When it comes to cooking a lean and healthy piece of chicken, boiling is a good way to go. This tried and true cooking method is simple, efficient, and results in juicy, tender chicken if not boiled too long. But, if cooked too little, it can cause food poisoning and symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach pain, and fever.
So, you want to cook it just right, not overcook it and not undercook it either, but how do you know when boiled chicken is done just perfect?
Boiled chicken is considered safe to consume once its internal temperature reaches 165℉ (74°C). Heating raw poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit will instantly destroy Salmonella, “the most heat resistant pathogen of public health concern in raw poultry.”
In this article, I will go over some of the best ways and techniques to check if your boiled chicken is properly cooked. I will also suggest an alternative, seemingly contradictory boiling method for the most succulent boiled chicken ever.
How To Tell If The Chicken Is Undercooked?
There are 3 effective ways to check if your boiled chicken is done. These include:
- Check the internal temperature to see if it has reached 165℉.
- Cook for a predetermined time period.
- Check the color and texture.
1. Cheking The Internal Temreture
Using a food thermometer is the most accurate way to check if the chicken is cooked and safe for consumption. The thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the chicken, like in the middle of the breast or thighs. Checking periodically, boil until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
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Salmonella is a bacteria that is often found on raw and undercooked chicken. About 1 in every 25 packages of chicken sold at supermarkets are contaminated with Salmonella. This means that if you are buying chicken, there is a pretty good chance that you will get sick if you don’t cook it properly.
Irrespective of how you cook your poultry – grilling, boiling, poaching, baking, etc., you should always follow this key temperature for safety (165°F), which is based on guidance from the USDA’s National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods .
Read Also: How To Tell When Chicken Is Done Without a Thermometer?
2. Follow The Recommended Cooking Times
The time to boil boneless chicken breast will depend on the thickness of the chicken breast, but it will typically take around 13-15 minutes at a full boil at 212°F. Boneless chicken thighs need about 15 to 20 minutes to boil, depending on the size. Bone-in thighs take between 25 and 30 minutes, and it takes approximately 45 minutes to boil a 3lb (1.5kg) whole chicken.
Depending on what part of the chicken you’re boiling and whether it has skin-on, the cooking time will slightly change. Moreover, know that frozen chicken breasts, thighs, or wings will take longer to boil than if they were defrosted. Boiling from frozen, it is recommended to increase your cooking time by 50%.
Also, boiling at a lower temperature will drastically change the cooking times and the final result (for the better), and I will get to that in a minute.
Above cooking times are a good guide to follow for safety and not overcooking the chicken. Set your timer accordingly, and then use the meat thermometer to double-check. If you don’t have a meat thermometer use the following technique to check the doneness.
3. Check The Color And Texture Of The Meat
Piercing the chicken with a fork or the tip of a knife is another effective way to test for doneness. The chicken should be firm but easily penetrable. Also, juices should run clear when the meat is pierced. If the juices are pink, the chicken is not done yet.
And lastly, you can cut into the chicken and check the color of the meat. If the color is white throughout, it is cooked, but if it is still pink or peachy in the center, it needs a few more minutes of cooking time.
Cooking Chicken Safely Below 165℉
Now, I have given you urgent warnings to always ensure that the chicken is cooked to 165°F (74°C) so it would be safe, and while that is true, now I am going to tell you the exact opposite. You will get more tender and succulent meat if you don’t let the temperature reach that high and even better if it would not go past the 140°F (60°C) at all.
Let me explain, cooking chicken safely does not only depend on temperature but also on time.
When the temperature reaches 165°F (74°C), you attain the pasteurization in seconds; however, at a lower temperature, you can still achieve complete pasteurization, but it will just take longer to accomplish that.
Look at the chicken pasteurization chart below.
Chicken time temp chart
You can achieve salmonella destruction at 136℉ (58°C) as long as you hold the temperature for around 69 minutes. This ‘holding time’ is crucial to your meat’s safe cooking.
But why should you put yourself through an hour of cooking time for something you can finish in 15 minutes?
To understand why you may NOT want to go to 165℉ (74°C), it is important to understand the texture of the chicken you will achieve when cooking at different temperatures.
Check the table below for the best temperature for perfectly moist and tender chicken.
Best Cooking Temperature For Chicken For The Most Succulent Result
|At 140℉||The boiled chicken at this temperature is very soft and juicy. It looks ever so slightly translucent.|
|At 145℉||Chicken cooked at this temperature is entirely opaque. It is juicy and tender.|
|At 150℉||The cooked chicken is white, opaque, juicy, and firm.|
|At 155℉||The boiled chicken is white, opaque, a little stringy, and slightly dry.|
|160℉ and up||The chicken becomes dry, stringy, dense, and rubbery.|
Related Post: Baked vs. Grilled Chicken Breast – Which Is Healthier?
How To Cook Chicken At Low Temperature?
The only way to boil the chicken at a low temperature for a long time and still get a perfectly moist and juicy result is using Sous vide cooking method, which means “under vacuum” in French.
Sous vide is a method of cooking that uses a vacuum-sealed bag to cook food in a water bath. The food is cooked evenly at a low temperature, which results in tender and moist meat. Sous vide can be used to cook chicken and turkey and is also great for cooking steak, fish, and vegetables.
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For this cooking method, you will need:
- The sous vide cooker immersion circulator, like the one above.
- Food-grade vacuum seal bags.
- Vacuum sealer.
- A large pot for the water bath.
- Set sous vide machine to 140°F (60°C).
- Season chicken breasts with salt or other seasonings of your choice.
- Vacuum seal the chicken in a sous vide bag.
- Put the bag in the pot of water and cook for an hour and a half.
- Remove the bag from the water and take the chicken out of the bag.
- (Optional) For browning and crispness, sear chicken breasts for 60 seconds on each side on a grill or hot skillet.
- Let it rest for five minutes.
- Serve and enjoy!
If you don’t want to get all that equipment and wait hours for perfectly boiled chicken breast, I recommend poaching instead. Poaching is a much more gentle cooking technique than boiling and is done at a lower temperature.
Check Out Here: How To Poach Chicken For Chicken Salad.
Boiling chicken is a great way to cook poultry. It is a healthy and easy method that yields decent results.
However, food safety is essential when cooking chicken. This depends on two main factors: temperature and time. The higher the temperature, the less time it takes to kill the bacteria that can cause illness. When cooked at a lower temperature, you are likely to get a more succulent result, but the cooking time must be increased accordingly.
But if you are not sure when the boiled chicken is done and safe to eat, there are a few effective ways to check. One is to use a meat thermometer, which should be inserted into the thickest part of the chicken. The chicken is cooked through if it reads at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Another way to tell is to cut into the chicken and look for clear juices running from the meat.
-  USDA: 165 degrees is the magic number for safe poultry. Retrieved from: https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2006/04/usda-165-degrees-magic-number-safe-poultry