How to check if a chicken is cooked
Learn how to check if a chicken is cooked with and without a thermometer. Once you know what to look for, you'll cook with greater confidence.
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Learn how to check if a chicken is cooked with our easy guide. Following these steps will allow you to serve it with confidence.
Learning how to check if a chicken is cooked is an essential cookery skill and it’s very easy once you know what to look for.
Roast chicken is one of the most popular meats in the UK for a traditional Sunday roast. In a 2018 YouGov survey of 1640 adults, 27 percent of the survey picked chicken as the preferred meat with beef just beating it to the top spot with 33 percent.
According to the British Poultry Council, on average, people in the UK eat around 35kg of poultry meat per year.
Eating raw or undercooked chicken can lead to illness with unpleasant symptoms including vomiting, fever, and diarrhoea, which is why many people worry when cooking it.
However, once you know how to check if a chicken is cooked you’ll never have to worry. For complete peace of mind when cooking chicken, we recommend investing in a meat thermometer. Read our guide on how to use a meat thermometer (opens in new tab) for tips and recommendations on which thermometers to buy.
There are some visual signs you can look for too, which we will cover in this feature.
How to tell if a chicken is bad How to check if a whole chicken is cooked without a thermometer What temperature should a chicken be when cooked? Check if a chicken breast is cooked Check if a chicken thigh is cooked How to check if chicken drumsticks are done Storing cooked chicken
How to tell if a chicken is bad
We always recommend buying the best chicken you can afford with the highest welfare standards possible.
Buying chicken that has been reared ethically and slowly will have more flavour and a better texture than mass-produced meat.
Organic meat is always free-range. In the case of chickens, according to the Soil Association, this means that flock sizes are smaller on organic farms with 2,000 as the maximum or 3,000 under EU organic standards. In the UK there is no maximum flock size for a free-range chicken
Having a smaller flock of hens means that it’s easier to look after the hens at an individual level and they can make better use of the outdoor space and roam more freely.
If you can’t afford organic chicken, look for chicken with Red Tractor certification. This means the farms adhere to strict animal welfare, safety, hygiene, and traceability rules.
You should always use chicken by the Use By date listed on the packaging. You can freeze raw chicken purchased on the Use By date, defrost thoroughly before cooking and use within two months.
When you open a packet of raw chicken there should be no foul, strong smells. If it smells bad, chances are your chicken is bad and should not be consumed.
How to check if a whole chicken is cooked without a thermometer
- 1 whole roast chicken
How to check if a whole chicken is cooked: Step 1
When the timer goes off on your oven to indicate that your chicken is cooked, remove it from the oven.
How to check if a whole chicken is cooked: Step 2
Using a sharp knife, pull the leg away from the body. Pierce the skin and meat to release juices.
How to check if a whole chicken is cooked: Step 3
The meat should not be red or pink and the juices should run clear when gently pressed. If the meat is pink or the juices do not run clear, return the chicken to the oven and cook for five-minute intervals until the meat is cooked.
For full peace of mind, and to avoid having to dissect the whole chicken before serving, you can use a meat thermometer to probe the thickest part of the chicken.
What temperature should a chicken be when cooked?
When you probe the thickest part of the chicken the thermometer should have a reading of 75C. If the reading is below this, continue cooking for a little longer and then check it again. Make sure you clean the probe between readings.
If the chicken is only a couple of degrees under, you can remove it from the oven to rest as it will continue to cook while it sits.
How to check if a chicken breast is cooked
If you’re worried the breasts on your whole chicken are not cooked, the only way to check without using a thermometer is to cut them and see. The juices should run clear and the meat should not be pink.
For inspiration on how to cook chicken breasts (opens in new tab), read our expert guide. It’s got lots of chicken breast recipes (opens in new tab) and expert tips on cooking them to perfection.
How to check if a chicken thigh is cooked
Chicken that still has the bone attached will take longer to cook but it’s often more succulent and is far cheaper than the breast.
To check if a chicken thigh is cooked we recommend piercing the thickest part of the meat and checking to see the juices run clear with no hints of pink or red. Using a meat thermometer will prevent you from having to cut the meat open.
When using the thermometer, make sure the probe doesn’t touch the bone as this will distort the reading.
If you’re not sure how to cook chicken thighs, read our pick of the best chicken thigh recipes. (opens in new tab)
How to check if chicken drumsticks are done
The chicken drumstick is the lower part of a chicken leg. They have less meat than the thigh and will therefore cook a little quicker. The shape of the chicken drumstick also makes them perfect for parties and picnics as they are easy to hold.
Chicken drumsticks are an affordable cut of meat but are often only available with the skin on, unlike thighs that can easily be purchased with the skin removed.
You can use the same technique as breasts and thighs to check if the chicken drumstick is cooked. Once again if you’re using a thermometer you should be careful not to put the probe on the bone.
We’ve got plenty of chicken drumstick recipes (opens in new tab) for you to explore including a simple take on a roast dinner and chicken drumsticks with a spicy marinade.
How to store cooked chicken
Cooking a whole chicken is a very affordable way to make several meals from one meat purchase. We’ve got plenty of leftover chicken recipes (opens in new tab) for you to explore but some key favourites include shredding the meat for sandwiches or stirring it into a soup.
You should cool the leftover chicken meat as quickly as possible after cooking if you don’t intend to eat it straight away. Ideally, it should be cooled within an hour and then stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
Consume the leftover chicken within two days and if re-heating it’s vital the meat is piping hot before eating. You should never reheat the chicken more than once.
If you’d like to freeze the cooked chicken, ensure it is completely cooled before packaging and freezing. Defrost thoroughly before cooking and use within two months.
Jessica currently works as a Senior Food Writer at Future. She writes food and drink-related news stories and features, curates product pages, tests, and reviews equipment, and also develops recipes that she styles on food shoots. An enthusiastic, self-taught cook Jess adores eating out and sharing great food and drink with friends and family. She has completed the Level 1 Associate course at the Academy of Cheese and is continually building on her knowledge of beers, wines, and spirits.