There may not always be a thermometer beside you. But, nobody wants to serve a chicken that is still pink inside or too dry and tough after spending so much effort on preparing and cooking the meat only because of the lack of a thermometer. So, it’s very important to know how to tell if chicken is cooked without thermometer.
Moreover, improperly cooked chicken or any meat is not just unappetizing, it also leads to food poisoning and severe health hazards. So, whether you are grilling the chicken or cooking it in the kitchen, as a cook, it’s your responsibility to check if chicken is undercooked before serving.
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As you know, a meat thermometer comes in handy to check whether the chicken is perfectly cooked or not. However, you don’t need to worry if this tool is not available. I’ve discussed some of the coolest cooking hacks to help you in this regard. Just keep reading to discover those hacks
Why It Is Important to Perfectly Cook Your Chicken
Ensuring the chicken is adequately cooked and keeping an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F) is vital.
Salmonella and Campylobacter are the most found bacteria in raw chicken meats.
Consuming a bit of undercooked chicken will lead to intestinal tract infections in humans, including food poisoning, abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, fever, nausea, etc.
In severe cases, people may suffer from bacteremia, Reactive arthritis, and typhoid fever.
Eating overcooked meat is also harmful to your health as the chicken loses essential nutrients due to excess cooking.
The charred meats may be a potential source of cancer in humans. Chicken meat, if heated above a particular temperature, will contain harmful carcinogenic chemicals such as heterocyclic amines.
Now that you know why it is so necessary to cook chicken thoroughly, let’s move on to the main topic.
7 effective methods on how to tell if chicken is cooked without thermometer
Maintaining the correct internal temperature is essential for ensuring food safety. All the parts of the chicken must reach a temperature of 165° F for thoroughly cooking.
You must be curious about knowing if your chicken is cooked without a thermometer? Aren’t you?
To answer your question, here we’ve come with the best seven methods that can effectively preserve the correct internal temperature and tell you if or when the cooking is done.
Method 1: Check The Color
You can detect a cooked chicken by observing the color changes. Before cooking, the meat will be pink or peachy in color.
After cooking, most chicken would be white all the way. However, this method has some flaws because different chicken parts can vary in color after fully cooked.
Some meat parts, especially near the bones, will show pink spots even after cooking due to hemoglobin.
You can’t get rid of it fully even if you overcook the chicken. When you cut the meat as long as it’s not overly pink, it is safe to eat.
The leg and thigh areas need longer time to cook than the breast area. Make sure to cook these areas at higher than 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Method 2: Observe The Juice
Another way to find out if the meat is fully cooked is to check the color of the juice by cutting the flesh at the thickest point.
If the liquid is clear, that means the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Alternatively, pink juice means you need to cook it more. Until you get a clear juice, you need to repeat the process.
Whether you are cooking the whole chicken or individual parts, this method will work perfectly.
To make this method work, you need to make sure to cut the thickest point. You can easily find the thickest part in the separated meat pieces.
For the whole chicken, the thickest part is typically at the thigh of the chicken.
Method-3: Check The Texture
It is a sensory-based method where you need to touch and feel the chicken understand the texture.
The raw or undercooked chicken will feel rubbery and flexible, whereas overcooked meat may feel too rigid, dense, and firmer.
Just like the previous method, the chicken thigh is the best part for observing the texture.
You can also try the finger test method to determine the doneness of a chicken. To find out the raw meat feeling, relax your hand and squeeze the fleshy area below the thumb.
For a medium-rare meat feeling, touch your thumb lightly with the tip of your middle finger. For a medium cooked feel, push your ring finger and thumb together.
Touch your palm with the other hand’s index finger while pushing the pinky and thumb fingers together to know the well-done meat feeling.
By pushing each finger against the thumb while comparing the feeling of the flesh part of your palm to the feeling of chicken meat, you can find out the doneness level of your chicken.
Method 4: Sous Vide
Sous vide is a machine that seals the food in an airtight container and cooks it with water. It is a slow cooking process and maintains a constant temperature.
Utilizing the sous vide technique, you can get perfectly cooked chicken with minimum effort.
With this method, you will get an enhanced taste without over or undercooking. It has many benefits and is perfect for restaurant owners as well as for our daily use.
The application of this method is very straightforward. You need a sous-vide cooking device, food packaging such as resealable bags, and a water container to get started.
Method 5: The Joint Test
It is an excellent method for determining the doneness of a whole chicken. It depends on the ease at which you can separate the leg from the breast of the chicken.
The meat will only fall right away when the chicken is thoroughly cooked.
