If you’re tired of wondering if your chicken has cooked long enough and is safe to eat, these quick tips will show you what to look for and how to know when chicken is done, so you don’t end up accidentally serving raw (or partially cooked) chicken.
Whether you’re trying a new chicken recipe or want to improve your chicken cooking skills the tips below apply to all your chicken recipes.
The good news is that hundreds of chicken recipes, 5 published cookbooks, and an entire eBook dedicated to chicken have taught me a thing or two when it comes to cooking it, and I’m thrilled to share the easy way to check for undercooked chicken no matter what cooking method you use.
How to Tell If Chicken Is Fully Cooked
Checking the chicken’s internal temperature is the best way to know if the chicken is fully cooked; white meat chicken should be cooked to 165F (73C) and dark meat should reach 175F (79C).
You can also check the internal color of the chicken meat by using a sharp knife and making a very small incision in the thickest part of the meat. If you see pink meat, it’s not ready, however, if the meat on the piece of chicken is white/opaque, it’s good to go.
Checking the Internal Temperature of Chicken for Doneness
A meat thermometer is the most accurate device to gauge the internal temperature of the chicken and know when it’s time to turn off the heat.
The chart below displays the ideal internal temperature for different cuts of chicken, so your protein turns out juicy and tender.
|Cut of Chicken||Internal Temp|
|165F / 73C|
|175F / 79C|
|175F / 79C|
|175F / 79C|
|Whole roasting chicken||165F / 73C (at breast)|
175F / 79C (at thigh)
To learn all about cooking time and cooking temperature, check out these posts I’ve written about the different chicken parts.
The short answer is that a higher temperature means the chicken will reach that internal temperature with clear juices faster, however, for different methods of cooking, the recommended cook time for best results and juicy chicken may be different.
How to Use a Meat Thermometer on Chicken
To properly check for internal temperature insert the tip of the thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken breast, thigh or whole chicken.
If using a digital thermometer, the temperature will read in degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius, according to what it is programmed to. Analog thermometers will have a red arrow that points to the accurate temperature in both degrees.
How to Know When Chicken Is Done Without a Thermometer
If you don’t have a good meat thermometer, you can use these two visual cues to gauge whether the chicken is ready or not:
- Color of the juices
To test, pierce the thickest part of the chicken fillet or cutlet with a knife or fork and observe the color of the liquid that runs out. If it is a pink color, the chicken needs more time, if the juices are clear, the chicken is ready. Seeing how the chicken looks is the easiest way to check that your chicken has reached a safe internal temperature for eating, even when you don’t have a meat thermometer.
The proteins in chicken will shrink as they cook. If the chicken fillet or cutlet looks seared and golden on the outside but is still the same size as its raw state, it needs more time. If the chicken has shrunk, check the color of the juice before removing it from the heat.
Checking the size and color of the meat is also a great way to double-check that you didn’t get an inaccurate reading from your thermometer and that the chicken has reached the right temperature to avoid foodborne illnesses.
Avoiding Overcooked, Dry Chicken
Before you start cooking (or finish cooking) here are a few tips to help you avoid dry and overcooked chicken:
- Check for internal temperature
Cooking chicken according to internal temperature ensures juicy chicken that’s just right.
- Use a good recipe
You want a recipe that shows you how to make great-tasting chicken in the skillet or oven, step-by-step. It should include directions on which cut of chicken to use, the temperature to heat the oven or skillet, and to check for internal temperature.
- Let the chicken rest
Once the chicken reaches the proper internal temperature, remove it from the heat source, and let it rest at least 5 minutes before slicing or serving. This gives the meat time to lock in all those juices and flavor!
Now that you’ve learned everything you need to know about making sure your chicken is cooked, check out my chicken eBook!
THE Only Chicken Cookbook You’ll Need
The 70+ recipes inside Chicken. It’s What’s For Dinner will make everyone’s favorite white meat more exciting to eat!
Whether you’re just learning to cook or know your way around the kitchen, the recipes inside the eBook are simple and delicious.