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How to check the internal temperature of chicken when cooking

Updated February 21, 2019

Chicken is one of the UK's favourite foods, but there was a time not too long ago when eating one was an extravagance.Today, intensive production techniques and inexpensive feed have made chicken affordable for almost everyone. The unfortunate side effect of these intensive production techniques has been an increase in food-borne illness. To avoid making anyone in your family sick, it is important to cook chicken to a temperature of 73.9 degrees Celsius (165 degrees Fahrenheit).

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  1. Prepare the chicken as usual, according to your favourite recipe. If using a meat thermometer or pop-up thermometer, insert it now into the thickest part of the chicken's thigh, being careful to avoid the bone. If using a probe thermometer, insert the probe into a thigh in the same manner, and place the display unit in a safe and visible place nearby.

  2. Begin checking the temperature once the chicken begins to look done. This may be only a few minutes with fried chicken, or most of an hour for a large roaster. Thighs take longer to cook than breasts, so always take the temperature in a thigh.

  3. Check the chicken with an instant-read thermometer by inserting the probe end into the thickest part of a thigh. The needle or digital display should read 73.9 degrees Celsius (165 degrees Fahrenheit) within 10 seconds. If not, continue cooking the chicken. Repeat as necessary.

  4. Cook the chicken until the pop-up thermometer has popped. If using a meat thermometer or probe thermometer, monitor the temperature until it reaches 73.9 degrees Celsius (165 degrees Fahrenheit). The metal probe tends to conduct heat, so move it to the opposite thigh and check the temperature again. Continue cooking if necessary.

  5. Check the chicken manually to verify the thermometer's results. On whole chickens, the leg should move freely in its socket. The juices running from the chicken should be clear, without a hint of visible pinkness. These are also the signs used to check for doneness in the absence of a thermometer.

  6. Tip

    It is possible for a chicken to be fully cooked, and yet still be pink along the bone. This is normal for very young chickens, such as small fryers. If the temperature tested at the correct level, the juices ran clear and the flesh has the firm texture of cooked chicken, it is safe to eat.


    Never trust a thermometer without also performing a visual check for doneness. Many thermometers require regular calibration, and others may be affected by low battery levels. Probe thermometers sometimes give inaccurate readings because of damage to the probe wire. Observe all appropriate precautions for food safety when handling raw chicken. Sanitise utensils and work surfaces after use.

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Things You'll Need

  • One of the following:
  • Probe thermometer
  • Meat thermometer, the heat proof kind that is left in
  • Pop-up thermometer for chicken
  • Instant-read thermometer, analogue or digital

About the Author

Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

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