One question that I see come up a lot is “what the best temperature to cook chicken?” The answer to this question is… not as simple as a single temperature. There are many factors to take into consideration when you are wanting to cook a chicken properly without it becoming dry or risking undercooking.
I will try to keep it as simple as possible, but this is something that you will likely find yourself asking over and over. Be sure to check out this link on the CDC for information on foodborne illness stemming from chicken.
How to Tell When Chicken is Cooked
There are a few ways you can check a chicken to tell whether or not it is done. This can be achieved without cutting into the chicken and potentially drying it out or ruining the presentation. Professional chefs and cooks have to determine this by using their senses to come to a reasonable judgment.
The proper temperature to cook the chicken to is 74°C/165°F
How to Tell a Chicken is Done with Time
Smaller and thinner pieces of chicken will cook quicker than thicker pieces of chicken. Chicken pieces with bone-in will take longer to cook as the bone will act as sort of a cold spot in the chicken. Because of this, you will want to cook bone-in chicken longer and with lower temperature as this will ensure proper cooking throughout.
Using Touch to Determine When Chicken is Done
You can use touch to determine when chicken is done. If you are cooking a chicken breast, for example, a cooked chicken breast will be firm and bounce back quickly when pressed. An undercooked breast will be tender and soft.
For a whole chicken, the joints will move freely. An undercooked whole chicken will be elastic and rigid when joints are moved.
Using Sight to Tell When Chicken is Done
When learning to use your sight to determine when your chicken is done, be sure to look for the evidence. This can be a visual clue, or maybe a lack of something.
When checking your chicken breast, see if there is still blood coagulating on the surface of the chicken. If it is still white, it means it hasn’t cooked thoroughly yet. If the chicken breast surface isn’t obscured by sauces or marinate, check to see if it is still too white. If on the grill or oven, we want a nice caramelized/browned surface.
For a whole chicken, check to see if the juices run clear when probed. If they are cloudy, it is not done. If they run clear, there is a good chance it is ready to go.
When dealing with drumsticks and chicken thighs, check to see if the surface has blood leaking out, check what color the juices are, and inspect the surface.
Using Your Experience
Nothing can top your experience when you are cooking. Learn to lean on it a bit and trust your gut. While it is easy to cut into the chicken to check, it is important to hone your senses to coordinate together.
Combine the information you receive from all four points: sight, touch, time and experience. If you use all four, it will become easy to rely on your instincts.
- Check out our post on poultry including chicken, turkey, goose and more
- We have a comprehensive guide on cookware sets here
- Don’t forget to check out our post on the different types of cuts
Best Temperature to Cook a Whole Chicken in the Oven
The most common question comes from roasting chicken. Since there is not the luxury of being able to cut it open to check, we need to use other factors to determine. Now to be absolutely sure your chicken is done, you must have an instant-read probe thermometer. If not, you can never be sure without overcooking.
A good quality instant-read probe thermometer is not expensive to buy. There are a thousand to choose from on Amazon, and I have used a lot in my day. If you want my recommendation on the best and most accurate thermometer to use, check it out on Amazon by clicking here.
Crispy: Cook your chicken at 350°F for 2 1/2 hours. This is about the upper limit for roasting chicken. Anything above this and the fat will start to smoke which will lead to setting off your smoke detector. Be sure to flip the entire chicken on its back for 30 minutes to ensure even cooking.
Juicy: For a juicy whole chicken, cook at 315°F for around 3 hours, checking periodically. Lean on your non-invasive methods such as sight and time to help. Only use a temperature probe when you are close to your time.
Succulent: The best method to cook chicken that falls off the bone is at 285°F for about 6 hours. The slower you cook the chicken, the better the moisture retains. Be sure to baste often and perhaps lard the chicken with bacon strips to help with moisture and flavor.
It is important to have the proper tools, and a good quality roasting pan is a necessity. The qualities to look for are a well-known brand name, easy to clean material, and durable enough to hold up to both oven and stovetop heats. We recommend this Calphalon pan on Amazon. You can check it out by clicking here.
For convection ovens, reduce all temperatures by 25°F
Best Temperature to Cook Chicken Drumsticks and Thighs in the Oven
Chicken pieces such as drumsticks and thighs can be cooked at similar temperatures as a whole chicken with the biggest difference being time. The smaller pieces are more sensitive to differences in heat and can produce a bit more extreme results.
Again, the best thing to have at your disposal is a proper probe thermometer. Check the link above for our recommendation.
Crispy: Cook at 350°F for 45 minutes. This will give a nice crispy exterior to the chicken.
Juicy: For a moist drumstick or chicken thigh, cook at 325° for 1 hour. Check for juices.
Succulent: With how small the pieces are, it is not usually recommended to cook small batches using so much energy. My recommendation for this is to braise your chicken to get that succulent flavor and texture you are looking for. To do this, use a smaller dish and fill about 1/3 with chicken stock and spices of your choosing. Roast at 350°F flipping every 30 minutes for 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours.
Best Temperature to Cook Chicken Breast in the Oven
By cooking chicken breast in the oven, you can retain a lot of the moisture that is lost in other methods such as stove top or grill. This can be advantageous when you want to bring out the flavor of a marinade or stuffing.
Whole Chicken Breast
Cook at 350°F for 45 minutes, flipping once. Check for firmness as the size of a chicken breast can vary dramatically. The benefit of cooking whole chicken breast is to retain its moisture and flavor. It is more difficult to cook as many people are a bit apprehensive about foodborne illnesses that come from undercooked chicken.
Butterflied Chicken Breast
Cook at 400°F for 20 minutes. The best way is to cook off a large amount to similar to bacon. Butterflied chicken is one of the easiest ways to cook chicken breast. It is used frequently in restaurants due to its easy production value and set-it-and-forget-it nature.
Stuffed Chicken Breast
If you’ve stuffed your chicken breast with items such as cheese and vegetables, cook at 325°F for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours. You will want to use an instant-read probe to be sure as foodborne illness is common with stuffed poultry.