You’ve decided to cook a delicious chicken recipe, such as honey mustard chicken, Indian butter chicken, or a healthy chicken salad.
But then it goes south as you end up with undercooked, unappetizing chicken.
How can you tell if your chicken is undercooked?
Undercooked chicken is dense and wobbly, and might be shiny or rubbery in appearance. It’s easy to get chicken wrong when cooking it, which can ruin your entire dish – undercooked chicken also puts you at risk of harmful bacteria.
To prevent that from happening, here’s what you need to know about how to tell if chicken is cooked to perfection.
Why Is Chicken So Popular?
Chicken is popular all around the world, with some countries that consume the most chicken including the U.S., Israel, Argentina, the U.K, and Australia.
Chicken’s popularity has been on the increase. Back in the 1950s, people in America consumed approximately 16 pounds of chicken per person annually. By the year 2000, that number increased to 53 pounds, and in 2012 it was 60 pounds.
Chicken is one of the most popular meats around the world. Here are some reasons why.
- One of the biggest reasons for chicken’s popularity is because it can easily fit into various cuisines as a result of its mild flavor and uniform texture. It can be the star of a recipe or take a backseat, producing a foundation for rich, delicious flavors in other ingredients to take the stage.
- Chicken is considered to be a lighter, healthier meat than red meat such as beef, which has been linked to health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. This has led to chicken becoming more popular in regions of the world such as the U.S.
- Chicken has a good amount of protein. It’s a source of amino acids that build muscle, without giving you a high amount of fat.
- Chicken contains various nutrients. Protein aside, consuming chicken adds beneficial nutrients to your diet, such as Vitamin B12, zinc, copper, iron, and tryptophan, which is an amino acid that’s known for regulating one’s mood.
What Are The Dangers Of Undercooked Chicken?
You don’t want to undercook chicken as this is a health risk.
Raw and undercooked chicken both contain bacteria such as salmonella, which can be life threatening. It comes with symptoms that include fever, stomach pains, and diarrhea.
Another common bacteria present in raw or undercooked chicken is campylobacter. This can cause symptoms such as vomiting, fever, bloody stools, diarrhea, and bloating. It can have serious complications.
How To Tell If Chicken Is Cooked
While you might keep cutting into the chicken you’re cooking to check if it’s ready, there is an easier way to check that your chicken’s done. You just need to invest in a food thermometer.
This type of device has a long, thin stem and a rounded head that displays the temperature of your food. Insert it into the thickest part of your chicken.
When the temperature reads 180 degrees Fahrenheit for your whole chicken and 165 degrees Fahrenheit for cuts of chicken, then you will know that it’s ready.
How to check if your chicken is ready without a thermometer
If you don’t own a food thermometer, there are other signs to look for that guarantee your chicken has been cooked enough. These include the following:
- The chicken has shrunk. When chicken cooks, it becomes smaller in size as compared to its size when you started cooking it. If your chicken looks like it’s shrunk in size, that’s a good indication it’s cooked.
- The chicken’s juice is clear/white. This means that the chicken is done, and it’s a sign that only applies to chicken, not other types of meat. If you can see pink-hued juice coming out of the chicken, it’s not ready and needs to be cooked for longer.
- The chicken meat is white. Make a small cut in the thickest part of the chicken and gently move its sides apart with a fork and knife so you can see what color the chicken is inside. It should be white as this means it’s fully cooked.
But, Checking The Temperature Is The Best Method!
While you can tell if your chicken has been properly cooked by using one or more of the above-mentioned tips, it’s still best to check the chicken temperature to be 100 percent sure that the chicken has been cooked properly and all the way through.
Temperature is the only reliable way to check that chicken has been cooked properly and is safe to eat. This is because it requires that all parts of the chicken have reached a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Is It Bad To Eat Chicken That’s A Bit Pink Inside?
If the temperature of the chicken is 165 degrees or above, then it’s safe to consume, even if the chicken still has some pink color on it.
Just make sure that you take the chicken’s temperature in different places, not just one, to be sure it’s been cooked enough all over.
Why Should You Avoid Overcooking Chicken?
Cooking chicken with enough heat will remove dangerous bacteria in it, but overcooking it is something you need to be wary of, too.
You might think it’s better to cook your chicken a bit more than required to be guaranteed that it’s safe to eat, but overcooked chicken quickly becomes dry and the meat will be leathery.
This makes it difficult to chew. It’s dense, hard, and might have an unappealing and stringy texture. The color of overcooked chicken will also be different from properly cooked chicken.
It will be yellow and dull, instead of the white and bright color you want.
How To Avoid Overcooking Chicken
- Use your food thermometer. Again, this is important to use! It will prevent you from overcooking the chicken because you’re afraid of not killing harmful bacteria inside it.
- Avoid drastic temperature changes. If your pan or grill experiences a sudden temperature change, this can remove the chicken’s moisture, making it rubbery and dry. Make sure you always cook chicken at a high, constant temperature during the cooking process.
What Should You Know About Preparing Chicken?
You need to safely prepare chicken to prevent bacteria from forming on it, such as when you thaw it after it’s been frozen.
Here are some important tips to bear in mind when you want to cook chicken at home.
- When you’ve brought chicken home from the grocery store, refrigerate it within two hours. Put it in the freezer if you’re not going to be cooking it within the next two days.
- When freezing chicken, make sure it’s put in freezer-safe plastic wrap to keep it in good condition.
- When thawing your chicken, you can do this in different ways, such as moving it from your freezer into your fridge where you should store it for 24 hours before cooking it; putting it in cold water to thaw it (just make sure you change the water every 30 minutes, which could take a few hours); or thawing it in your microwave.
When thawing chicken, it’s important to avoid letting your chicken thaw in an environment that’s over 40 degrees Fahrenheit as this can trigger bacteria to grow.
Should you dry chicken before cooking it?
If you want crispy chicken, make sure you dry the skin as much as possible, such as by putting the chicken in the fridge for a few hours and patting it dry with a paper towel before cooking it.
What’s the tastiest part of chicken to cook?
Chicken thighs are sometimes said to be the tastiest part of chicken as they are tender and juicy. You can buy them boneless or not, and either with their skin intact or removed.
However, note that chicken thighs need to be cooked for a bit longer than chicken breasts.
If you want to cook a delicious chicken dish at home, make sure you don’t undercook it or overcook it.
Both can be problematic. In this article, we’ve provided you with information about how to make delicious chicken every time.
We’ve also given you information about why chicken is a healthy addition to your diet, such as because of its protein and nutrient content.