The cooking art can be quite tricky for both the uninitiated and even the seasoned ones. Even the simplest things can sometimes be quite confusing. And while you have the flexibility of experimenting in the kitchen, in some aspects, cooking should actually be an exact science.
One of the exact things that you should know is how to tell if the chicken is done.
Because not only does chicken taste good when cooked right, it is also a MUST that it is really cooked for safety reasons.
Why Do We Need to be Sure that the Chicken is Completely Cooked?
You see, chicken can expose us human beings to antibiotic-resistant bacteria including salmonella and E.coli (from fecal contamination) that can cause serious food poisoning and other diseases. I am not scaring you to eat chicken.
Most of us love our chicken dishes. I guess my main point is that you have to make sure that you cook your chicken well so that these bacteria completely die and do not in any way harm us or our loved ones.
So how do you actually tell if your chicken is done?
Don’t get to overwhelmed or freaked out now. There’s a guide for almost everything in the world, and yes, that includes knowing when the chicken is already cooked.
While it is tempting to just overcook it to make sure that it is already safe to eat it, you don’t really want for your family to end up eating dried and tasteless chicken. One of the things that eating do for us is not just to nourish us, but also to give us enjoyment.
So without further ado, I present to you the easy guide to knowing when your chicken is already perfectly cooked so that not only is it healthy and yummy – it should be safe too.
Cooking Whole Chickens
When roasting whole chickens, you can use a thermometer that’s specifically used for meat (you can easily buy one at Walmart) to check if it is cooked. Insert it into the thickest part of the thigh, and make sure that it is not near the fat or the bone. The meat thermometer should register 165° to 185° F. Once you’ve got that, your chicken’s ready for serving.
Now if you do not have a meat thermometer handy, just wiggle the leg to see if it moves freely. If it does, that means that the tissues around the hip joint have already contracted and is already cooked. You can also make a cut between the leg and the thigh parts to see if it is juice-free. Otherwise, if it still comes off with a lot of juices, it needs to go back in your rotisserie/oven/griller (whatever it might be that you are using).
For a quick tutorial on how to do it, watch the 1-minute video below:
Whole Chicken with Stuffing
Since there is already stuffing inside your chicken, knowing when the chicken is already cooked takes on a different approach than the one we’ve discussed earlier.
For this one, the thermometer has to be inserted right into the middle of the chicken’s body. As soon as the chicken stuffing (not the chicken) shows a temp of 160° F, the chicken is already done.
Please ensure that you put the stuffing in the chicken only before roasting it and not way before because the stuffing might also be contaminated by the bacteria still in the uncooked chicken.
Cooking Cut-Up Chicken
Since you would have smaller chicken parts to deal with when it is cut-up, there is no need to use a thermometer to see if it is done.
For checking chicken pieces with bones, just stick the fork into one of the chicken parts you’re cooking in that batch. When you pull the fork out, it should slide out easily, and there shouldn’t be juices coming out. However, do not worry if the meat attached to the bones is still mildly pink, that’s just normal.
Now for chicken pieces which have already been deboned, you will know that they are all cooked when they are no longer pink all throughout. It would be very simple to check this -- just slice through the chicken using a knife. You don’t need to do this for all of the parts of course. If you cooked them all at the same time, and your pot or pan has an even heat distribution, they will all become done at the same time.
Easy Ways on How to Tell if Chicken is Done
So just as a summary, here are the things you need to know in telling if your chicken is done:
1. Thermometer Test
This method will give you more assurance that your chicken is cooked because you have the recommended temperatures to follow exactly – no guesswork is needed.
2. Visual Test
There are several ways to go about this.
First, you can insert a fork into the chicken meat and if no juice flows out, it is cooked.
Second, you can also cut it open and when the meat is no longer pink (except when it has bones and the mild pink color is only on the meat nearest to the bone), then you have a cooked chicken ready.
Third, you can wiggle the leg, and if it moves freely, your chicken is done!
Fortunately for us, chicken meat is a lot easier to cook than most other meats (like beef, lamb, etc.), so getting used to knowing when it is already done is not hard at all.
Also, although you would always want to serve truly appetizing and delicious food to your family, when in doubt, it is acceptable to overcook. It would not be like the other kinds of meat that becomes hard to chew when done overly.
In fact, except for roasted or fried chicken (or any other dry recipe), for dishes where chicken is in a soup or in a saucy setup, overcooking it would give you a very soft and fall-off the bones result. So when you are not sure, it is actually better to err on the safe side!