Cooking chicken to the correct internal temperature

Where to Check the Temp of a Whole Chicken

Cooking meat to the correct internal temperature is critical to ensure the safety of those who will be consuming the meat. There is no bigger risk for pathogens and foodborne illnesses than when you cook poultry, such as chicken. Make sure you prevent food poisoning by knowing where to check the temp of a whole chicken, using this guide.

Where to Check the Temp of a Whole Chicken

Checking the temp of a whole chicken versus other parts of a chicken is different. Therefore, it pays to know where to check the temp of the whole chicken so you can get the most accurate reading.

If you are using a meat thermometer with a probe, it is important to position the probe correctly so that you know when the meat is safe to eat. The general rule on where to check the temperature of a whole chicken is to insert it into the thickest part of the meat, specifically the breast area.

A whole chicken is made up of several parts and each of these parts varies in the amount of time they take to cook. For example, the breast part must have an internal temp of 162 F while the thighs or legs should read 190 F on the thermometer. The internal temp requirement will require different cooking times and temperatures for each part.

When probing a whole chicken, make sure to avoid any bone, gristle, or fat. You can facilitate more efficient cooking by orienting the chicken in the oven, such that the legs and thighs are facing the heat source. The breast cooks faster so it should be positioned away from the heat source. This position of the whole chicken ensures that the whole chicken cooks at the same rate. It will also avoid uneven cooking wherein some parts are cooked while others are still raw or underdone.

The issue of cooking the whole chicken in an oven isn’t a big deal. The convective heat allows even distribution of heat inside the oven as compared to a grill where one side gets direct heat and the other is exposed to indirect heat.

It is important to keep an eye on the internal temp of a whole chicken is to avoid overcooking.

Why it’s Important

Knowing where to probe the thermometer in your chicken ensures that you can get the most accurate temperature reading. If you don’t position the probe correctly, you run the risk of having undercooked or overcooked chicken. And you want to avoid both instances because one is a health risk and the other just does not make your chicken meat enjoyable.

Chicken is the most consumed meat in the world. It is a healthy choice because it is leaner. However, chicken meat that is not handled properly or cooked thoroughly can be a health hazard. Chicken meat is contaminated with salmonella and other types of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses, or food poisoning, in humans. According to the CDC, salmonella is the most common cause of food poisoning in the world.

Therefore, you need to cook the chicken (especially a whole chicken) thoroughly to kill off the harmful bacteria. You should also pay attention to the handling of the chicken meat while still raw. It is very easy to cross-contaminate your kitchen surfaces or other food items, especially when making raw food preparations, such as salad. Always observe the best practices for handling and cooking chicken meat to avoid any health risks or contamination.

What is the Right Internal Temp for Cooked Chicken?

The general guideline on the safe internal temp for whole chicken as per the USDA is 165 degrees F. The bacteria and harmful contaminants cannot survive this heat for more than 30 seconds. It also means that chicken meat is safe to eat at this temperature.

Knowing where to probe the thermometer in your chicken ensures that you can get the most accurate temperature reading.

It is important to be accurate about the temperature readings because a slight difference in the internal temperature could mean the difference between your safety or possible contamination. Therefore, refrain from eyeballing it and use a meat thermometer so you can guarantee that the internal temp of the chicken meat is 165 F. The actual internal temp for chicken varies for different parts. However, the above guideline is for a whole chicken.

Another reason why it is important to keep an eye on the internal temp of a whole chicken is to avoid overcooking. When the chicken meat is overdone, it’s not enjoyable to eat because it becomes dry and rubbery. You want the chicken meat to be juicy and tender. Therefore, cooking it way past 170 degrees F is not recommended.

You can also use other visible signs to check the temp of a whole chicken. For example, the juices running out of the meat should be clear and not pink. You can try to poke the middle of the chicken to allow the juice to flow. Another sign that the chicken is ready is when the skin has a nice, brown color.

The method of cooking a whole chicken will also require different temperature readings. Make sure to note the differences depending on how you intend to cook a whole chicken:

Oven-baked chicken must reach an internal temp of 165 to 175 degrees F. Once the cooking time has been reached, you can take the chicken out of the oven and let it sit. The chicken will continue cooking while it retains the internal heat. You can check the internal temp of the meat even after you take it out of the oven.

Grilling the chicken will take about 45 minutes for an entire chicken to cook. After this time, you can probe a meat thermometer into the deepest part of the chicken. If it reads 165 F, the meat is ready.

Smoking a whole chicken requires an internal temp of 165 degrees F. It will take approximately 30 to 45 minutes of cooking time in a smoker with a temperature of 250 degrees F.


Safety always comes first when preparing food, especially when working with chicken meat. Using a meat thermometer is the best way to eliminate any guesswork and ensure that the meat is perfectly cooked. This guideline is especially important when cooking a whole chicken since this size of the meat will take longer to cook.

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