Poultry, unlike fish, beef or other meat, must be fully cooked for safety reasons. An undercooked chicken may lead to salmonella and other potentially dangerous bacteria that can cause illness. Baking is a great way to ensure that the chicken is fully and evenly cooked from the inside out. Baked chicken is a fairly simple recipe that can be completed with just a few key steps.
Defrosting the chicken before placing it in the oven is suggested, but not necessary. Defrosting can be done in a number of ways. A frozen chicken can be left at room temperature for several hours. If the prepares would rather leave it out longer, the refrigerator is a safe place to store the chicken over night. For those with microwave ovens, there is a custom defrost setting that will thaw the chicken in a short amount of time, depending on the total weight of the meat. Depending on the size of the bird, the time that each method will take to fully defrost the meat will vary.
If you do not have time to defrost the chicken, it can still be placed directly into the oven, but it will have to cook for a longer time.
Regardless of the size of the chicken, oven settings must be above 325 degrees Fahrenheit in order to properly bake and fully cook the meat. Preheat a conventional oven to 350-400 degrees. The higher the temperature, the crisper and more golden the outer layer of the chicken will be, but be careful of overcooking the outside and undercooking the inside. People who live in higher altitudes (3000 feet above sea level) may need to set their oven to a higher temperature. Never attempt to cook raw meat in the microwave.
Preparation and Seasoning
Whether whole or sectioned, the first thing to do after removing the chicken from its packaging is to rinse off all parts with cool water. If the chicken is whole, unless labeled otherwise, check that the inside is clean. Whether frozen or thawed, the inside of a whole chicken is the perfect place to stuff spices, onion, butter celery, bread crumbs, and any other desired seasonings. Rub the seasonings on the outside of the bird as well, of for chicken parts, mix the seasonings and chicken with your hands in a large bowl.
Defrosted chicken can generally be baked in one hour if it is cut into pieces or if the whole bird is less than five pounds. For whole chickens, add an additional 10 minutes cook time for every extra pound above five. If baking a frozen chicken, double the time. For example, if you are cooking a defrosted chicken for 60 minutes at 350 degrees, bake a frozen solid chicken at 350 degrees for at least 120 minutes. Again, altitude may affect cooking time.
Toward the end of the prepared baking time, you can check if the meat is cooked by sticking a sharp knife or fork into the thickest area and making sure that the meat is firm and not pink. You should see no blood anywhere. Don’t overcook the chicken, as the meat may become dry. A perfectly baked chicken will be golden brown on the outside and tender and white (or light brown) on the inside.
Once out of the oven, let the chicken cool for 10 minutes and enjoy!