It can be enormously tempting to get that sizzling hot chicken off the smoker or the pan and dig into it. However, unlike other meats that can be consumed medium or rare, chicken cannot. So, it’s important to make sure your chicken is properly cooked all the way through before cutting into it because no one wants uncooked meat, juices, or blood flowing out.
We’ve prepared 5 easy ways to avoid the unpleasant situation of finding uncooked chicken on your plate. Here are some tips to ensure your chicken is cooked:
1. Use a meat thermometer
A meat thermometer can be a great tool that will come in handy when checking the doneness of your chicken (or any meat for that matter). The thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the meat to get accurate results. Remember, if you’re cooking chicken on the bone, make sure the thermometer doesn’t come in contact with the bone. This is because the bone, being a heat conductor, will give you an inaccurate reading.
You should also know the basic minimum internal temperatures recommended by the USDA. For chicken and other poultry, it should be 165 °F (73.9 °C).
2. Feel the texture
This technique is usually for those who have spent an adequate amount of time in the kitchen. If you’re new to cooking chicken or meat, it’s best to keep a thermometer with you, just to double-check.
Since chicken needs to be cooked well-done, here’s how to use the finger test to determine whether it’s cooked or not. Start by touching your pinkie and thumb together. If that is the texture and feel you get from touching the chicken, then it’s well-done. However, as mentioned, this may take some time and training, so until you’re fully sure, it’s best to keep a thermometer on standby as a backup measure.
3. Check the juices
When your chicken is properly cooked, and you cut into it, the juices should run absolutely clear. However, if the juices are red or pinkish, this means that the chicken needs to be cooked longer as it’s not fully done yet. Remember to still use a thermometer as a backup method if you need to double-check.
4. Check the size
Has the chicken shrunk? When cooking chicken, size is also an important factor that can help point out whether or not the chicken is cooked. If you’re grilling chicken, it can often seem like it’s done when it has grill marks on it, only to find that it’s raw inside. The size of the chicken then comes into play.
So, if you don’t see a reduction in the size of the chicken, it means it probably needs some more time to cook.
5. Check the color of the meat
It’s entirely possible that you may not want to wait until you take the chicken off to check whether it’s cooked or not. While a thermometer would be ideal, it’s okay if you don’t have one this time around.
Using a knife and fork, you can make a small incision into the thickest part of the chicken. Use the fork to hold the chicken in place and prevent it from moving around while you cut into the chicken with your knife. Continue to use the knife to just open the cut enough for you to take a look at the meat. Chicken that is cooked should be clear white—anything else, red or pink, will need more time.
Another important factor with this method is lighting. Make sure you have adequate and balanced lighting. Sometimes white light may make your pink chicken meat look white, leading you to mistake it for being cooked.
These are some easy and simple methods you can use to make sure that the chicken you’re cooking is actually cooked. Unlike many other types of meat, chicken is less forgiving, meaning it needs to be cooked thoroughly. If not, you can become seriously ill. Therefore, by using the methods above, you can avoid the unpleasant sight of uncooked chicken by yourself or with your family or friends.
While these methods are effective and certainly work, the best way to check the doneness of your chicken is by using a meat thermometer. If you don’t have one yet, you should go out and get one! A meat thermometer will not only help you determine cooking temperatures for chicken but any other meat as well. Make sure the internal temperature for the chicken is 165 °F (73.9 °C).
With that said, you’re now all set to go out and cook or smoke chicken just the way you like it, now being even safer. For more great ideas on how to get the most out of your Bradley Smoker, check out the awesome articles on our Bradley Smoker Food Smoking Blog for more tips & tricks.