At What Temperature Do You Bake Chicken?
Here's how you'll know your chicken is done — and why we bake or roast chicken at so many different oven temperatures.
By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen
Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.
When it comes to baking or roasting chicken, everyone agrees what the internal temperature of the poultry should be when it's done, but your oven can be set to a variety of temperatures. What should you choose? Here's what to consider:
What Oven Temperature Do I Use for Baking Chicken?
There is no consistency when it comes to the oven temperature for cooking a whole chicken or individual chicken parts. You can roast or bake anywhere between 325 and 450 degrees F. When roasting a whole chicken, a nice rule of them is to start at 400 to 425 degrees F and then turn the oven down to 350 after 15 minutes and cook until the internal temp of the chicken is 165 – 175 degrees F on an instant read thermometer. The time spent at the high oven temp will give you a crispy-brown skin, but lowering it part-way through cooking maintains juiciness in your chicken.
When cooking individual chicken parts the recipe will specify a temperature, but as a rule of thumb, legs and thighs can be baked at 350 to 425 degrees F. Why do recipes have different temperatueres? One reason is what is being cooked with the chicken. Cubes of dense vegetables such as carrots or winter squash need a longer time to cook and may burn if in the same pan with chicken at 425. They’ll get the longer, slower cook time if you go with an oven temp of 350. If the chicken is the only thing in the pan, 425 degrees F is fine because dark meat doesn’t dry out as quickly as white meat.
When baking wings, we’re almost always going for crispy skin, and the pieces are small and cook quickly so the higher temp at 425 is the best bet.
For chicken breasts, it’s best to go with the lower temp of 350 and keep an eye on the internal temperature of the chicken: white meat will dry out faster than dark meat.
What Is the Difference Between Roasting and Baking?
The name we give the method that means "put chicken in oven and cook" can be confusing. Is that chicken baked? Or is that chicken roasted? Both techniques utilize dry heat for cooking (as opposed to braising, a wet cooking method). Most often, experts define roasting as only for whole bird, like a holiday turkey or a whole chicken. And then baking poultry refers to cooking individual pieces in the oven.
In truth, the difference in what any recipe will call roasting chicken versus baking chicken is a personal choice made by the person who created the recipe.
What Temperature Do You Cook Chicken To?
This answer isn’t wishy-washy: for a whole chicken, check the temp in the deepest part of the thigh without touching the bone. The temperature should be 165 - 175 degrees F. If you’re cooking just thighs or drumsticks, check the temperature in the thickest part. Cooking whole chicken legs? You still want to check the temp in the thigh portion. Wings are pretty much impossible to check with a thermometer, but if they’re being cooked in the same pan with all the other parts, they will definitely be done when the rest of the pieces are done.
For chicken breasts, the temperature should be 165 degrees F to be fully cooked. When you’re cooking a whole bird, you can check between the thigh and back-breast for clear juices: pink juices are an indication that the chicken is not cooked through. Clear juices indicate that it is cooked.
How Long to Bake Chicken at 350 degrees F
Baking a whole chicken is like roasting a turkey. At 350 degrees you should count on 20-25 minutes per pound for a 3 to 8 pound chicken. As with all meats, check the temperature 15-20 minutes before the time it should be done. You never know how accurate your oven is, and you don’t want to overcook and dry out the chicken.
Roast and Baked Chicken Recipes
For our Baked Lemon Chicken we’re setting the oven at 400 degrees F. Sounds like a high temp roasting situation, but it’s individual pieces so we named it baked. You’ll name it delicious.
When a whole chicken goes into a 425 degree oven it gets the heat it needs for a crispy skin. Lowering the temp to 375 ensures it doesn’t over-cook and dry out.
Wings go in the oven at 425 degrees F come out 55 minutes later as crispy as if they were fried. The butter-sriracha sauce drenches them in flavor.
Chicken in an air fryer: Roasted? Fried? Definitely roasted and definitely faster than an oven roasted chicken. This bird is on the table about an 1 hour.
Roasting these chicken leg quarters at 450 degrees means they come out of the oven crispy and juicy in record time: 25 minutes.