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How to Properly Test the Temperature of a Roast Chicken

Roast chicken thermometer jpg copy

Sometimes it can feel as if all of life is tied up in a roast chicken. Cook enough of them, and you’ll get to experience everything, from savory triumphs (long ago I helped a friend cook about eight birds at once for a big party) to silly setbacks (those birds took much longer than I had planned) to plain old boredom (we have them about once a week, in the winter, and I’m looking forward to the summer).

If you are just starting to cook, a roast chicken is one of the easiest things to do, and if you’ve been cooking for a long time, they are one of the easiest things to obsesses over doing right. The Internet is full of advice about keeping the breast meat moist and getting the skin perfectly crisp.

But one thing the Internet is lacking is a decent video about how to properly use a meat thermometer. I know because I’ve been looking for one for longer than it takes to roast a chicken, serve it, and clean up afterwards.  This came up because the other day, Santa Maria, who is often at home roasting a chicken for the family while I’m at work, asked me if there was a good video showing how to use one.

I was sure that a good video would be easy to find, but I’ve been proved wrong. Unlike this excellent video showing how to cut up a chicken, I have not been able to locate any decent videos. If you know of any, please send me a note.

In the meantime, I’ll go over the basics, in case anyone is like Santa Maria, and unsure about what to do.

  • Get a good meat thermometer. I use a simple instant-read one, but there are countless options. Here is a list of the types.
  • Know what temperature you need to cook the meat to in order for it to be safe. The government says 165 degrees for chicken. Here is their chart.
  • Place the thermometer in the proper part of the meat. The best practice is to insert it into the thickest part. In the chicken, the thigh is recommended. Here are the USDA’s tips. Worst comes to worst, you can check multiple places, which is what I did when making a standing-rib roast for the first time).

And here are my a few of my favorite recipes for roast chicken:

But keep in mind that if you have a quality bird, sometimes all you need is salt (which is Santa Maria's favorite way to make it). Remember, if you know of a good video on how to properly use a meat thermometer on a chicken, please let me know.

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