How To Tell When Chicken Is Done

Grilled Spicy Chicken

If you consume raw chicken, you are asking for trouble. Consuming raw chicken is very dangerous as you can end up with a case of food poisoning from eating raw or undercooked chicken.

This is why you must know how to tell when chicken is done. It could be the difference between you and your loved ones developing food poisoning from eating undone chicken and enjoying perfectly cooked chicken.

How To Tell When Chicken Is Done

You can use several methods to determine whether your chicken is cooked or undercooked. Although the thermometer is the best and safest way to test a chicken’s doneness, it is not the only method.

Everyone does not have an infrared thermometer at their disposal, so I have included alternative ways to test chicken’s doneness.

Thermometer

As mentioned above, using a thermometer is the best and safest method for determining chicken doneness. Whether you are making BBQ chicken breast, BBQ Hawaiian chicken breast, or BBQ chicken wing drumettes, the official cooked temperature of chicken is 165°F.

Make sure you are using a quality meat thermometer. There are many types of meat thermometers, including digital and analog. I prefer using an infrared thermometer once you can just point and shoot.

With probe thermometers, you insert the probe into the chicken, which creates an opening for the chicken’s juices to escape.

Nevertheless, if you are using a probe thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the chicken. If the chicken has a temperature of 165°F, it is finished cooking. The chicken is not done cooking if it has a temperature below 165°F.

Clear Juices

Another way to tell if your chicken is done or not is to look at the juices. Pierce the thickest part of your chicken with the tip of a sharp knife. Look at the color of the juices that seep out of the chicken.

If the chicken’s juices are clear, the chicken is cooked. However, if the chicken’s juices are pink, it needs to be cooked more.

Pink juices are a sign that your chicken is still bloody, and consuming the chicken at this point will be extremely dangerous. Return the chicken to the heat and continue checking it until the juice runs clear.

The juice method also works well whether you are cooking chicken thighs or chicken legs. However, you must make sure you are piercing the thickest part of the chicken.

Remember, some parts of the chicken will cook faster than others. So, if you pierce a thinner piece of the chicken, it may be done, but the thickest part of the chicken could still be raw. Therefore, you should always pierce the thickest part of the chicken when using the juice method.

The only caveat is the more you pierce the chicken with a knife, the more moisture it will lose. The piercing method may not be a big deal if you are cooking an entire chicken. However, this method could pose a problem if you are cooking chicken breast as it will dry the chicken out.

Shrinking

When you add raw chicken to a hot cast-iron skillet, the chicken will look smaller when it’s cooked. That’s because chicken shrinks as it cooks.

Essentially, as the chicken cooks, the liquid in the muscles evaporates, and the fat renders. The loss of fat and moisture changes the texture of the chicken, causing it to shrink in size. 

Chicken can shrink about 25% once it’s cooked. If the chicken breasts are the same size as when you added them to the skillet, they are not fully cooked. However, if the chicken breasts have shrunk considerably, they are fully cooked.

Color

In its raw state, chicken has a pink, slightly peach color. However, this color changes to white when the chicken is fully cooked. 

Just because the chicken is white on the outside does not mean that it’s cooked on the inside. The same goes for chicken cooked with the skin on. The chicken skin may be golden brown on the outside, but the chicken may be pink and raw underneath the skin.

It may be best to pierce the thickest part of the chicken with a sharp knife to confirm the interior of the chicken is white.

Texture

Feel the texture of the chicken before you cook it. Raw chicken has a firm but slightly jiggly texture. Raw chicken also has a rubbery texture and sheen to it.

Cooked chicken has a firm texture that springs back like a cake when you touch it. In contrast, overcooked chicken feels hard and dense. When you cut into the chicken, you will notice it breaks up into string fibers.

This method is a little tricker. However, once you have performed the touch test a few times, you can easily use the texture to determine if your chicken is cooked.

Cooking Temperature and Time

If you are making a Korean BBQ chicken, you can use the cooking time and temperature to determine whether your chicken is done. This recipe comes from a trusted source, so the information will give you a general estimation of when the chicken will be cooked.

From there, you can use one of the other methods listed above, such as the juice method, to confirm the chicken is fully cooked.

However, this method can be a little inaccurate. The size of your whole chicken or chicken pieces could be different from the original recipe.

In addition to this, your oven or natural gas grill may not be accurate. This is why you need an external oven or grill thermometer so you can adjust the cooking temperature so the chicken cooks in the time specified by the recipe.

Final Thoughts

I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing how to tell when chicken is done. Raw chicken is contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria, Salmonella, and Clostridium perfringens bacteria, which can cause food poisoning.

Luckily, you can confidently feed your loved ones cooked chicken without the fear of making someone sick.

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