When it comes to red meat like steak and hamburger, the consensus is that a little red or pink in the middle is good. However, that is not the case with chicken. Because of foodborne illnesses and the possibility of cross-contamination, it is extremely important to make sure that chicken is cooked through and to know when chicken is done. Additionally, you will want to make sure that any surfaces or tools used in preparing the chicken are cleaned and sanitized.

Knowing how to tell if a chicken is done cooking is vital, and that is what we are going to be going over and discussing today in this article. Because of the possible negative health aspects, cooking chicken can induce both fear and anxiety for inexperienced cooks. A lot of people will overcook their chicken into a rubber-like chew toy to make sure that it is cooked thoroughly.

There is no need to fear chicken or to have anxiety about cooking it. It all comes down to having the right cooking temperature and cooking the chicken for the right amount of time. For tender chicken, you can cook it low and slow if you have enough time to do so. That said, you can always cook it on high heat for longer although it may not come out to be quite as tender.

The more you cook chicken, the more comfortable you will be with it and this will add to your overall confidence level when you are cooking it for family and friends.

What Happens if you Eat Raw Chicken?

The main risk factor of eating raw or undercooked chicken is food poisoning and other foodborne illnesses such as salmonella. The reason for this is because the bacteria that can cause food poisoning haven’t been taken care of through food warming, or cooking process.

Man holding his stomach due to stomach ache

Poultry (chicken) is especially susceptible to carrying foodborne illnesses such as salmonella, although any type of food poisoning bacteria can be apparent in poultry. Additionally, you never really know where the chicken came from and what bacteria it may have picked up along the way. It is especially important that anytime you consume chicken it is cooked correctly, and is free of contaminants or harmful bacteria.

How Do You Know When Chicken Is Done?

Anyone should be able to tell if the chicken is done cooking properly regardless of your skill level in cooking. Once you pick up this skill, you won’t need to worry about cooking or serving undercooked chicken ever again. Fortunately, when you know what to look for this is easy to do. Read on for a fool-proof method to tell if your chicken is cooked through every time, without any error.

1. Do you Have a Food Thermometer? Use It!

I love having a food thermometer and using it often in the kitchen. It is the easiest and most effective way to determine if the chicken has cooked long enough is to use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature. This will not only remove any room for guessing but will also give you peace of mind when it comes to the chicken dinner you prepared.

To implement this method, you will want to insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken meat, making sure to only insert halfway. This is particularly important because the middle section is the last part to finish cooking. The temperature on the readout should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is ideal for parts of the chicken, such as breasts.

Thermometer spoked into a chicken on a grill to check if it's done

If you are cooking a whole chicken, the ideal temperature that you are looking for is somewhere around 180-185 degrees Fahrenheit. Whole chickens can seem difficult for some, but it really does boil down to the same basic principles as chicken breasts or thighs. For stuffed chicken, that should be around 170 degrees. For roasted chicken breasts, the thermometer should also read 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you do not own a food thermometer or have misplaced it, don’t worry. There are other ways to tell if a chicken has cooked through without one. As part of demystifying cooking chicken, I wanted to make sure to add multiple methods for making sure that your chicken is cooked properly the next time you prepare it. Read below for other methods that you can use to make sure that the cooked chicken is completely safe for yourself and others to consume.

2. Shrinking of the Meat

As with most cooked meat, a chicken will shrink in size as it is cooking. Color can be deceiving when it comes to chicken, so even if it has changed from pink to white on the outside, it may still be undercooked. It won’t shrink as much as other cuts of meat as it is a lean source of protein and has less fat, but there is enough shrinkage that you will be able to easily spot the difference when needed.

When you are cooking chicken and it has started to shrink but you still remain unconvinced if it has been cooked thoroughly, you can employ one of the other methods listed below as well. When it comes to chicken, it is better to be safe than sorry and by using two methods in this list you can ensure that it will be cooked to perfection.

3. Observe the Juice

Another foolproof method to tell if a chicken is cooked properly is to look at the juice on the inside when cut into. Starting at the thickest point of the cut of chicken, cut into the meat, and observe what color the juice is that comes out of the cut. If the liquid is clear, this means that the chicken is cooked properly and is safe to eat.

If the juice is pink or red, this means that the chicken needs to cook longer. This can be a little more difficult to tell when it is by the bone due to blood vessels. When close to the bone, a thoroughly cooked chicken will have more of a brownish tone to it, instead of pink or red.

