Chicken meat is a popular type of protein that is sought after because of its relatively healthy nutritional profile when compared to beef or meat from bigger animals.
It is also one of the easiest meats to work with, requiring only a stable temperature and a very reasonable cook time.
But for some people, this kind of meat can be an enigma when it comes to cooking. Chicken meat, although easier to cook than other types of protein, still needs to be cooked the right way to be deemed edible.
How can you tell if chicken meat is undercooked? There are many parameters that you can use to check if the meat is not cooked through. The color, texture, and tenderness of the chicken are all indicators of doneness. Generally speaking, if the meat registers 165°F or higher internally, then it is cooked and safe for eating.
We will discuss these indicators in detail below. Knowing these subtle yet important differences can keep you safe from bacteria and can also avoid wastage. Read on to learn more about how to identify uncooked chicken!
Chicken Cooking Time
Chicken meat is easy to work with relative to other types of protein because 1. it’s a smaller animal, 2. it has fewer meat fibers compared to beef, and 3. it responds well to heat and can be cooked without the need for tenderizers.
Chicken meat is a staple for many people around the world. Its nutritional profile is sought after by fitness enthusiasts and diet-conscious people too.
From fast food to sandwiches, to fillets and more, chicken is widely used and preferred all around the world.
Whether you are a beginner or an intermediate chef, there are a few things to keep in mind when cooking chicken.
Every part of the chicken has different cook times and has a different way of showing its doneness. For example, you will find that chicken wings cook quicker than thighs while breasts need to be typically prepped before cooking.
The neck of the chicken is usually cut off near the breast and is used to make stock.
If you want to cook the neck of the chicken then the best way to do that would be to either fry it or boil it in water. The ideal cook time for this meat is 12 minutes at a temperature of 160°F.
This will kill all bacteria and will also render the chicken. You may cook for longer at a lower temperature if your goal is to extract the nutrients from the bones and make a stock.
The chicken neck is perhaps the most forgiving part of the chicken since it has relatively less meat than the rest of the parts.
Next, comes the breast of the chicken. The breast can be cut open and divided into two parts. Breast meat is one of the most consumed parts of the chicken since it has very few carbs, is low in fat, and is packed with lots of protein.
Because of this, the breast needs to be cooked a bit longer than other parts of the chicken. To prepare the breast piece, properly clean and pat dry the chicken breast. Then slice it in two if you wish to have more fillets.
Next, you can either cut the chicken into small boneless pieces or you could also prepare a steak.
This is where some attention is required because boneless pieces can easily cook with medium-to-high heat on a stove in around 10-12 minutes but if you want to cook the entire breast piece then you need some preparation.
To cook the chicken breast thoroughly, first lightly hammer it so that all of the meat is the same thickness.
If you skip this step then there is a high chance of you not being able to cook the chicken thoroughly. Even if you do, some parts of the breast may cook for longer than required.
When the breast is the same thickness across, it will cook evenly and at the same time as the rest of the meat.
Boneless meat pieces don’t have to follow this technique as they will cook the same if they are cut in more or less the same size as the rest.
Chicken wings are a delicacy in almost every cuisine. There is just something satisfying about eating an entire chicken wing at once (we are looking at you, sports fans)
The meat is attached to the bone of the chicken and while the quantity of the meat isn’t that much, it still requires some time to cook thoroughly.
To prepare chicken wings, simply cook them for 10-12 minutes at a temperature of 160°F or until golden brown on the outside.
Chicken wings consist of bone meat that is more tender than breast meat.
It has a mix of fat and its muscle fibers are considerably “looser” which gives it a soft bite. However, the fat needs to be rendered before the meat is cooked, so the cooking time usually increases because of this.
You can also bake, air fry, or deep fry wings, depending on the recipe. Most of these methods will require a similar cook time of 10-12 minutes at 160-165°F.
The legs are our favorite part of the chicken because it consists of juicy and tender bone meat.
Not only do you get chicken legs but also the thigh. Both of these parts make the leg section of the chicken and each has to be cooked thoroughly.
Unlike breast meat, the leg and thigh need to be cooked a bit more so that the food is thoroughly cooked from the inside out.
The best way to tell if the leg and thigh are cooked is by checking the texture which should be whitish, not pink.
You can also try putting a fork in the meat to check for doneness. If the fork penetrates the meat easily then the chicken is done cooking, if there is some resistance then continue cooking until tender till the bone.