In case of over or under-cooking, you will have a hard time removing the meat from the bone. If you have to roast chicken frequently, go with this method.
Method 6: The Shrink Test
This method works like magic, especially when you are grilling the chicken. The chicken exterior may look brown, crispy, and ready to eat during grilling, but it can still be hard and cold on the inside.
With this method, you will know if your meat is done by observing its size changes. If the meat has a nice charred outside appearance and looks a bit smaller than when you started, you are close to finishing the cooking.
Nevertheless, if the meat shrinks too much, it may be because of overcooking. The chicken should shrink about 10-25% compared to the original raw size for a well-done cook.
Method 7: Cooking Temperature and Time
While a meat thermometer comes in handy when monitoring the cooking temperature, you can use other ways.
It is essential to cook for a long time to kill the harmful bacteria. Use an oven or grill that gives accurate temperature.
Generally, cooking time depends on the meat’s thickness, and if the temperature is low, it will take longer to cook.
Follow recipes from reliable sources or government guidelines to get the perfect timing for cooking different meat pieces of various sizes.
Mistakes to Avoid When Cooking Chicken
To make sure you are getting perfectly cooked, moist meat, here are some mistakes you need to avoid.
- The Wrong Type of Oil
When you are cooking or frying chicken, you need to have the right oil to get the best result.
In the case of frying chicken, you need an oil that is high heat tolerant. The oil should maintain 350 degrees F temperature.
Natural oils such as canola or peanut oil with high smoke points are the best choice for the perfect result.
- Imbalanced Heat
Proper heat is essential when cooking chicken. With too high heat, you will get dark brown skin, but the inside will remain uncooked.
Again if the heat is deficient, the meat will need a longer time to cook, and you won’t get the expected outcome for fried chicken. The skin will be oily, dense, and less crispy.
- No Marinating and Seasoning
Without marinating, the cooked chicken will be dry and flavorless. Using yogurt, egg white, or buttermilk for marinating gives an impressive result. After marinating chicken, keep the chicken in a sealed container for about 3-4 hours.
For tandoori or grilled chicken, it is best to let the meat soak the marinated moisture overnight.
Doing this will result in a tender and juicy chicken. Use kosher salt and black pepper to season the meat.
Garlic powder, lemon pepper, herbs such as oregano or basil, paprika, onion powder are also an excellent choice for adding extra flavors.
- No Pounding
Pounding is an essential step in preparing the chicken before cooking. Pounding is a must if you want to make a boneless chicken dish.
It makes the meat tenderer by breaking down the fibers. It reduces the chances of overcooking by minimizing the cooking time.
- Type of Pots
The cooking pot’s shape, building materials, and condition play an essential role in cooking the perfect chicken.
Deeper vessels maintain a constant temperature and high pressure, enabling a moist chicken.
In shallow pots, the chicken will lose more moisture due to evaporation and become drier.
Using a cold pan is another big mistake you can’t make. If you start cooking with a cold pan, it will take a lot of time to heat the chicken.
The resultant meat will be pale, overcooked, and flavorless. So always make sure to warm the pan before adding the chicken.
Which Method Is Most Acceptable Out of These Seven
Out of all the seven methods, you will get the most accepted and accurate result from the sous vide method.
Before, only professionals could use and afford this machine; however, it has become much more affordable and available equipment in daily households due to advances in technology.
Unlike traditional methods, where you can’t control the temperature and heat, you can cook the chicken at a precise, controlled temperature with sous-vide.
So it is reassuring that the meat won’t be over or undercooked. It ensures a moist, juicy, and tender cooked chicken.
Fix Your Chicken If It Undercooked
Sometimes in fear of overcooking, we pull out the chicken too soon when it’s still not finished cooking.
You can still save the undercooked turkey or chicken by recooking it. To fix undercooked fried chicken, put the meat back on the pan after heating the oil.
Cook for about 3 minutes at low heat with the pan being covered. Cooking time depends on the rawness level of your chicken. Cook longer if necessary.
You can also recook chicken breast in a frying pan using the same oil that cooked it before. Adding ½ cup broth will make the dish more flavorful.
You can bake the undercooked chicken in an oven at 250 degrees F to get even cooking.
You can pull the meats from the bone and use them to make dishes such as enchiladas, fajitas, pot pies, etc.
How to Fix Overcooked Chicken
Overcooked chicken lacks the necessary moistness and flavor. However, you can easily reuse it in making another dish. There are several ways you can make your dry chicken juicy and tender again.
