What Temperature Should Chicken Be Cooked At?

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Some proteins are safe to eat when prepared medium-rare or rare – beef, pork, and lamb, for instance – but this does not apply to chicken.

When you’re rustling up any kind of chicken, it’s vital to cook it thoroughly until it’s completely done. How do you know when that is, though?

The short answer: by checking its internal temperature is at least 150 for white meat and 175F for dark meat.

I. Calculating the Temperature of Chicken

When you’re cooking chicken, there are several different temperatures you need to consider. These are:

  • Temperature of the oven
  • Internal temperature of the chicken
  • Minimum safe internal temperature of the chicken for the purposes of food safety
  • Temperature of the chicken for the purposes of quality

For the internal temperature of the chicken, you’ll need to invest in an instant-read thermometer – more on that below.

When it comes to the temperature regarding food safety, this will destroy any harmful bacteria like salmonella and campylobacter.

Regarding the temperature for the purposes of quality, this ensures that chicken breast meat remains firm and white rather than dry and stringy, while any dark meat is nice and tender instead of a rubbery abomination.

So, what’s the big deal with the internal temperature of chicken, then?


II. Why is The Internal Temperature of Chicken so Important?

The USDA recommends cooking chicken to an internal temperature of at least 165F.

This is not simply a suggestion, but crucial if you want to avoid any foodborne illnesses like salmonella.


III. Cooking Times for Different Cuts of Chicken

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The cooking time is the total time it takes for a piece of chicken to cook all the way through.

Cooking time will hinge on the temperature of the meat when you put it in the oven, and also on the thickness of the meat.

As a guideline, the lower the temperature, the longer the cooking time. When you’re rustling up chicken, the cooking temperature and the cooking time are directly linked.

Regardless of the time and temperature you choose, it’s vital to get the internal temperature of the chicken to 165F. We cannot state this too often!

Here are the cooking times for various cuts of chicken according to the USDA:

Chicken legs and thighs (4 to 8oz)

  • Roast at 350F for 40 to 50 minutes
  • Simmer for 40 to 50 minutes
  • Grill for 10 to 15 minutes per side

Boneless chicken breast halves (4oz)

  • Roast at 350F for 30 minutes
  • Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes
  • Grill for 6 to 8 minutes per side

Chicken breast halves with the bone-in (6 to 8oz)

  • Roast at 350F for 50 to 60 minutes
  • Simmer for 35 to 40 minutes
  • Grill for 45 to 55 minutes per side

Chicken drumsticks (4oz)

  • Roast at 350F for 35 to 45 minutes
  • Simmer for 40 to 50 minutes
  • Grill for 8 to 12 minutes per side

Chicken wings (2 to 3oz)

  • Roast at 350F for 30 to 40 minutes
  • Simmer for 35 to 45 minutes
  • Grill for 8 to 12 minutes per side

Time and temperature play an important role when you’re cooking chicken-based recipes, but you should use these only as guidelines. As you become more experienced in the kitchen, you’ll find you can tweak those recipes and make them your own.


IV. Handy Hints For Cooking Chicken The Right Way

If you want to achieve the perfect internal temperature when you’re cooking chicken, there are more factors to consider than the cooking time and temperature.

Here are some handy hints for bringing out the best in your chicken, as well as keeping foodborne illnesses at bay.

  • Always bring your chicken up to room temperature before cooking it. It takes about an hour to temper a whole bird, while you will need 20 minutes or so to bring individual cuts up to room temperature. Tempering is beneficial because it will take less time for the center of the chicken to hit the target temperature, so don’t consider this time wasted, and don’t skip tempering your chicken
  • Use an instant-read meat thermometer to determine if the chicken’s internal temperature is 165F
  • Take the time to explore and master the cooking times and temperatures for all the cuts of chicken you use. Always bear USDA guidelines in mind
  • Always preheat the oven fully before you start cooking. Placing the whole bird into your oven before it’s up to temperature will cause cooking times to vary. It may cook unevenly, too, leaving the chicken undercooked in some areas and dry in others
  • Make sure your oven is properly calibrated. Pop an oven thermometer inside, switch the oven on, and then check that the reading on the thermometer matches the reading on the dial of your oven. If it doesn’t match, either get the oven serviced or make suitable adjustments to the cooking times

Before we close, a few parting shots concerning using a meat thermometer, and also the importance of allowing your chicken to rest after cooking.


V. Using a Meat Thermometer Like a Pro

Using a meat thermometer is the quickest and most accurate way to establish that your chicken is fully and safely cooked all the way through.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Insert your thermometer into the thickest section of the chicken. Under a breast or thigh makes a good spot. Do not insert the probe into bone, fat, or gristle
  2. If the temperature reads at least 165F, your chicken is safe and ready to eat
  3. You should look for clear juices. When the juices run pink, this indicates that the chicken isn’t properly cooked. Return the chicken to the source of heat and check every 5 minutes until it hits the target temperature
  4. Always wash the thermometer after each use with some warm soapy water to prevent any cross-contamination

VI. Resting Time for Chicken: Why Is This Important?

Whether you cook you chicken in the oven or on the grill, it needs some resting time when it’s finished cooking.

Allowing the chicken to rest means it can reabsorb some of the juices into meat, rendering it moist.

A reasonable benchmark is to allow at least 10 to 20 minutes before cutting and serving your chicken.

The larger the cut of chicken, the longer it will need to rest. While a breast might need just 5 minutes, a whole bird will require more like 20 minutes to rest properly.

You can rest the chicken under some aluminum foil, or you can rest it uncovered. Don’t cover it too tightly, though, or it will sweat out that precious moisture you are trying to retain.


VII. Conclusion

We hope you have enjoyed today’s brief guide to the right and safe temperature for cooking chicken.

Whatever else you do, as long as you ensure the internal temperature is a minimum of 165F, you’ll be safe from salmonella and other food-borne diseases from ruining your day.

We have a busy content calendar as always over the coming weeks, so be sure to bookmark Madiba before you head off today, and pop back soon so you don’t miss out!

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