While there are several different ways to cook chicken, baking is one of the easiest and healthiest options. Baking chicken may seem easy enough, but anyone who has ever eaten overdone chicken knows that this isn't always the case. For the perfect moist and tender chicken, the proper cooking method and time are the key ingredients. We have searched many reputable sources to bring you an inclusive selection of some of the most popular methods for baking the best chicken possible.
While undercooking chicken can be dangerous, overcooking chicken will leave you with a bland and tough cut of meat. Measure the chicken's internal temperature with an instant-read meat thermometer to ensure your chicken is at the right temperature for safe eating.
A minimum internal temperature for a fully cooked chicken is 165 degrees Farenheight, baked at oven temperature of 375 to 400 degrees. The cuts of chicken that we will take a closer look at are:
- Chicken breast
- Bone-in and skin-on chicken breast
- Boneless skinless chicken breast
- Chicken thighs
- Bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs
- Boneless skinless chicken thighs
- Chicken legs
- Whole chicken
The temperature to bake chicken at is only a portion of the formula you will need for the perfect meal. You will also need to know how long it will take to bake both thawed and frozen chicken and how to know when it is done. You will also want to know whether to cover your chicken while baking and whether to season it prior to or after baking it. We will answer all of these questions and discuss other closely related topics, just keep reading.
Baked Chicken Breast
Chicken breasts are one of the most popular cuts of chicken. Depending on the size and thickness of your particular chicken breast, the most popular temperature for this cut of chicken is 375 degrees Farenheight.
Boneless skinless breasts will cook faster than chicken breasts containing bones or skin. Likewise, smaller chicken breasts will require a shorter cooking time than bigger cuts.
Bone-in and skin-on chicken breast
The bone and skin of a cut of chicken can help lock in juices and add flavor to your chicken but are usually bigger and take longer to cook. This type of breast can weigh 14-16 ounces because the cut is a split cut off the top portion of the chicken containing the breast bone and skin.
To check and see if your chicken breast is done, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the bone-in breast. The internal temperature should read 165 degrees Farenheight.
Boneless skinless chicken breast
For a quicker cooking time, a boneless skinless chicken breast will cook in half the time of bone-in chicken breast. Marinating your boneless skinless breast may help to keep your chicken juicy and full of flavor. After cooking to the correct internal temperature, letting your chicken breast rest will also aid in maintaining moisture.
Baked Chicken Thighs
The chicken thigh is dark meat. This makes it more flavorful and juicy. It is harder to overcook chicken thighs because of this. An internal temperature of 175 degrees Farenheight is the desired internal temperature for chicken thighs.
Bone-in and skin-on Chicken Thighs
You can bake bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs faster with a temperature of 400 to 425 with shorter cooking times. Higher oven temperatures are best for bone-in and skin-on cuts of chicken because they are harder to dry out than boneless skinless cuts.
Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
Setting your oven temperature at 375 is the ideal temperature for baking boneless skinless chicken thighs. Also, set the oven temperature between 350 to 400 degrees to cook boneless skinless thigh meat. Using a temperature of 350 degrees will take your thighs a little longer while baking them at 400 degrees will ensure a shorter baking time.
Baked Chicken Legs
Chicken legs are another popular cut of chicken. Legs typically come with the bone inside and still have the skin on them. An oven temperature of 350 to 375 is the optimal temperature for cooking chicken legs. An internal temperature of 165 degrees should be reached before the chicken legs are done.
Baked Whole Chicken
A whole chicken roasted to perfection alongside a few select vegetables can be the perfect family meal. Place the whole chicken inside of a roasting pan after preheating the oven to 500 degrees.
Once you place your chicken into the preheated oven, turn the temperature down to 350 degrees. Bake with an ovenproof digital probe thermometer until the internal temperature of the deepest part of the chicken breast reaches 162 degrees.
When the internal temperature of your breast reaches 162 degrees, remove it from the oven. The chicken should then be allowed to rest for about half an hour. During this time, you will see the internal temperature rise, peak, and then fall. When the temperature falls to 120 degrees, it is ready to carve.
How long does it take to bake chicken?
The amount of time to bake chicken can vary depending on the size and thickness of the cut. Smaller cuts of meat will obviously take less time to bake, but this isn't the only factor.
Skinless and boneless cuts of any part of the chicken will always take longer to cook than boneless skinless options. We will discuss each individual cut of chicken and how long it should take to bake below.
Thinner cuts and boneless skinless chicken breasts will cook in about 25-30 minutes at 375 degrees. Bone-in and skin-on chicken breasts will take 40 to 55 minutes at 375 degrees to reach a safe temperature. This time can be cut down to 22 to 25 minutes and 35 to 40 minutes, respectively, if you bake chicken breasts at 400 degrees.
Chicken thighs can take anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes to bake, depending on size. Smaller thighs without the bone or skin will take 30 to 35 minutes to bake, while bone-in and skin-on thighs will take 40 to 50 minutes.
If you choose to bake your chicken thighs at a higher temperature, boneless skinless thighs will take approximately 20 minutes. Bone-in and skin-on thighs will be at an ideal internal temperature in about 40 minutes.
At a temperature of 350 to 375 degrees, you should expect to cook chicken legs for about 40 to 45 minutes, turning them after 30 minutes. To bake chicken legs at 400 degrees, cook them for about 20 to 25 minutes.
Bringing the internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast on your whole chicken will take approximately 90 minutes. You should then allow your whole chicken to rest for 30 minutes. Carve your chicken after allowing it to rest.
How long does it take to bake frozen chicken?
When you are pressed for time, defrosting chicken may not be feasible. Instead, you can bake chicken straight from the frozen state. Accomplish a roast chicken from frozen by cooking the chicken for an additional 50% of the time you cook thawed chicken. So for a thawed cooking time of 30 minutes, add 15 minutes to bake from frozen.
How do I know when my baked chicken is done?
Oven temperatures can vary widely. For this reason, using a meat thermometer is a better indicator of when your chicken is done. As a rule of thumb, most cuts of chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165. Cook dark meat to 175 degrees.
Do you cover chicken when baking in the oven?
Chicken doesn't have to be covered when baking, but this method does have its advantages. Covering your chicken when baking helps to keep it moist. The chicken will also bake more thoroughly when covered because of the internal heat. For a crispy outer layer of skin, remove the cover for the last half of the cooking time.
Do you season the chicken before or after baking?
Seasoning chicken should be done before baking to ensure that the chicken absorbs seasonings. Salt and pepper should be used at a minimum, but you can add other spices such as garlic powder, onion powder, lemon pepper, or poultry seasoning for more flavor. Consider coating your chicken in olive oil prior to seasoning to make sure that the seasoning sticks to the chicken.
Chicken is a nutritious and delicious meal any day of the week. Baking chicken is one of the simplest and most hands-off ways to prepare it. We hope that the above information has helped answer all of your questions about preparing the chicken of your choice.
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