While you may occasionally indulge in a flavorful medium-rare steak, you certainly want your poultry dishes to be cooked thoroughly. Chicken can dry out if overcooked, though, so it is important to tread the line between salmonella poisoning and shoe leather. Knowing the guidelines for how long to cook chicken can help you avoid either extreme.
Whole Chicken Roasting
Whole chickens that you buy at the grocery store tend to weigh about 5 to 7 lbs. A chicken of this size should be roasted for about two to two and a half hours, or an average of 22 to 23 minutes per lb. of body weight, at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Roast your chicken until a meat thermometer placed deep in the thigh -- but not against a bone -- registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Chicken Breast Halves, Bone-In
There are several different ways to prepare versatile chicken breasts. Assuming a chicken breast weighs between around 6 and 8 oz., the chicken breast halves should be roasted for 20 to 40 minutes, or until a meat thermometer placed halfway through but not touching the bone registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit, at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are preparing the chicken breast halves on the stove top, they should be simmered for approximately 30 to 40 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit. To grill the bone-in chicken breasts, cook them over medium to medium-high heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the juices run clear and a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Boneless Chicken Breasts
Boneless chicken breasts are easy to cook evenly, since there are no bones to get in the way. For boneless chicken breasts weighing about 4 oz., roast at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Simmer chicken breasts for 25 to 30 minutes to ensure they are thoroughly cooked, or until the thermometer registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Grilled chicken breasts need to cook over medium to medium-high heat for about six to eight minutes per side.
Chicken Legs and Thighs
Chicken legs and thighs are denser than their white-meat counterparts and thus need to cook a bit longer. For chicken legs and thighs that average between 4 to 8 oz., roast at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the meatiest part registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Simmer chicken legs and thighs for about 40 to 50 minutes, or as long as it takes for the meat thermometer to reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Grilling chicken legs and thighs at medium to medium-high heat should take about 10 to 15 minutes per side, as long as the meat thermometer registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Using the Microwave
Using your microwave oven is another option for preparing chicken. Using the medium-high setting -- 70 to 75 percent power -- cook a whole chicken for nine to 10 minutes per lb.. Bone-in chicken parts, both white and dark meat, should be cooked for eight to nine minutes per lb. Boneless breasts need about six to eight minutes per lb. to cook. After cooking, you should allow bone-in chicken, both whole and parts, to "stand" in the microwave for 10 minutes. Boneless chicken needs to stand an additional five minutes. The chicken will continue cooking while you let it stand.
- Food Safety: Meat and Poultry Roasting Chart
- "The 1997 Joy of Cooking"; Irma Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker; 1997
Amanda Lynch has been writing professionally for print and online publications since 2000. With a master's degree in health communication, her background includes patient counseling, community health and script development. Lynch specializes in covering topics related to health and wellness, women's issues and parenting.