Trying to determine the appropriate time to bake chicken in the oven can be a confusing question to answer. Everyone seems to have their own opinion of what it takes to properly prepare the bird, and everyone is convinced that they are right. Further complicating matters is that the bake time for chicken is impacted by a number of variables – how hot the oven is, whether you are cooking a whole bird or just the breasts, whether the bird has been deboned, etc. Fortunately, although opinions on the subject vary, with enough research, it is possible to find an acceptable range of times and temperatures that can be experimented with to find the right baking plan for your chicken.
Health and Safety
The most important thing to remember when cooking chicken is that you have a responsibility to ensure the chicken is cooked enough to kill off anything in the meat that might pose a health risk. One of the biggest risks when eating undercooked chicken is from salmonella. The salmonella bacteria can lay dormant in frozen chicken for a very long time, and the only way to eliminate the threat is to ensure that the chicken is baked long enough to kill the bacteria. If the internal temperature of the chicken as measured with a meat thermometer is at least 165 degrees, then it should be safe. Many choose to wait until the chicken is warmer, though, out of personal preference.
If you are baking a whole bird, bone-in, your oven should be set at 350 degrees, and the chicken cooked until the internal temperature is 180 degrees. This can take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half to complete, depending on the size of the bird. You will want to measure the temperature at the thigh, since this is the part of the chicken with the thickest meat, which will take to longest to reach the safe temperature. Once baking is complete, it is generally recommended to let the chicken sit for ten minutes, wrapped in aluminum foil. This allows the really hot parts of the chicken to cool down, and parts of the chicken that may not be as hot to absorb that heat, allowing for a consistent temperature across the whole bird.
Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
Another popular way to have chicken is to purchase boneless, skinless chicken breasts from the grocer’s deli section. These breasts have already been deboned, so all that you have to do at home is throw them in the oven and bake them. Most chicken breasts are about four ounces in size. At that size, baking them for twenty to thirty minutes at 350 degrees is considered the best practice.
Drumsticks are a popular choice for many chicken fans, and the cooking process for drumsticks is very similar to that of chicken breasts. At 350 to 375 degrees, drumsticks should be cooked for 40 minutes. It is recommended that the drumstick be turned over halfway through cooking so that the heat evens out.
No matter which part of the bird you are cooking, chicken is always a popular choice at the dinner table. By following these guidelines, you ensure that the chicken you serve is safe, warm, and delicious.