The internal temperature of cooked chicken must be 165 degrees Fahrenheit. However, dark chicken meat is best cooked until the internal temperature is between 175° and 190° Fahrenheit.
Temperature varies depending on the chicken cut. In this article, I’ll explain chicken temperatures for white meat and dark meat and how to check it using a meat thermometer.
Chicken internal temperature
Chicken time and temp are two key factors to consider when cooking chicken. To reach optimal temperature, it’s best to cook chicken at 350° Fahrenheit. The bigger the chicken is, the more time it takes to reach the necessary temperature for food and safety. Bone-in chicken takes longer to cook and to reach recommended temp. Below you’ll find internal temps for properly cooked chicken:
White meat chicken temperature
According to the USDA, white chicken meat should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for food safety. White meat includes chicken breasts and chicken wings.
If chicken is overcooked, you risk eating dry and chewy chicken. To avoid overcooking breast meat or wings, cook until the internal temperature is 160° Fahrenheit. After removing the chicken from the heat, the internal temperature will rise to 165 ° Fahrenheit. It’s called carryover cooking. Smaller cut internal temperature can increase by 5 degrees Fahrenheit. A whole chicken can rise by 10° Fahrenheit when resting.
Dark meat chicken temperature
Dark chicken meat is more tender and juicy when the internal temperature is between 175° and 190° Fahrenheit. Dark meat includes thigh meat, drumsticks, or a whole leg. Dark chicken meat cooked to 165° Fahrenheit has a firm texture. Dark meat has loads of connective tissue in the form of collagen surrounding muscle fibers. Making collagen soft and turning it into gelatin requires a long cooking time.
How to check the chicken temperature?
To avoid undercooked chicken, you can check the temperature by inserting a meat thermometer into the chicken. Here’s how to use a thermometer:
Note: If you do not have a thermometer, ensure chicken juice runs clear. It’s a sign that the meat is cooked.
Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken breast through the side if cooking individual breasts. If roasting a whole chicken, place the thermometer in the thickest part of the breast. Most of the time, it’s convenient to check the internal temperature of the breast through the top. Avoid the bone if cooking bone-in chicken. Leave the thermometer in until the temperature stabilizes
Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh meat. There’s a small bone running through the center of the meat. Ensure not to touch the bone. Pull the probe back a bit if it hits the bone. Leave the thermometer in for a minute until the temperature stabilizes.
You’ll need to take the breast and thigh temperature to check roast chicken temperatures. Insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken breast to check the temperature. Next, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh between the breast and the thigh, not touching the bone.
Wings and drumsticks
Insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the wing or drumstick. Ensure the probe is not touching the bone. Pull the probe back if you hit the bone. Leave the thermometer in until the internal temperature of the chicken stabilizes.
It’s hard to check the internal temperatures of the chicken wings and drumsticks because they have a bone. If you find it hard to take the temperature, check if the chicken juice runs clear. Pierce the meat with a fork or paring to check if the juice is not pink.
Additional tips for reaching an optimal internal temperature
- Cooking time. Chicken cooking time varies depending on the cooking temperature and size. The higher the cooking temperature, the less time it takes to cook; however, you risk overcooking the meat.
- Resting the chicken. When taking the chicken from the heat, it continues to cook, reaching the correct temperature. Smaller cuts increase by 5° Fahrenheit while a whole chicken increases by 10° Fahrenheit. Giving time to rest will ensure a juicy chicken. When meat is resting, the juice inside the meat redistributes evenly throughout the chicken’s interior.
Cooked chicken FAQ
How to tell if chicken is cooked without a thermometer?
Pierce the cooked chicken with a fork or paring. Undercooked chicken should have pink juice running. In contrast, cooked chicken has clear juice.
Does the cooking method matter for chicken temperature?
The cooking method doesn’t matter for chicken temperature. It doesn’t matter if you are roasting, frying, or grilling internal temperature of cooked chicken should reach 165° Fahrenheit.
Is chicken done at 165 or 180?
Both white and dark chicken meat is done when the internal temperature is at 165° Fahrenheit. However, dark chicken requires more time to cook to tenderize. It’s best when the internal temperature is between 175°-190°F.