How Long Does Chicken Need to Cook

Karen Frazier
Whole roasted chicken

Cooking chicken for the right length of time is important for two reasons: safety and flavor/texture. Undercooked chicken may have dangerous foodborne bacteria that can make you sick, while overcooked chicken is dry, stringy, and not very tasty.

Methods and Times

The following chart lists the time for each cooking method. Be sure to double check the chicken is done with a thermometer, since variations in the size of pieces, size of the bird, or meatiness may make times shorter or longer. All times assume bone-in chicken.

Method Parts and Approximate Cooking Times Notes
Grilling

Breasts - 10 minutes

Thighs and drumsticks - 12 to 20 minutes

Whole chicken - 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes

For best results, cut chicken into pieces and grill directly over high heat until the chicken sears on all sides. You will know when it is seared because the skin will begin to crisp and the fat will start to render. Then, move the chicken to the cooler part of the grill away from direct heat and allow to finish cooking.

Cook on indirect heat medium-high, or about 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roasting

Whole chicken - 10 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit, then 20 minutes per pound at 350 degrees Fahrenheit

Pieces (all) - 20 to 30 minutes

Sear for the first ten minutes at 450, and then turn the heat down to allow the chicken to cook at a lower temperature in order to stay moist.

Cook chicken at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rotisserie Whole chicken - About 22 minutes per pound Most rotisseries only have one temp. Cook on the highest temp if settings are variable.
Shallow frying Parts (all) - 45 minutes to one hour Fry at 350 degrees.
Deep frying

Breasts, thighs, and legs - 10 to 17 minutes

Wings - 7 to 10 minutes

Fry at 375 degrees.

Factors Affecting Cooking Times

Chicken needs to cook long enough to kill food borne bacteria. Unlike other meats, you can't cook chicken to medium rare or medium - all chicken must be cooked to well-done. Cooking time varies based upon many factors including:

  • The size of the pieces you are using
  • If the chicken is being cooked bone-in
  • If the chicken is skinless
  • The cooking method you are using
  • Whether you are cooking white meat, dark meat, or both

Testing For Doneness

All chicken should be cooked to a safe internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the FDA. There are two indicators that chicken is done.

  1. The juices will run clear. While this is a good indication, don't count on it as your main method of telling whether the chicken is done.
  2. Use an instant-read thermometer to take the internal temperature. Put the thermometer deep into the thickest part of the thigh, making sure it isn't touching bone (bone will give a false high reading). White meat should be cooked to 165 degrees. Dark meat should be cooked to 180 degrees.

Chicken Safety

It is important to handle chicken safely to minimize the risk of contamination. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends the following for handling chicken safely:

  • It isn't necessary to wash chicken before cooking it. In fact, doing so can spread contamination.
  • Keep all meats, including chicken, separate from the rest of your groceries in the cart and fridge. Make sure that there is no contact - in the cart or during bagging - between raw chicken packages and produce.
  • Refrigerate the chicken immediately when you get it home. Store chicken in the coldest part of your refrigerator, packed in a plastic bag to avoid leakage.
  • Never thaw chicken on the countertop. Thaw it in the fridge or place it in cold water to thaw more quickly.
  • Never cook frozen chicken in a slow cooker.
  • Use chicken within a day or two of purchase. If you won't be cooking the chicken right away, freeze it.
  • Never refreeze previously frozen chicken.
  • Butcher inspecting chicken
    Always choose chicken that appears healthy. Avoid purchasing chicken that looks discolored or has discoloration of the skin.
  • For further safety, consider organic chicken, which has been raised without hormones and processed without chemicals.
  • Always purchase chicken with the latest "sell by" date, as this is the freshest chicken.
  • When shopping, consider visiting the meat department last in order to minimize the time the chicken is unrefrigerated.
  • Use the plastic bags available in the meat section to keep the chicken from leaking into your shopping cart.

Avoid Cross Contamination

Further, it's important to avoid cross-contamination from raw chicken coming into contact with other foods. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, best practices to avoid cross contamination include:

  • If the chicken leaks in your refrigerator, clean it up using a bleach water solution to kill any bacteria.
  • Have a separate meat cutting board that can be sterilized. Never use the same cutting board for meat and produce. Once you have finished cutting chicken on the board, sterilize it by first washing it in hot soapy water and then rinsing in a bleach solution. If the cutting board is dishwasher-safe, you can also sterilize it in the dishwasher.
  • Any utensils that have come in contact with the uncooked chicken also need to be sterilized in a similar manner. Your dishwasher can sterilize utensils.
  • Wash your hands in hot soapy water after handling chicken.
  • Clean any surfaces that have come in contact with the raw chicken with a bleach water solution.
  • Discard any marinades that have had raw chicken in them immediately - don't reuse them.

After Cooking

Always serve chicken immediately and refrigerate uneaten chicken in a tightly sealed container right away. With the precautions above, you'll have safe and tender chicken that isn't overcooked.

How Long Does Chicken Need to Cook