How to Tell if Chicken is Done (Ultimate Guide)

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If you’ve ever heard a warning about making sure your meat is cooked through properly, it was probably about chicken. While it’s important to cook all meat well enough to kill potentially harmful bacteria, chicken is usually the meat people most associate with food poisoning, other than perhaps shellfish.

Besides the health reasons to make sure your chicken is done, it’s also much more flavorful when cooked properly to just the right temperature. In this article, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know about how to tell if chicken is done, or not, with and without a thermometer.

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    What happens if you eat raw chicken?

    Hopefully nothing but there’s a good chance you’ll get food poisoning. While all meat can carry potentially harmful bacteria, chicken is well-known for being contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria, Salmonella, and Clostridium perfringens bacteria, all of which can give you food poisoning. Raw chicken doesn’t always carry harmful bacteria, but it’s certainly best avoided!

    What happens if you eat raw chicken

    How do I know if chicken is bad?

    The first thing to check if you’re not sure if chicken is still safe to cook and eat is the smell – does it smell like fresh meat or does it have a bad smell? Raw meat doesn’t usually have a pleasant smell, but it also doesn’t smell bad – if it has a quality that suggests it’s rotting, it’s best not to cook and eat it.

    Another way to tell is to look at the coloring of the meat and any juices in the packaging. The meat should look a healthy light pink color and any juices in the packaging should be clear or just a little white/cloudy. If the moisture in the packaging is very cloudy or slightly yellow, it’s likely best avoided.

    How do you know if chicken is cooked properly?

    The first way to tell if chicken is cooked properly is it should have turned white all the way through – there shouldn’t be any pink left, including the middle of the meat. If the meat is white, it’s safe to eat.

    The best way to tell if chicken is cooked properly once it has turned white is with a thermometer. Chicken must have reached an internal temperature of 165F before it’s safe to eat.

    You need a thermometer with a probe to test this – we recommend our Z Grills Thermometer as it will give you fast, accurate results in real-time via Bluetooth, but any food thermometer will work. That said, if you plan to smoke your chicken, our smart meat thermometer is by far the best thermometer for smokers available.

    How long do you cook chicken on the grill for?

    Below is a guide for the general cooking times, but it will depend on your grill, so take them with a pinch of salt. Make sure your chicken is white all the way through or use a thermometer to check.

    Whole chicken on a pellet grill cooking time: 45 minutes per pound – usually 2-4 hours

    Whole chicken done temp: 165F  

    Chicken legs/thighs grill time: 35 mins

    Chicken legs and thighs done temp: 165F  

    Chicken wings/drummettes grill time: 20 minutes

    Chicken wings or drummettes done temp: 165F

    Chicken breasts grill time: 12 minutes (5-6 minutes on each side)

    Chicken breasts done temp: 165F

    Note that if you’re cooking thighs without the bone, it will take slightly less time to cook than if you left the bone in, but only by about 7 minutes.

    How long do you cook chicken on the grill for

    What does undercooked chicken look like?

    Undercooked chicken is typically cooked on the outside – being white or brown, but still pink on the inside. Always cut your chicken in half to check. If it has been covered in sauce and you can’t see the inside clearly, look at the texture – cooked chicken has a grainy, drier texture, while undercooked chicken will be moist and jelly-like.

    How do I know if I’ve overcooked chicken?

    Overcooked chicken is usually dry and tough, especially around the outside. Ending up with overcooked chicken isn’t the end of the world, it just means you’re going to have to do a bit more chewing than you would have had you cooked it to perfection.

    The Right Way to Cook Chicken

    When it comes to cooking chicken, there’s really only one thing you need to remember: don’t try to rush it! Chicken doesn’t take long to cook but if you’re hungry, it can be tempting to ramp up the temperature, leading the outside to be done and totally edible while the inside is raw and pink.

    Also, keep in mind the thickness of the chicken you’re cooking; a tiny chicken fillet won’t take as long as a breast the size of your bicep!

    We’ve covered everything you need to know about how to cook chicken in this guide: How to Grill Chicken on a Pellet Grill so make sure you head over there next to get an expert guide on preparing delicious, well-cooked chicken.  

    Now you know how to tell if chicken is done, and if you read our guide above, you’ll also know how to cook chicken to perfection! All you need to do now is start experimenting with your recipes! We’ve got plenty of chicken recipes in our recipe database, but we highly recommend you start with our handpicked 20 favorite chicken recipes you absolutely must try this year.

    If you don’t yet have a pellet grill, now is the time to get one! Pellet grills take the flavor of your chicken recipes to the next level and make it easier than ever to cook chicken to perfection. Our Cruiser 200A portable grill is a great choice for grilling newbies. 

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