How to Tell If Chicken Is Done With or Without a Thermometer

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While many people enjoy eating their steaks and hamburgers rare, poultry is a different story. Due to specific foodborne illnesses, it is incredibly important that you cook chicken fully before it is consumed. Knowing how to tell if chicken is done is imperative and that’s exactly what we cover today. Because of this, cooking chicken can cause a lot of anxiety for inexperienced cooks. Many first-timers will overcook their chicken just to be sure that it is done all the way, resulting in meat that is too tough and not all the delectable.

Use a Thermometer

chicken done with thermometer

The absolute best way to make sure your chicken is fully cooked, whether it is a whole chicken or just breasts, thighs, or drumsticks, is to use a high-quality meat thermometer. Meat thermometers come in all different shapes and sizes, some digital and some analog. They can have multiple prongs or just one. Simply stab the prong or prongs into the chicken meat at the thickest part and read the temperature. It is advised that poultry is cooked to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the temperature at the thickest point has reached 165 degrees, voila! Perfectly cooked chicken.

However, not everybody has a cooking thermometer in their kitchen and, even if they do, sometimes they aren’t readily available and may be hidden away and forgotten about it some overstuffed cupboard. For these situations, there are a few tricks that cooks should know about that will help them tell if chicken meat is fully cooked without the use of a thermometer. In this article, we will look at several of these tricks so you can make sure that your chicken is cooked with or without a cooking thermometer.

Related Video

We previously covered how to boil chicken, which will teach you some of the ways to know whether your chicken is done. In this article we dive much deeper into this topic and you should come away confident in when your chicken is complete irrespective of how you cook it.

Observe the juice

juices run clear

One of the simplest ways to tell if chicken meat is fully cooked is to judge the color of the juice that comes out of it. To do this, simply pierce the meat at the thickest point and watch the color of the juice as it pours out of the cut. If the juice is clear, that means that the chicken meat is done. If the juice is pink, that means that the chicken still needs to cook a little more (or possibly a lot more). The pink color represents the blood of the chicken that still needs to be cooked down. Simply repeat this process until the juice runs clear and you can rest assured that you’re eating fully cooked chicken meat.

This method works whether the chicken is whole or you’re cooking individual pieces. Just be sure that you’re piercing the chicken at its thickest point, otherwise, you could be seeing clear juices while pink juices are still boiling away somewhere deeper. While finding the thicket part of individual cuts of meat is fairly easy and intuitive, many people might not know exactly where to find the thickest part of a whole chicken. It is a good rule of thumb that when piercing to observe the color of the juice coming out of a whole chicken that you pierce at the thickest part of the thigh. This is also where you’d stab your cooking thermometer, so remember this rule for all occasions.

Check the color of the meat

color of the meat

In general, most cooked chicken meat will be white while most uncooked chicken meat will be pink. Because of this, you can usually check the color of the chicken meat as a way to tell if the chicken meat is fully cooked, However, this method comes with some caveats. It can be a little tricky to tell if the meat of the chicken is done based on color alone because the different meats of the chicken are not totally uniform in color once fully cooked. Even when the chicken is cooked, some meat will be pink. The basics of this method, as far as it works, are that the thicket cut of meat should be solid white when cut in half. This method works for many people, but you still shouldn’t be turned off if your chicken has pink spots. Pink spots close to the bone are totally natural and are caused by hemoglobin. They will never go away, even if you overcook your chicken.

Check the texture of the meat

touching chicken

This method is purely sensory-based and reliant on touch, so you might want to try a different method if you’re not in the mood to run the risk of touching some raw meat. Simply, this method is based on the differences in texture between cooked and uncooked chicken meat. Raw, uncooked chicken meat is rubbery and buoyant and will have a lot of give-and-take when you press on it. Cooked chicken meat, on the other hand, is much firmer and won’t feel nearly as rubbery and stretchy. While chicken meat will become a little too rigid if it is overcooked, you should definitely be looking for a fairly good amount of firmness in your meat. Chicken meat should absolutely never be chewy, that’s the golden rule. If your chicken meat is chewy, put it back in the oven immediately. You’re better of eating hard and dry meat than chewy meat any day of the week, so err on the side of caution.

This method works best with individual cuts of chicken meat as it can be fairly hard to feel the most important and thick parts of a whole chicken by touch alone. If you are trying to use this method on a whole chicken, as with other methods, it’s best to go for the thighs. The thighs are always the last part of the chicken to become fully cooked. The breast meat can be totally cooked while the thighs can still have a little ways to go. For maximum accuracy, checking the juice or color of the meat is a much better option for whole chickens.

Does the meat fall off the bone

cutting through chicken

This method works best for whole chickens and is a go-to method for many cooks who roast whole chickens routinely. This method posits that there is one perfect moment where chicken is perfectly done and that can be tested by how easily the leg of the chicken separates from the breast. If a whole chicken is perfectly cooked, the leg should be able to be removed from the breast with no effort at all, falling right off of the bone.

Not only will this guarantee that your whole chicken is cooked, but it will also guarantee that your whole chicken isn’t overcooked. This chicken will fall off easily at the bone only at the exact right moment when the chicken is cooked perfectly. Cook it too little and it will fight to the death, cook it too much and it will have hardened to the point where it is a little tough.

Final Thoughts
Now you’ll be in a position to know how to tell if chicken breast is cooked fully without any complicated checks or tech gadgets. You may only need to use 1 or multiple techniques that we’ve described.

Choosing the method you want to use comes down to personal preference. I usually opt for a mixture of thermometer and cutting through to both see the juices or the color of the meat.

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