Chicken has been a staple food throughout the world for thousands of years. It’s absolutely easy to cook, and can be paired with just about any ingredients to whip up a tasty and filling meal. What’s more, organic pasture-raised chickens are rich in high-quality protein, and are also excellent sources of vitamins and minerals, including:1,2
From chicken noodle soup to chicken pudding dessert (also called Tavuk göğsü, a Turkish delicacy)3, there are various ways to enjoy this healthy meat. However, just because it’s easy to cook doesn’t mean that you don’t have to pay attention to how you’re cooking it.
Keep in mind that you have to cook chicken thoroughly, as there are foodborne organisms associated with it, which may harm your health if ingested. Some of these harmful bacteria include:4
- Salmonella enteritidis: This strain of Salmonella is found in the intestinal tracts of livestock, and is usually associated with poultry and shell eggs.5 According to the World Health Organization, salmonella is one of the main causes of diarrheal diseases. It may also be life-threatening, especially for people with a weak immune system.6
- Staphylococcus aureus: Staphylococcus aureus causes food poisoning. Its symptoms, which include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and dehydration, may occur one to six hours after ingestion.7
- Campylobacter jejuni: Campylobacter from raw chicken may cause a life-threatening form of food poisoning. Since this bacteria can spread to other surfaces, it may be ingested by using unwashed cutting boards and utensils.8
- Listeria monocytogenes: This bacteria causes a serious infection known as Listeriosis. Just like other foodborne diseases, its symptoms also start with fever and diarrhea. However, it may also affect other parts of the body over time, including the bones, joints, chest and abdomen.9
- Escherichia coli (E. coli): E. coli is usually found in the intestines of animals and humans. Although most of its strains are fairly harmless, some may still cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections and respiratory illnesses if ingested.10
Don’t let these bacteria discourage you from eating chicken, though. As long as you’re handling and cooking its meat properly, you and your loved ones should be safe. One important safety tip you should remember is to designate separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables. Avoid using the cutting board that you just used to prepare your chicken (or other meats) to cut vegetables, as this will lead to cross contamination.
While you’re at it, you may also want to consider baking your chicken. Baking chicken is one of the healthiest cooking options you have.11 Plus, it allows you to effortlessly create your own recipe by mixing different sauces, spices and marinades.
However, baking chicken can be a bit tricky. If you bake it for too long, you might end up with dry, tasteless meat. Putting it in the oven for only a short period of time can also be disastrous, as it may end up uncooked, posing the threat of bacterial contamination.
How Long Does It Take to Bake Chicken?
There’s a variety of chicken cuts that you can bake, which is why it’s sometimes hard to tell which of the cuts need to be in the oven for a longer time versus a shorter time. The cooking time and temperature for baking chicken may also vary depending on its weight, the recipe that you’re cooking and the oven that you’re using.
According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service, chicken must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Take note of this standard since it may help you determine whether a chicken is safe for consumption or not, especially if you don’t know exactly how long you should bake it. When checking for the internal temperature, place the food thermometer in the innermost part of the thighs and wings or in the thickest part of the breast.
The ideal baking time for a whole chicken that weighs 5 to 7 pounds is approximately two hours and 15 minutes. However, it may take 50 percent longer to cook if it’s baked in a frozen state. You should also allow at least 10 minutes standing time for bone-in chickens.12
A Guide to Baking Different Chicken Parts
As I’ve mentioned above, the average cooking time for different chicken parts may vary. If you’re planning to bake different cuts, then you should know how long each of them takes to cook to ensure that you end up with a juicy and flavorful meat. Here are the approximate cooking times for specific chicken parts if baked at a temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit:13
- Whole chicken: A whole chicken that weighs 3 to 4 lbs. takes around 75 to 90 minutes to bake, while a chicken that weighs 5 to 7 lbs. takes 2 to 2 1/4 hours.
- Chicken breast: It takes 20 to 30 minutes to bake a 4-ounce boneless chicken breast. For bone-in chicken breast that weighs 6 to 8 ounces, the baking time is 30 to 40 minutes.
- Chicken thighs: It will take you 40 to 50 minutes to bake a bone-in chicken thigh that weighs 4 to 8 ounces. For boneless chicken thighs, the cooking time is approximately 10 to 15 minutes.14
- Chicken wings: It can take 30 to 40 minutes to bake chicken wings that weigh 2 to 3 ounces.
- Chicken legs: It takes 40 to 50 minutes to bake a chicken leg that weighs 4 to 8 ounces. Moreover, a 4-ounce drumstick takes approximately 35 to 45 minutes to cook.
The cooking times discussed above are applicable for unstuffed chickens, so you should allow an additional 15 to 30 minutes cooking time for stuffed ones. If you’re still unsure of whether or not the chicken is baked after its average cooking time, double-check its internal temperature using your food thermometer before you take it out of the oven.