Although, as you can expect, the pink or red liquid is the blood of the chicken seeping out and still needs to be cooked down. Repeat until the juice runs clear coming out of the chicken and rest easy knowing that you are consuming tender chicken that has been cooked thoroughly.

Chicken shish kebab on a grill with spices

The great thing about his method is that it works regardless of what cut of chicken you are cooking: whole or pieces. The main thing that you will want to keep in mind here is that you need to make sure that you are cutting into the chicken at its thickest point, as this will be the last to cook through. Although this can be pretty straightforward when it comes to individual pieces, it can be more difficult to determine where to cut into a whole chicken.

If you are cooking a whole chicken and it is time to check the color of the juices, a lot of people may think to pierce the breast, but this can be difficult to tell. What you want to do is to check the thickest part of the thigh. This is also where you would check the temperature with a thermometer, so keep that in mind for future reference as well.

4. Check the Color

Another great method to determine if a chicken is cooked all the way through is to check the color of the meat. When cut in half, a chicken breast should be white all the way through. Although cutting into a chicken piece is not the best when the presentation is important. There are some exceptions to this method as well, as some cuts of chicken will still be pink at the bone, even if they are cooked through.

Raw chicken drumsticks on a wooden board

A lot of people won’t realize this, but if there is a bone in your cut of chicken then it can appear from the juices that it is not cooked through. When in fact, the chicken is safe to eat, as long as it has reached the desired temperature. The blood vessels that run along the bone should be a grey-brown when cooked through, instead of a pinkish or reddish color.

5. Feel the Texture

The undercooked chicken will have a slightly rubbery texture and gelatin-like. Chicken that has been properly cooked through will have a firm texture that is easy to tear, without getting chunks. However, the texture of the overcooked chicken is not ideal either.

Checking if chicken is done on a grill with grill fork

When chicken is overcooked, the texture will become too tight. Finding the right balance between the two textures is key to determining if it is cooked properly or not. I’m pretty sure that we have all had chicken that was overcooked at some part in our lives, and from that experience, you should know when to take it off the heat a little more.

We’ve all had great chicken at our favorite restaurant, and this can be a great baseline to go off in order to determine if your chicken is cooked properly. It should be able to shred easily with just your fingers and come off the bone with ease. (More on this in the next method listed below.)

6. Does the Meat Fall off The Bone?

Best for whole chickens and favored by chefs, the basis of this method is that there is a point where chicken is cooked perfectly and it will fall off the bone. This does not mean that it is falling apart in your hands, but that when there is a bone in your cut of chicken if cooked properly, it will be able to separate from the bone.

Nice looking whole chicken on a blue plate with slices of lemon and rosemary

This is not only good for checking to make sure that your chicken is cooked through, but will also help you to determine if the chicken is not overcooked. There is a limited window when chicken will fall off the bone and cooked perfectly, but if you find that window you will be left with perfectly cooked chicken every time. If you cook it too little, it won’t be able to detach from the bone and the same if it is overcooked.

7. Make Sure You’re Cooking it For Long Enough!

The best way to make sure that your chicken is cooked through is to set the temperature higher, as higher temperatures will kill off sickness causing bacteria faster. But a caveat to this is: a general rule of thumb for cooking is that low and slow will make the meat more tender. So it is up to you when you are cooking your chicken how much time you have for it to be done. While a high temperature will cook it faster, it may not be as tender as a lower temperature for a longer time.

Woman cutting steaming chicken breast on a cutting board

A thought on boiling chicken: in order to get the texture right without overcooking or undercooking, you will want to keep the water the same temperature as the internal temperature of the chicken should be, so around 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Boiled chicken does not have to be rubbery and flavorless, and by maintaining the right temperature of the water you can end up with flawless chicken every time.

Final Words

Luckily and unlike chicken, it is easy to tell when it’s time to wrap up an article. I have shared all of the helpful information that I have for you, and hope that this will make it easy to determine when your chicken is cooked through. With the methods above, you can make sure that the next time you cook chicken for friends or family you can serve it with confidence.

Take it from me: these methods have never failed me. If you have your fool-proof of checking to make sure chicken is cooked properly, let me know in the comments below! There are many great cooks out there and it is possible that I haven’t covered everything.