How to Tell if Chicken is Undercooked

In our busy schedules, we tend to do things quicker and faster. However, with cooking chicken, it’s a bit confusing. Many people believe cooking chicken is a quick process of merely a few minutes. But, it’s not true!

It requires patience to cook chicken. That’s a general rule for cooking any protein-rich food. If you don’t cook chicken properly, the chances of food poisoning are high.

Fortunately, nature has blessed us with powerful indicators that tell if the chicken is undercooked; the sense of touch, smell, taste, and sight.

In this article, I’ll discuss four telltale signs to tell if the chicken is undercooked. I’ll also share the ideal internal temperature for cooked chicken.

Stay with me for more saucy details.

Color & Appearance—What does undercooked chicken look like

One of the first ways you can tell if the chicken is fully cooked or undercooked is by observing its color. Undercooked chicken appears raw and pink from the inside and outside. However, slightly undercooked chicken may appear transparent or shiny around the edges. Sometimes, you may also find blood near the bones, especially around the thigh areas and leg pieces.

Also, improperly cooked chicken has slightly pink juices coming out of it, which can be easily checked with a fork or knife.

Comparatively, the fully cooked chicken meat turns white or tan on the outside and opaque all through with no traces of pink color whatsoever.

Undercooked Chicken Texture—What does eating undercooked chicken feel like

After color, the texture is the best way to check if the chicken is undercooked. That’s because chicken feels like a jiggly jelly—rubbery, slimy, and shiny in texture when undercooked. Also, it’s somewhat dense and mushy to touch with an unpleasant smell that will scream “Cook Me!” 

Well, that’s one way to tell if the chicken is undercooked when you’re cooking it. But how to tell if chicken is undercooked if you’re baking?

It’s fairly easy to tell if chicken is undercooked in the baking technique. The undercooked chicken will appear thick and dense and the texture isn’t firm enough and flexible on pulling. Also, the undercooked chicken skin will not be crunchy and crispy as the fully cooked chicken meat.

Raw chicken, on the other hand, is soft, tender, and inflexible. Especially when you pull the meat, it doesn’t feel mushy and wet, the chicken is cooked all the way through. Another question or people have is this how long can you really keep a chicken after the sell by date? How long does it stay good for it?

Finger test for undercooked chicken

One way to tell if chicken is undercooked is by doing a simple texture test through your fingers.

Take a big piece of the meat, (ideally, the thickest part) and press it with your index finger. If the meat feels spongy or mushy in texture, it needs more time to cook. However, if you find it firm, tender, and inflexible, it is cooked well enough.

Smell—What does undercooked chicken smell like

If you put the raw chicken close to your nose, you’ll notice a distinct, strong, and unpleasant odor. Many people labeled the odor of uncooked chicken as “sour” or just “slightly off”.

So, if you notice a strange smell coming out of your chicken meat, it needs more time in the oven or stove.

Taste—What does undercooked chicken taste like

If you are doubtful whether your chicken is undercooked, the best way to be 100% sure is by tasting a tiny bit of it. However, the texture and color are telltale signs to tell chicken is undercooked. You can still go this route to make things crystal clear.

Unfortunately, undercooked chicken taste metallic and acidic when consumed. Therefore, you’ll instantly want to throw up if you eat raw meat.

Despite using these four senses,

The right internal temperature for cooked chicken

As recommended by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS), the right internal temperature for cooking chicken is 160°F to 165 °F, that too, depends on how you’re cooking chicken. For instance, if you’re cooking chicken breasts, it’s recommended to cook at 350°F for at least 30 minutes and grill for 8 minutes on each side so it is cooked properly.

When cooking chicken, I recommended preheating your oven to 400°F so the heat reaches the chicken properly. Also, I advise investing in an instant food thermometer to avoid overcooking or undercooking your chicken meat.

Here are some tips to cook chicken properly:

  1. Start cooking chicken on medium-high heat. Once it’s seared, put the heat to medium-low. The slower you cook chicken, the better it tastes.
  2. The average boneless chicken breast piece takes around 6 minutes of overall cooking time. Once you’re done, press your index finger on the chicken meat, it should be firm on pressing.
  3. Roasting chicken is a bit different than cooking or baking, especially if you’re roasting chicken with skin. It’s advisable to use very high heat at 475 degrees F to make super tender roasted chicken for at least 10 minutes.
  4. If you don’t want to bake, cook or roast the chicken with skin, cook it slowly at 350 degrees F.
  5. Use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the chicken. For chicken breast, the temperature should be 170°F. For the thigh area, it should be 175 °F.

