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Have you ever wondered if your chicken is completely cooked – and worried it was under done, only to find you have over cooked it instead?
The media has drilled the idea of salmonella into our heads, and frankly, it’s a bit overkill. Of course, you should always practice food safety, (read more here on my post about cutting boards) but don’t let fear hold you back from having delicious chicken.
Here are some tips to give you confidence when cooking chicken!
The most accurate way to know if your chicken is fully cooked is to check with a thermometer. My recommendation is what the Test Kitchen recommends: Classic Thermapen it is higher priced than others, but completely worth it.
Why choose the thermapen over one that is less expensive?
Speed and accuracy: It gives you an accurate reading in 2-3 seconds
Intuitive: It turns on when you pick it up and off when you set it down. (saves battery)
Backlight: easy to see in low light situations. (Grilling at night anyone?)
Trusted By Pros: America’s test kitchen/Cooks Illustrated, Serious Eats, Epicurious, (and me!) are just a few from the list.
How To Use a Thermometer
The stem of the thermometer should be fully inserted into the thickest part, near the thigh and next to the breast. Make sure to steer clear from any bones because they conduct heat and would give you an inaccurate reading. It should read 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Get familiar with how your chicken looks and feels when it’s raw versus when it’s cooked. Raw chicken leaves a bit of an indentation when touched and feels soft. When the proteins of any meat are cooked, their muscle fibers to contract, so it tightens up. You can feel the difference as you start getting used to it.
Here’s a quick, rough guide to give you an idea:
Raw Chicken feels like: touch your thumb and index finger together and press the area below your thumb.
Cooked Chicken feels like: touch your thumb and middle finger together and press the area below your thumb.
When testing a whole bird, the juices run clear and the juices in the cavity of the bird do not have a red or pink color. When dealing with chicken breasts, white, opaque is cooked; but still juicy.
Remove it off the heat just a few seconds before you think it’s ready and the heat that is retained in the meat will suffice. Dark meat has a darker hue, but the same rule applies – no pink. Juices run clear.