How to make sure fried chicken is fully cooked? It’s the most fundamental question for frying chicken but also one of the hardest to answer. There are many legitimate ways to check if your fried chicken is done without cutting into it.
But there are just as many hacks that aren’t worth trying. You can do some obvious tests with simple kitchen tools and some slightly less obvious tests you can do with a pair of tongs or a wooden skewer.
How to make sure fried chicken is fully cooked?
We decided to test our way to some solutions. We fried up chicken pieces in different oils and temperatures; we poked, prodded, and took small samples out and cooked them through. Here’s what we found:
Say it with me: The “Touch” Test Is Not Reliable
This one’s pretty simple. Touching your finger against it should give you a good idea of whether or not your chicken is fully cooked in that spot.
This is precisely how every fried chicken recipe on this planet works, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work very well.
The skin of the chicken is also quite elastic—especially once cooked—and it’s hard to tell precisely where you’re touching the meat through that thick coating of flour or batter.
As a result, your finger just isn’t an accurate indicator for how cooked your fried chicken really is, no matter how hard you try to be gentle.
known fact: the “touch” test is not reliable
1. Thermometers and Timers
If you want to make sure your fried chicken is cooked through, a meat thermometer or timer does a much better job than your finger. The temperature of the meat isn’t as relevant as the temperature of the oil.
You don’t need to go crazy with this one, but you should definitely invest in something that can read temperatures.
2. The “Pluck” Test
While it doesn’t yield precise measurements as a meat thermometer or timer would. Gently plucking the chicken with a pair of tongs or wooden skewer will give you a good idea of how close it is to being cooked.
The “pluck” test for checking if fried chicken is cooked through
The meat will feel firmer while raw and give way more easily while fully cooked. If it’s not giving way at all, it’s probably still raw. The firmer it feels when you poke it, the closer to being cooked through it is.
Although keep in mind that the chicken will continue cooking once you take it out of the oil and remove some heat from your food (that’s why this is a good test to preheat before doing your final check).
3. Rinse and Poke, Then Leave the Chicken in the Fridge for a Few Minutes
This might seem a little weird at first—especially if you’re not used to handling raw chicken or don’t have a space reserved in your freezer just for fried chicken leftovers.
But rinsing your chicken off with cold water before cooking will leave the meat cold enough to test with your finger after frying, without having actually cooked it.
The chicken will still be raw when you do this, so you should then move it into a fridge or freezer for a few minutes before touching it to see if it has fully cooked.
This is especially useful when checking thin pieces of meat where the heat from the oil might burn your finger before the inside of it is done.
4. Check Between Bones and Pieces That Have Bones
Suppose you’re cooking chicken with bones, or pieces that have larger bones in them (even if they’ve been removed). In that case, you can check to make sure they’re cooked through by poking a pair of tongs or wooden skewer into the meat where the bone would be.
Although it’s not totally correct to say that everything with bones in it is cooked through simultaneously, this gets you close enough.
Especially if your chicken pieces are thick enough. And once you’ve checked between every piece left to check can be done all at once.
I’m not sure what this is—but it’s no longer raw!
Known Fact: The Chickens You’re Cooking Are Almost Definitely Fully Cooked Before They Get to You
Even if you’ve got an especially conscientious farmer, the chickens you purchase are probably already fully cooked by the time you buy them.
If you’re not planning on eating your chicken immediately or cooking it all in one, then be sure to store it cold in the Fridge until you’re ready.
The Bottom Line
Always check the internal temperature of your fried chicken, and make sure it is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are frying larger pieces or whole chickens, use a meat thermometer to ensure that the entire piece has reached the correct cooking temp. It is for food safety reasons.
When in doubt about whether your fried chicken is done yet, always err on the side of caution – if it’s not cooked all the way through, there could be bacteria present that can cause illness!