According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average boneless chicken breast half (about 4 oz.) should be roasted at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes.
Cooking can be dangerous (especially if you’re a fan of flambé!). While the risks are relatively low when you’re creating a meal in your kitchen, baking a boneless chicken breast or cooking any poultry always comes with the potential for foodborne illness.
Fortunately, knowing how to properly prepare chicken can keep you safe and well fed.
Why You Should Always Be Careful
Salmonella is a foodborne bacteria that’s responsible for 1.2 million cases of illness, and 450 deaths, each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Salmonella, incidentally, is largely found in raw poultry and while properly cooked poultry is safe, poor raw food handling techniques or undercooked poultry could lead to trouble.
- Thaw frozen chicken slowly, in your refrigerator.
- Bake a 4 oz. chicken breast at 350°F for 25-30 minutes.
- Make sure the internal temperature is 165°F.
While all poultry in the United States is inspected for signs of disease, this doesn’t mean it’s free of bacteria. As a matter of fact, it’s not unusual at all for raw poultry to contain many different types of bacteria.
The Right Temperature and Time
Why exactly is 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes the perfect temperature and length of time to cook chicken?
In order to destroy any possible contagions in your poultry, you must bring the internal temperature of the meat to 165°F. In general, the cooking recommendations offered by the USDA are approximate estimations for how long it takes to reach this threshold.
But because ovens may have slight heat differences and chicken breasts may be larger or smaller than the average, it’s important you double-check the internal temperature of the meat.
You can check whether you’ve achieved 165°F by inserting a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. In this case, close is not good enough. Make sure you put it back in the oven if it hasn’t reached this threshold.
Other Safe Poultry Tips
In addition to bringing your chicken to the right internal temperature, you’ll want to be cautious about cross-contamination. When raw poultry comes in contact with work surfaces, knives, and even your hands, it can leave behind bacteria. These bacteria can be transferred from surface to surface and end up in your salad, on your fork, and ultimately in your mouth.
- Wash surfaces that come into contact with raw chicken.
- Wash utensils and your hands, to prevent cross-contamination.
Wash and thoroughly disinfect surfaces that come into contact with raw poultry. Use paper towels so they can be thrown away after picking up possible contaminants.
Also, don’t rely on how your chicken breast looks to determine if it’s ready. Pink meat doesn’t necessarily mean it is undercooked. Just like white meat doesn’t necessarily mean all bacteria has been killed.
Preparation and storage are also important. The National Chicken Council suggests you always thaw frozen chicken in the refrigerator, not on your countertop or in a cold water bath. They also recommend refrigerating cooked chicken breasts within two hours of cooking. Your leftovers should remain safe for two to three days.
Chicken Breast Recipes
So, now that you know how to safely handle chicken breasts, what should you do with them?
Chicken breasts are extremely versatile. You can chop them into salads or use them in sandwiches. For a healthy take on a classic, try this oven-fried chicken breast recipe or this flavorful cider-brined roasted chicken breast dish.
A lean protein that is easy to prepare, chicken breasts are both good tasting and safe when you know the best handling practices.