What Temp to Cook Chicken – Temperature and Time for Every Part

The most efficient and safest way to cook chicken is to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. The key question is what temp to cook chicken. The answer is to 165 degrees Fahrenheit for all the parts including breasts, thighs, wings, legs and even ground chicken.

Cooking Chicken to the Correct Internal Temperature is Critical

Cooking chicken to perfection is not as commonly achieved as most would like. It can come out overcooked making it dry and stringy. It may be undercooked and troublesome or, in the case of the typically catered event, rubber chicken.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) makes the recommendation to cook chicken to 165 degrees. This includes whole chicken as well as chicken parts, ground poultry and the stuffing.

The primary reason for ensuring the meat reaches 165 degrees is to safeguard against the health risks associated with chicken.

Poultry can have within it Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria, which can cause food poisoning. By checking the internal temperature of the meat, you can be sure you have overcome these health risks.

You safeguard all who will enjoy your chicken when you ensure these risks have reached the temperature that destroys them.

The benefit of learning what temp to cook the chicken is in achieving the tender juiciness that makes your chicken a hit every time. This includes learning how important it is to let the meat rest before cutting into it. Following this useful cooking tip helps avoid ending up with dry chicken.

When meat cooks, the heat affects the juices. When you allow the meat to rest before serving, the juices can be reabsorbed. Do you notice how much of the juices escape when you directly cut the meat rather than waiting?

Generally, you can allow the chicken to rest between 10-20 minutes before serving. The larger the cut, the more time should be allowed for resting. For example, chicken breast parts only need between 5-10 minutes whereas a whole bird should rest for up to 20 minutes.

You can let the chicken rest uncovered. You can choose to cover it using tented aluminum foil to help keep it warm. Just avoid covering too tightly as you can end up sweating out the moisture rather than allowing it to reabsorb.

After resting, you will find that when slicing, you see the juices within the meat. Your chicken will be more flavorful and tender.

This is useful for the primary meal and also for leftovers when reheating. You might also use a touch of chicken broth or stock in reheating to fortify flavor and moisture.

How Long Does it Take to Cook Chicken?

chicken temp

There are general rules to follow for how long it takes to get your roast to the table. For unstuffed birds, you can figure between 20 to 30 minutes per pound when cooked at 375 degrees.

On average, the size of the bird you might pick up at the grocer is probably four pounds. In terms of time, this amounts to between 1 ½ and 2 hours of cooking.

For a breakdown of the different forms, here is a simple rundown:

Bone-in breast halves weigh between 6-8oz.

  • Roasted in the oven at 350 degrees takes 50-60 minutes
  • Simmered on the stove takes 35-40 minutes
  • Cooked on the grill takes 45-50 minutes

Boneless breast halves weigh approximately 4oz

  • Roasted in the oven at 350 degrees takes 30 minutes
  • Simmered on the stove takes 25-30 minutes
  • Cooked on the grill takes 6-8 minutes

Drumsticks typically weigh 4oz

  • Roasted in the oven at 350 degrees takes 35-45 minutes
  • Simmered on the stove takes 40-50 minutes
  • Cooked on the grill takes 8-12 minutes

Thighs weigh from 4-8oz

  • Roasted in the oven at 350 degrees takes 40-50 minutes
  • Simmered on the stove takes 40-50 minutes
  • Cooked on the grill takes 10-15 minutes

Wings vary in weight from 2-3oz

  • Roasted in the oven at 350 degrees takes 30-40 minutes
  • Simmered on the stove takes 35-45 minutes
  • Cooked on the grill takes 8-12 minutes

These times are simply guidelines. Recipes call for different cooking times and temps, and you might come to find you have a preferred method you like to follow yourself.

What happens when you use a meat thermometer is you start to recognize the timing it takes for different cuts. What matters is when and where you take the temperature.

How to Check the Temperature of Chicken with a Meat Thermometer

chicken cook temp

There are quite a few thermometers available on the market. When checking your chicken, you only need one that will give you an immediate reading. Either a dial thermometer or the Pocket Chef’s thermometer will serve you well, and both of these are inexpensive.

If you do not already have one, an oven thermometer that you can leave on the shelf helps to verify your oven temperature matches the readout on the panel. If it is off, you want to get it calibrated as this affects the temperature of your chicken.

When checking the temperature of chicken, you insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken. You want to avoid touching bone or other parts that have more fat or gristle as the reading will not be true for the meat.

You typically check the temperature near the end of cooking time before it is done.

Whichever cooking method you use, you can check the temperature of the meat to be sure it has reached at least 165 degrees. Dark meat like the legs and thighs take a little longer to come to temp because of their fat content. Boneless cuts take less time than bone-in parts.

You can reheat leftover chicken. You still want to check the temperature to ensure it reaches an internal temperature of 165. Always avoid reheating leftovers more than once, however.

Summary

Chicken is one of the meats that you need to take special care to avoid undercooking. Knowing what temp to cook chicken is a sure way to prevent illness.

With time, cooks become familiar with the different times needed to cook the respective chicken parts. When you are sure of your times and temps, your chicken will be cooked to perfection every time.

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