One of the worst mistakes you can make when cooking a chicken is not to have it hit the right temperature. Unlike beef, which can be served ranging from rare to well-done (and in some cases, even raw), chicken poses a serious risk of food-borne illness if it doesn’t reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees, as per USDA guidelines. The problem is, though, that you’ve got to hit the 165 degree mark exactly. One degree less, and it’s hello, salmonella! One degree more, though, and your chicken could be as dry as a Prohibition picnic.
So how do you make sure your chicken is cooked to the exact temperature? The safest, most sensible approach involves using a meat thermometer, of course. Still, people have been cooking and eating chicken since long before even the most basic of meat thermometers existed, and some still prefer going old school when it comes to determining when their bird is done baking. One of these people who don’t need no stinkin’ thermometer is Ina Garten, since she’s got her own go-to method of chicken-checking.
Garten's method can keep you from undercooking your chicken
One of Garten’s fans submitted a question to the “ask Ina” section of her Barefoot Contessa website asking how you can tell when a chicken is cooked. Garten, rather than recommending a high (or even medium) tech solution, offered her method: “The best way to know if the chicken is done,” she replied, “is to cut between the leg and the thigh. If the meat is no longer pink and the juices run clear, it’s done.”
She also advised covering the chicken with aluminum foil and allowing it to rest in the pan for 15 minutes after coming out of the oven, but cautioned that it will keep cooking under the foil. While she did warn that it is important not to overcook a chicken, she did not offer any advice on how to make sure you’re not doing this. After all, an overcooked chicken will also have non-pink meat and clear juices. Hmm, even if you’re kitchen royalty (shoeless or not), it would still seem advisable to invest in a good meat thermometer.
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