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Chicken Roasted Unevenly

After 2 hours at 350 degrees my five lb chicken had an internal (breast) temp of 160. But at the drumstick joint it was still clearly undercooked, and when I poked the themometer into the other breast it was 150 degrees. I put the bird back in and checked internal temp every 15 minutes or so. It took another hour or more to reach 170 internally. By that time, the whole thing was dried out and overcooked. Questions:
1. Is my oven thermometer sitting on the oven rack in the wrong place? Should it be somehow in the roasting pan, with the chicken?
2. My oven has a so-called speed bake feature, which turns on a fan at the back of the oven. Would this help for more uniform cooking?
3. What am I doing wrong? This was a trial run for roasting a much bigger turkey on Christmas!

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  1. I would rotate your bird every 30 minutes or so.

    1. I start my chickens in a 425ยบ oven for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375. I cook two at once and put them on a rack in a roasting pan. My chickens are usually 4.5 pounds each. After 45 minutes of roasting, I start basting them every 20 minutes or so.

      Also, I start with my chickens at room temperature. In the winter, I will prep my chickens at 12:30pm for a 6 pm dinner. I put the chickens in the oven at 4 pm and pull them out between 5:35 and 5:45 to rest before carving. I rotate the chickens once during cooking.

      Good luck to you!

      1. I think you roasted it on too low of a temp. I use 425 and the bird always comes out excellent.

        This is the method I use:

        1. When you measure the temperature, make sure you don't hit any bones. Bones are much hotter than the center of the meat.

          Was the bird trussed?

          If you keep opening the oven door, you'll keep losing heat from the oven = longer cooking time. I like to use a remote meat probe. Just stick the probe into the thickest part of the breast, close the door and walk away. It beeps when the meat reaches the right temperature.


          1. I think the oven thermometer is alright. Don't have to move it closer to the pan.

          2. Yes, that will definitely speed things up and creates a more even cooking.

          3. I use Alton Brown's method to roast turkey every single year and have come out perfectly done. Blast it at 500F for the first 30mins. Turn it down to 350F until the breast reaches 161F. Let it rest for at least 30mins. We cooked a 10lb turkey in less than 3 hours this year.

          1. Was your chicken sitting inside a recessed pan that wasn't preheated, breast-up?

            Roasting a chicken inside a roasting pan (or another kind with raised sides) tends to insulate any meat sitting below the sides of the pan. If that is your problem, there are many possible fixes. You can use a rack to set the chicken above the sides of the pan. You can cook the chicken in a skillet preheated on the stove to give the bottom of the bird a head start. You can start with the dark meat up and then flip partway through cooking. You can spatchcock. You can cook on a mostly flat cookie sheet. I could go on.

            As for one breast being more cooked than the other, many ovens aren't entirely even in their heat, so rotating the bird during cooking can be a good idea.

            Also, 170 is on the high side for chicken, especially breast meat. I feel pretty comfortable removing the bird at 160. Or 155 if the chicken was cooked in a hotter oven. Residual heat will bring the temp to 165 during resting.

            1. Next time spatchcock it. Cooks more evenly and faster. Looks better on the plate when cut up.

              1. I'd recommend using a probe thermometer inserted in the thigh. When it hits 165 your ready to remove and let it rest, the temp will rise about another 5 degrees. Also make sure to rotate the pan.

                1. For big turkeys, I've had good luck with putting an extra tin foil cover over the breast meat - retains some moisture.

                  1. To render fat and melt tough tendons, the dark meat really has to hit 180F in my opinion, while the white meat should not go above 150F in the thickest part of the breast (I know that the USDA says 165, but I'll take the slight risk for juicy breast meat).

                    You need some way of exposing the dark meat to more high, direct heat. I slice open the loose web of skin connecting the leg to the torso, then bend the legs/thighs outward and away from the breast like I'm opening a book, until the thigh bone pops out of the joint. Press the bird backside-down into a hot ovensafe skillet and cook it on the stovetop for 10 minutes before putting it in the oven. This gives the bird maximum contact with the hot metal, crisping up the flabby back skin and giving the dark meat a head start in temperature.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: RealMenJulienne

                      I agree. Dark meat really does better at the 180-190 range

                    2. The back of your oven is hotter than the front so you need to rotate the bird.

                      Don't open up the oven door that much.

                      1. Dry brining your bird, plus using the speed bake feature, will result in a much faster, browner and more juicy bird. The fan is a convection feature, and it actually bumps up the oven temp by about 25 degrees. The dry brine (kosher salt all over & inside bird, let air dry on a rack, in fridge for a day) helps the protein molecules in the meat absorb more moisture from the bird, seasons the meat and helps the skin dry out so it browns beautifully.