How to tell when chicken is done without a thermometer

You can use your God-gifted four senses to tell if the chicken is undercooked without a thermometer. The easiest way to check undercooked chicken is by noticing its color. If it’s pink or translucent, or bloody in some areas, know that your chicken is undercooked.

Also, check out the texture of your chicken. If, upon touching, it feels slimy, mushy, or shiny, it needs more time in the oven. Similarly, check out the smell and chicken taste, if it feels slightly off, give it some time in the oven and you’re good to go! This technique can also come in hand if you’re baking something with chicken like a meatloaf, soufflé or a delicious casserole.

How to fix undercooked chicken

Eating undercooked chicken or raw chicken can expose you to dangerous bacteria that may result in many serious health risks such as foodborne illnesses. Cooking chicken to a safe internal temperature (165°F or 74°C) kills these bacteria and makes your chicken safe for consumption.

Luckily, you can fix undercooked chicken or turkey by following these easy steps:

Cut chicken into smaller pieces

Fixing undercooked chicken may feel hard, but this is the easiest way to get it done. Cut the undercooked chicken into smaller chicken pieces. Oil your frying pan and add chicken pieces into it. Drizzle some water and cover the pan with aluminum foil. Let it bake for a few minutes at 400°F. Using your meat thermometer check the internal temperature of your cooked chicken meat. It should be 165 °F. If not, cook it further for a few more minutes until it’s fully cooked. Another popular way to cook it is to boil chicken or cook chicken in a crock pot.

Place it in the microwave

If you cannot invest time in cooking chicken yourself, try microwaving it for a few minutes. With the help of a meat thermometer, check the internal temperature of chicken to be sure it’s fully cooked.

Tips for cooking chicken properly

Consuming raw or undercooked chicken can be hazardous to your health and may introduce some serious diseases to your body. Therefore, it’s important to cook chicken properly before eating it. Here are some guidelines by USDA to cook chicken at the proper temperature:

  1. It is always better to wash your hands before starting the cleaning process of chicken. The chopping board and utensils must be cleaned well with a dish bar. Keep them away from other food items in the kitchen as it may otherwise lead to unnecessary transmission of bacteria
  • Separate cutting boards of raw chicken and cooked chicken. Avoid using the same utensils and cutting boards for the raw chicken and cooked chicken because bacteria in the raw chicken may contaminate your cooked chicken meat.
  • Cook chicken and other poultry at a proper temperature of 165°F.
  • Refrigerate immediately

The Dangers of Eating Undercooked Chicken

Consuming undercooked chicken lead to many foodborne illnesses such as Salmonella food poisoning and Guillain-Barre syndrome. Both of these severe and fatal diseases are caused by bacteria present in raw chicken meat.

However, the cooking process of chicken can be a bit challenging. That’s because defrosted chicken is undercooked in the microwave and it’s usually raw near the bones. Therefore, you should avoid microwaving the defrosted chicken and discard the bloody meat. In some cases, the smoked chicken seems always pink when it’s evenly cooked. Therefore, the color test may be misleading. The same safety advice applies to other types of meat as well so be sure to check out these great tips.

Also, if you’re cooking store-bought chicken. For example chicken nuggets, it’s difficult to tell if it’s undercooked because of the breadcrumbs. Due to this, chicken nuggets have caused outbreaks of food poisoning lately.

The dangerous bacteria in undercooked chicken or raw chicken can be killed by cooking chicken at 350 ° F. Therefore, investing in a meat thermometer is your best bet.

How Long Can You Keep Cooked Chicken?

This depends on a few factors. Check out this helpful article for more details on the shelf life of cooked chicken.

Final Thoughts

Ask any food expert you want; chicken, by its nature, is quick. However, cooked chicken and undercooked chicken are two completely different things that have a lot to do with the right cooking process.

Next time, when you’re roasting soft, tender chicken breasts or cooking your favorite chicken dish, try using a meat thermometer and cook the chicken until the internal temperature reaches  165°F, you’ll get the juiciest, most tender and delicious chicken you’ve been dying to eat.

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