Author Topic: Chicken Internal Temps: Everything You Need To Know  (Read 472 times)

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Offline Elderberry

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Chicken Internal Temps: Everything You Need To Know
« on: July 20, 2019, 12:16:40 PM »
ThermoBlog by Martin Earl

The number of dinners in America that include chicken is astonishing. From freezer meals to BBQ chicken to fried cutlets, from restaurant chefs to college-dorm cooks, chicken is truly one of America’s favorite meats.

And yet chicken is too often woefully overcooked. Fearful of contracting a food-borne illness from undercooked poultry, many Americans roast, fry, bake, or grill their chicken until it is dry, tough, and rubbery. Overcooked chicken doesn’t “taste like chicken” anymore, it tastes more like chalk.

Why is that? Read on to learn!

Cooked chicken temps: safety concerns

All poultry, chicken included, have Salmonella bacteria endemic to their bodies—meaning that every single chicken has some Salmonella in it. The truth is that the chance that there is Salmonella in the particular portion of raw chicken you are preparing to cook is extremely high.

Of course, you needn’t necessarily freak out about that, because Salmonella, just like other harmful bacteria, can easily be killed by cooking food to a high enough temperature.

The USDA publishes critical food safety temperatures for all foods, including chicken, that reflect the heat needed to kill the bacteria commonly associated with those foods. And most people know that the recommended doneness temperature for food-safe chicken is 165°F (74°C).

The mistake most people make is not bothering to check the actual temperature of their chicken! Instead, they rely on physical indicators of doneness from a pre-technological era. Many people will check their chicken’s doneness by checking to see if it is firm when pressed, if it is no longer pink inside, or if the juices run clear when the chicken is cut.

But those methods are seriously flawed! By the time chicken is “firm,” the proteins in the meat will have squeezed out much of their water, making the chicken dry. (As the proteins in the chicken breast denature and curl up, and, if they cook far enough, they squeeze out the water molecules that cling to them.) The color of meat is also a bad indicator of doneness because pinkness can be caused by non-temperature related factors, such as pH. As for cutting the meat to see how the juices run, I suppose it could be a good doneness indicator if you want to eat chicken that has had its juices literally drained out of it before it reaches your plate.

Below we’ll cover three thermal paths to getting better chicken.

Beginner solution: check the chicken temp

The first—and most basic—solution to under- or over-cooked chicken is to use a thermometer when you cook your chicken! (A Thermapen® Mk4 is ideal for this task, as you’ll see shortly.) Yes, your grandmother checked it with her thumb, but she learned to cook before computers were invented! Now we have fast, accurate thermometers that can give us far more information about our meat’s doneness than a tactile push could.

To use a thermometer correctly in temping chicken, you’ll need a thermometer that is fast enough to show the differences in thermal gradients in the chicken.


Offline Cyber Liberty

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Re: Chicken Internal Temps: Everything You Need To Know
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2019, 02:24:06 PM »
The key is Pasteurization, which is a function of not just temperature, but time as well.  165F is the standard if one is cooking on a grill or in an oven.  It's possible to Pasteurize at a lower temperature if enough time is taken.  I Sous Vide my chicken at 150F tops, but I can cook it at that temperature for hours which kills the Salmonella.
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Offline Elderberry

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Re: Chicken Internal Temps: Everything You Need To Know
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2019, 05:26:39 PM »
Advanced thermal thinking: carryover cooking in chicken

If you’re concerned about holding it at 157°F (69.4°C) for 31 seconds, you certainly needn’t be: carryover cooking will make sure your meat is safe!

Most people don’t realize that when you take a chicken breast off of the heat, the residual heat in the outermost layers of the chicken will cause the internal temperature to keep rising, creating a temperature equilibrium in the whole piece.

Chicken Safe Temperature Chart

Temperature   Time to achieve bacterial death (in lean white meat)

145°F (62.8°C)   9.8 minutes
146°F (63.3°C)   7.9 minutes
147°F (63.9°C)   6.3 minutes
148°F (64.4°C)   5 minutes
149°F (65°C)   3.9 minutes
150°F (65.6°C)   3 minutes
151°F (66.1°C)   2.2 minutes
152°F (66.7°C)   1.7 minutes
153°F (67.2°C)   1.3 minutes
154°F (67.8°C)   1 minute
155°F (68.3°C)   49.5 seconds
156°F (68.9°C)   39.2 seconds
157°F (69.4°C)   31 seconds
158°F (70°C)   24.5 seconds
159°F (70.6°C)   19.4 seconds
160°F (71.1°C)   15.3 seconds
161°F (71.7°C)   12.1 seconds
162°F (72.2°C)   9.6 seconds

Dark-meat chicken temps: 175°F (79.4°C)

Everything we’ve discussed up to this point is focused on cooking chicken breasts. Dark meat is a whole other kettle of fish. While dark meat does need to be cooked to a safe temperature, it must actually be cooked to a higher temperature to be enjoyable. Dark meat has much more connective tissue in it, and that tissue needs to be broken down to make it tender. If you don’t like dark meat because of its gummy, rubbery texture, then you aren’t cooking your dark meat hot enough! For the connective tissues to break down, dark meat must be cooked to at least 170°F (76.7°C), but it is even better if cooked to 175°F (79.4°C).

Offline Luis Gonzalez

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Re: Chicken Internal Temps: Everything You Need To Know
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2019, 05:32:40 PM »
I get around all concerns of temp with poultry by cooking chicken to 145 for two hours with my sous vide system.

Moist, safely cooked and super tender. 
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Offline Elderberry

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Re: Chicken Internal Temps: Everything You Need To Know
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2019, 06:02:53 PM »
I cook my chicken breasts(flattened and spiced) on a hot grill for around 4 minutes a side, checked for an internal temp of 157deg.

Moist, safely cooked, super juicy, tender and flavorful.

Don't forget the importance of searing.

An Introduction to the Maillard Reaction: The Science of Browning, Aroma, and Flavor

The first thing you need for the Maillard reaction to take place is heat. A steak left to sit on the counter for a week at room temperature will certainly undergo some chemical changes, but the Maillard won't be one of them.

That steak doesn't just need heat, though—it needs a relatively high level of it if you want surface browning to kick in. Boiling water, which tops out at 212°F (100°C) at sea level, isn't hot enough. That's why a boiled steak turns gray instead of dark brown, exciting the palate of exactly no one.

The Maillard can work at lower temperatures, and with a lot more water. If you cook a chicken or beef or vegetable stock at a bare simmer for eight or 12 hours, the result is still a brown, fragrant liquid—a dead giveaway that the Maillard has occurred.

But most of us aren't cooking stocks for that many hours, and none of us are boiling a steak for anywhere close to that period of time. Instead, we're roasting, frying, and grilling. These cooking processes happen relatively fast, in minutes rather than hours, and for the Maillard to happen quickly, we need to drive off enough moisture to break free of that 212° cap.

By cooking a steak in a ripping-hot skillet, you can dehydrate its surface thoroughly enough that the temperatures on that surface will begin to climb, to upwards of 300°F (149°C). At that point, the Maillard reaction will kick into full gear, creating new flavors, aromas, and the characteristic brown colors that give the reaction its more commonplace name, the "browning reaction."

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