Definitive Ways To Identify Uncooked Chicken
There are a few methods to check the doneness of chicken meat. For this short guide, we have rounded up the most important factors that determine the doneness of the chicken regardless of what part you’re working with.
Here are some important parameters:
One of the definitive ways to check for doneness is to first check the color of the chicken. Cooked chicken is not pink on the surface and has no trace of any pink hue underneath the topmost layer of the chicken too.
It should be whitish and homogenous on each side when it comes to color. If there is a pink color, this would indicate that the chicken still needs to be cooked thoroughly.
Raw chicken has a very distinct texture. It’s rubbery, firm, and almost slippery. Please note that any slimy or sticky texture on the chicken with or without a foul odor indicates that the chicken has gone bad and you should not use it.
Fresh raw chicken will not have an odor or be slimy. Once cooked, the texture changes in a way where the chicken is not rubbery but has a firm texture. It has a whitish exterior with a grayish interior.
If the chicken feels bouncy or rubbery while cooking then it could mean that it is still uncooked on the inside. A definitive test would be to stick a fork into the chicken.
If the fork or stick goes through and comes out the other side easily then this indicates that the chicken is cooked thoroughly.
If there is any resistance then that could indicate that the chicken requires more processing. You can also stick in a cooking thermometer to check for doneness. Cooked chicken will have an internal temperature of 160-165°F.
One of the easiest ways to check for doneness is to take a piece of chicken and cut it in half to check the level of doneness.
We understand that you might not want to waste a chicken piece for this method but if you are starting from a basic level then this method may help you understand the cooking time and temperature of chicken meat.
Cooked chicken will be easier to slice through and will be gray on the inside while being whitish on the exterior. Raw chicken will have a pinkish hue on the inside, even if it has a whitish exterior.
Tips To Keep In Mind
What do you do if you are done cooking and find out later that your chicken hasn’t cooked properly? Do you discard it or re-cook it?
Well, thankfully, you can easily re-cook chicken without throwing it away. Of course, there are a few things to consider here.
For example, if you find your deep-fried chicken pieces to be uncooked, then you may want to put them back in the fryer at high heat and then simmer down until the piece is done.
Usually, people find out that the meat is uncooked after biting into it which can be a turn-off but you can still salvage your food.
When it comes to frying, simply dip the food in oil that has reached 160°F. You wouldn’t want to fry it over low heat to avoid soaking up oil and ruining the texture of the chicken.
The chicken may splash since you will be exposing the uncooked and moisture-filled side to the hot oil directly, so be careful. Once the chicken has done cooking, simply take it out and let it sit for a while.
Always work with chicken that has reached room temperature, frying frozen chicken may result in uneven cooking times and the meat may remain uncooked even when fried for 10-12 minutes at 165°F.
For baked or air-fried chicken, simply put the uncooked pieces back into the oven for 5-8 more minutes, assuming that the oven has already been preheated, if not, then it would be best if you were to first preheat the oven.
You may also place the chicken closer to the heat source so that it can broil and cook at the same time. Remember, when in doubt, just check the internal temperature of the meat. If it reads 160°F near the center then you are done.
If you don’t have a thermometer at hand then the best way to check for doneness is following the steps outlined above.
Now that we’ve gone over how to guarantee your chicken is fully cooked, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!
What happens if I eat raw chicken?
Eating raw chicken can be hazardous. Raw chicken may be contaminated with bacteria which are usually killed when the chicken is cooked at the right temperature and the right time.
While unintentionally eating small quantities of raw chicken may not do you any harm, eating a lot may cause some illness.
Should I throw away uncooked chicken?
You can re-cook partly uncooked chicken. Just use the same method to cook the chicken again and this time try using a thermometer.
If you don’t have a thermometer then, as a general rule, you can try cooking the chicken for 5 minutes at medium-high heat or until the chicken is done.
Stick a fork into the center of the chicken to check for doneness. Cooked chicken will have no resistance and the fork will go in smoothly.
Which cooking method always guarantees cooked chicken?
All cooking methods are suitable to cook chicken properly. The important aspect here isn’t the cooking medium but the temperature and cooking time.
As long as you can get the chicken’s internal temperature to 165°F or higher, then it will be safe to eat without any fear of bacteria.
You can always use a thermometer (we recommend this one) to check the internal temperature of the chicken.
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