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Best method for knowing when whole roast chicken is cooked through?

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Most recipes say that when roasting a whole chicken you should use a meat thermometer and remove the chicken from the oven when the thickest part of the thigh measures 165 degrees. However, when I get a reading of 165 or higher on the thigh I will test the thickest part of the breast and it generally measures in the 145-150 range. Is the idea that the breast will continue to cook after it comes out of the oven? Worried about an undone chicken I will leave the chicken in the oven until the breast measures 165, however at that point the thigh measures 190 or higher. Any pro tips out there?

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  1. yes, temperatures will rise another 5-10 degrees after leaving the oven.

    1. When you remove at 165 (thigh temp), tent the bird with foil and let rest for 20 min, the internal temp will rise 10+ degrees yielding a perfectly cooked chic..

      1. I second the responses so far. Your temp indications work well, allowing the resting time.

        All that surprises me is your remark that "most recipes" say what you've said. In my experience, most recipes talk about the thigh at 180 and the breast at 160+, both of which are too high, IMO.

        1. Those of us who are baby boomers or older grew up in homes where the doneness of a roasting chicken was determined by wiggling the leg. If it moves easily, the bird is (at least) done. Another hint is to make a small cut into the joint between the thigh and body of the chicken. If the juices there run clear (not pink or reddish), it's done. Mom did not have any kind of meat thermometer at all, much less an instant-read one, but the weekly roast chicken was always correctly done.

          4 Replies
          1. re: greygarious

            I can tell by feel but for us if the leg wiggles we have passed palatabity.

            1. re: greygarious

              I roast my chicken breast down, and find that the leg wiggling and checking the juices as greygarious said works just fine.
              I like my chicken just about falling off the bone.

              1. re: greygarious

                No meat thermometer in our childhood home either, but then Mom always cooked the chicken to death!

                Your hints re wiggling the leg and checking the color of the juices are long-time (and tried and true) techniques. Another way I check is to look at the appearance of the skin attached at the bottom joint of the chicken leg, where the foot was cut off. After roasting many chickens I find that I can tell by the skin pulling away from this joint that the chicken is done (at least in concert with the clock). If, after about 45 to 50 minutes for a small bird, the skin at this joint is still moist and intact, I give it another 15 minutes or so.

                1. re: greygarious

                  Yup, that's how we roast our chicken. Leg wiggle and, if any doubt, prick the skin at the thigh joint to make sure the juice runs clear.