If you are thinking of making chicken but you aren’t very experienced with handling this meat, you may be wondering how you can tell if it is properly cooked, or if it needs longer. Undercooking chicken is a safety hazard, but overcooking it ruins the flavor and texture, and may make your meal unpleasant, so it’s important to find the right balance.
How can you tell if chicken is undercooked? You can tell if chicken is undercooked by using a meat thermometer to measure its internal temperature, but also by looking at its color, the color of its juices, and the texture. Any chicken that is still pink or that wobbles when touched is undercooked and should not be eaten, as it may cause food poisoning.
How Can You Tell If Chicken is Cooked?
The most reliable way to tell if chicken is cooked is to use a meat thermometer to take an internal temperature reading. To do this, simply push the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the cooked chicken, wait for it to read, and then check the display.
A meat thermometer will give you the most reliable indication of whether chicken is cooked. Take an internal reading; if it is below 165 degrees F, the chicken is not yet cooked, and needs to be heated some more. If it is above 165 degrees F, the chicken should be fully cooked.
Make sure you insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat so you are getting a fair reading.
What Else Tells You Whether Chicken is Cooked?
There are a few other signs that you can use, which may help if you don’t have access to a meat thermometer. You should look at the color and texture of the chicken. If the chicken is still pink or has a shiny, rubbery texture, it is not fully cooked.
When it is completely cooked, chicken should turn pale, almost white, and have no pink areas either inside or outside. If in doubt, cut the piece of chicken in half so you can inspect the thickest part, as this will take the longest to cook.
If the chicken is difficult to cut, this is a clear sign that it is not done yet. Cooked chicken should cut easily, while undercooked chicken will be rubbery and flexible, and will bend beneath the knife. Poking it will help you to determine how much it bounces back, and this will let you know how well cooked it is.
You can also check the juices of the chicken as you cut it. If the juices are not clear, the chicken isn’t cooked yet. Pink or red juices indicate that it needs to be cooked for longer in order to make it safe to eat.
The chicken will also shrink when it is cooked, as the liquid in the tissues is released. If you don’t notice the chicken reducing as you cook it, it is likely not yet cooked, and it will need longer in the pan.
What If the Surface is Brown?
Many people try to judge their chicken by looking at its external appearance when they are cooking it, but this can be misleading. Depending on the heat you are cooking the chicken at, its exterior may turn white and develop some crispy brown areas long before the insides of the chicken are cooked.
You should not judge the cooking time based on the external appearance of the chicken. It is possible for a piece of chicken to be completely raw inside and look fully cooked outside.
Use one of the above methods for checking whether your chicken is done, but never depend on the external appearance.
How Long Does Chicken Take to Cook?
The cooking time will vary depending on how big the piece of chicken is and how you are cooking it. Frying chicken breasts will be faster than baking an entire roast chicken in the oven. Whether the bones have been left in or not will also make a big difference to the cooking time.
You can get rough estimates on how long to cook chicken for, but on the whole, it’s better to simply check if the meat is ready using a thermometer. Estimates can leave you with burnt or nearly raw chicken, depending on the circumstances.
As an example, you might oven bake a chicken with the bones left in for around 30 or 40 minutes, whereas a chicken without the bones should only take around 20 minutes. Because there is so much variation in cooking times, you need to make sure you can tell the difference between well-cooked chicken and chicken that has been undercooked.
Is it Okay to Eat Undercooked Chicken?
No, it is not okay to eat chicken that hasn’t been properly cooked. If the chicken hasn’t reached a temperature of around 160-165 degrees F, it is likely to be harboring dangerous bacterial strains. These could make you very sick if you consume them.
Do not eat meat that you know isn’t properly cooked. The cooking process is a crucial part of making chicken safe, and if some of the meat hasn’t reached a high enough temperature to kill the bacteria, it will be dangerous to consume.
The symptoms of food poisoning can be serious in some situations, and if you eat chicken that hasn’t been cooked properly, you may find that you suffer from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, a fever, a headache, and more.
Unfortunately, the bacteria that can cause food poisoning are often undetectable, which has led to them spreading all over the world. Proper food handling and the thorough cooking of meats are among the best ways to reduce your risk of getting food poisoning.
Chicken is undercooked if it is below 165 degrees F internally, or if it still contains any pink meat. Look out for colored juices and a rubbery, springy texture as further indications that the chicken is not yet fully cooked. Finally, make sure that your chicken has shrunk in the pan, as it should decrease in size as some of its water is lost to evaporation.