with very cold water (with something heavy on top to keep the meat submerged) for a few hours until thawed. Be sure to replace the water every half hour so the chicken is always sitting in very cold water. 

Garlic Ginger Soy-Braised Chicken Recipe

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons flavorless oil (like canola)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper 
  • 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (depending on size, about 6 thighs)
  • ¼ cup chicken stock
  • 2-3 scallions, sliced thinly, to garnish (optional)
  • White and/or black sesame seeds, to garnish (optional)

Instructions

  • Marinate: in a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the oil, soy sauce, sriracha, honey, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper. Trim the excess skin and fat from the chicken thighs, if you like, and add them to the bowl with the marinade, turning each one in the sauce to ensure they are evenly coated in the marinade. Marinate chicken for at least 30 minutes, ideally 2-4 hours, but no longer than overnight. During this time, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and transfer it to the refrigerator. Take it back out 30-45 minutes before you intend to cook it. 
  • Cook: Preheat the oven to 400F. Transfer the chicken thighs to a cast iron skillet or other oven-safe baking dish, skin-side down. Pour the remaining marinade over the top and add the chicken stock. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the internal temperature of your chicken reads at least 165F with a meat thermometer, flipping the chicken skin-side up about half-way through the baking time. 
  • Serve: Remove the chicken from the oven, top with the sliced scallions and sesame seeds, if using, and serve immediately with mashed potatoes or rice and some simply prepared greens or a fresh green salad. 
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