Cooking and Keeping Chicken

All parts of the chicken, including the breast, thighs, drumsticks, wings, and ground are safe to consume when the internal temperature of chicken reaches 165°F. Chicken does not need to be rested before eating.

Safe Handling and Cooking of Chicken

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not recommend washing or rinsing chicken before cooking. Raw juices from the chicken can contain bacteria that will contaminate your sinks, prep areas, utensils, and anything else it comes in contact with. Washing the chicken does not eliminate bacteria–only cooking to safe temperatures will do so.
  • Any chicken that has been improperly bled is cherry red in skin color and should have been extracted by quality control at the processing plant. Do not purchase and report to a store representative.
  • Fresh chicken should be refrigerated when sold and be cold to the touch. Do not cross contaminate any fluids from raw chicken to your other produce by placing fresh chicken in a plastic bag when purchasing.
  • The safest way to thaw frozen raw chicken is in the refrigerator. Refrigerators allow meat to thaw at safe temperatures that will not spoil the chicken. This may take up to 2 days to fully thaw. Another safe option is by submerging the packaged or sealed chicken in cold water. Ensure the packaging is airtight and leakproof and submerge in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes and for every pound of chicken, it should take an hour to thaw. The third and quickest way to thaw frozen chicken is with a microwave. Follow microwave instructions if it specifies weight or type of frozen product to thaw. Chicken that has been thawed with a microwave should be cooked immediately due to the heat of the microwave potentially cooking some parts of the chicken.
  • Do not cook chicken with a microwave before thawing. Cooking may not be even and can lead to foodborne illness if not cooked thoroughly.
  • Never partially cook a chicken and refrigerate for storing. Not all bacteria would have died and this may lead to spoilage of the chicken.
  • Pink meat of chicken is not a determining factor on its doneness. Some fully cooked chicken may still have pink colored meat due to hemoglobin in muscle tissue and is completely safe to consume. The only way to definitively know if chicken is safe to eat is if internal temperatures reach 165°F.


Chicken Cooking Times

Check the chart below for how long to cook chicken for whether you are looking to roast, boil, or grill.

Chicken Part

Weight Roast at 350°F Simmer


Whole 18-24 oz 50-60 min 35-40 min 45-55 min
Whole 3-4 lbs 75-90 min 60-75 min 60-75 min
Whole 5-8 lbs 2-3 hours 1¾-2 hours 18-25 min/lb
Breast-bone in 6-8 oz 30-40 min 35-45 min 10-15 min/side
Breast-boneless 4 oz 20-30 min 25-30 min 6-8 min/side
Legs, thighs 4-8 oz 40-50 min 40-50 min 10-15 min/side
Drumsticks 4 oz 35-45 min 40-50 min 8-12 min/side
Wings 2-3 oz 30-40 min 35-45 min 8-12 min/side


Frequently Asked Questions: Cooking and Storing Methods

How long do you bake a chicken?

  • How long you cook chicken in the oven depends on what part of a chicken you’re cooking or if it’s a whole chicken. It is important to always keep in mind that all poultry requires an internal temperature of 165°F for safe consumption. Different recipes may call for various temperatures when baking or roasting a chicken but a common recommended temperature is 350°F to prevent burning the outside of a chicken and leaving the inside cold.
  • When reheating chicken, any method of cooking is fine as long as the internal temperature again reaches 165°F.

How long can you keep chicken in the fridge?

  • Cooked whole chicken and chicken pieces should only be kept refrigerated 3 to 4 day after cooking. Raw whole chicken or chicken pieces can only be kept in the fridge for 1 to 2 days.

Can you freeze chicken salad?

  • Chicken salad and other types of cold salads should be kept refrigerated and can stay in the fridge for up to 4 days. It is not recommended that you freeze chicken salad.

How long can you freeze chicken?

  • Leftover chicken can be kept up to half a year in a freezer
  • Raw whole chicken can be frozen for up to a year while pieces are more susceptible to foodborne illness and can last up to 9 months.

Foodborne Illness Risks of Chicken

  • Salmonella Enteritidis
    • Found in intestines of chickens and other poultry and warm-blooded animals. This is 1 of 2,000 types of Salmonella bacteria but is the one most commonly found in poultry and shelled eggs.
  • Staphylococcus aureus
    • Found in cold chicken dishes such as chicken salad. This bacteria can be transmitted through human hands, noses, and throats.
  • Campylobacter jejuni
    • This bacteria is a common cause of human diarrhea and is found when foods are cross contaminated or improperly cooked.
  • Listeria monocytogenes
    • Commonly spread during improper storing and preparing of foods, this bacteria is killed during cooking but causes foodborne illness when poor sanitary practices are in place. Ready to eat products are under scrutiny by the Food Safety and Inspection Services to prevent Listeria outbreaks.
  • E. coli
    • Group of bacteria found in intestines of animals that may or may not be harmful depending on the strain. Often raw produce is contaminated by animal fecal matter that has become infected.