You can cut the meat into smaller pieces and add gravy or sauces of the various flavors, including barbecue sauce, honey mustard sauce, etc.
The meat pieces will be tender again by absorbing the sauce. Adding different seasoning mixtures also makes a difference.
With a bit of dressing, you can add the chicken to your Caesar salad too. Another way to save your overcooked chicken is to put them in a soup.
Homemade or store-bought any soup will do. You can also add the shredded meat to a veggie sandwich.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can cooked chicken be slightly pink?
It is pretty typical for a fully cooked chicken to show pink color. As long as the internal temperature in every part of the chicken meat is 165°F, even if there is a pinkish color, the meat will be safe to eat.
Typically the pink color appears when you cook young chickens because of their porous skin and bones.
During cooking, hemoglobin in the chicken’s muscles reacts with air, giving the pink color even after cooking. The Pink tinge may also occur depending on the chicken’s feed.
- Why is the chicken rubbery?
The chicken may be rubbery due to various reasons. First of all, chicken needs to be quickly cooked at a high temperature.
It may lead to overcooked and rubbery chicken. Dry chicken is another reason for being rubbery.
Chicken meat can be dry by overcooking or on its own if it is lean and has no fat. Cover with plastic wrap before cooking to solve this issue.
Besides, conditions such as woody chicken breast or white stripping can also be the reason for a rubbery chicken.
- How long after eating undercooked chicken will you get sick?
Raw chicken contains pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. The incubation period for Campylobacter is 2-5 days, and for Salmonella, the symptoms may appear within 24 to 36 hours.
It may take a week for you to get sick after eating the raw chicken. Usually, the symptoms will stay for about four days, and you might need to take antibiotics in some cases.
The severity of the sickness may vary depending on the chicken’s contamination level, the eaten amount, and the affected person’s age and health condition.
- How long does it take to cook chicken breast?
The time required for cooking chicken breast depends on the amount and thickness of the meat and your cooking method.
If you grill the chicken, it may take 6-8 minutes for each side on direct heat and 10 to 12 minutes for each side over indirect heat.
It may take 20 to minutes for baking in the oven—two to six minutes per side on the stove based on the heat level. Deep frying at 350-365°F may take 8 to 12 minutes.
- Is chewy chicken over or undercooked?
If your chicken turns out chewy or rubbery, it may be the result of both under and overcooking.
The undercooked chicken will be jiggly, chewy, and dense with a shiny appearance. The overcooked chicken will also be chewy and stringy with an unappealing texture.
- Why is my chicken bloody after cooking?
It is possible for chicken meat to bleed after cooking. Typically you may notice blood at the thigh bone.
It happens because the femoral artery in the thigh bone contains blood. So even after cooking, you may find dark red blood through the chicken’s leg.
It is unappealing, but it won’t cause health risks as long as it is properly cooked.
- How do you make tough chicken tender?
You can make a tough chicken tender by slow cooking at low temperatures. Before starting cooking, you should soak the chicken with baking soda of about 1 1/2 tsp. in a water-filled freezer bag.
After 4-6 hours, drain the water, then cook the chicken on a stovetop or in an oven for a long time until the meat gets tender.
- What are the Signs of badly cooked chicken?
Without proper storage, cooked chicken may go bad. There are some ways you can tell if the meat is not edible.
The most unmistakable sign is the foul smell coming from the chicken. The chicken will have a slimy texture, and you may notice mold or white spots on the meat.
Another sign of spoiled chicken is changing to grey or greenish color from white or brown tint.
- How long should you let the meat rest?
Resting the chicken after cooking is essential to prevent it from drying out and maintaining the juicier taste.
The resting period varies depending on the cooking techniques, different cuts, and recipes.
Generally, it is advisable to rest the chicken for 10-20 minutes before cutting. A whole chicken will need at least 15-20 minutes to rest, whereas a chicken breast will need 5-10 minutes. You can let the chicken rest uncovered or use aluminum foil.
- How do you fix chewy chicken?
You can’t fix the chewy chicken, but you can use the chicken somehow so that the chewiness won’t be noticeable.
You can cut the chicken into tiny pieces and use them in a soup or vegetables. You can also thinly slice the chicken and use them in fajitas, burritos, or Cesar salad.
Knowing how to tell if chicken is cooked without thermometer is essential, especially for inexperienced cooks. Many find using the meat thermometer troublesome. The proper way of inserting the thermometer may seem complicated.
That is why we have covered the best methods that you can apply without putting in much effort. Now you can choose any of our mentioned methods and enjoy perfectly cooked, delectable and safe meat.