According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 4-ounce chicken breast should be roasted at 350°F (177˚C) 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 chicken 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 in raw poultry

Salmonella is a foodborne bacteria that’s responsible for 1.2 million cases of illness and 450 deaths each year.

Salmonella is largely found in raw poultry. When poultry is cooked properly it’s safe, but if it’s undercooked or handled improperly while raw, it can lead to trouble.

All poultry in the United States is inspected for signs of disease, but 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.

thumbs up Cooking tips
  • Thaw frozen chicken slowly in your refrigerator, or thaw it faster by putting it in a leak-proof package or plastic bag and submerging in cold tap water.
  • Bake a 4-oz. chicken breast at 350°F (177˚C) for 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check that the internal temperature is 165˚F (74˚C).

The right temperature and time

right temperature and time

The USDA has provided this guide for how to roast, simmer, and grill chicken:

Type of chickenWeightRoasting: 350°F (177˚C)SimmeringGrilling
breast halves, bone-in6 to 8 oz.30 to 40 minutes35 to 45 minutes10 to 15 minutes per side
breast halves, boneless4 oz.20 to 30 minutes25 to 30 minutes6 to 9 minutes per side
legs or thighs4 to 8 oz.40 to 50 minutes40 to 50 minutes10 to 15 minutes per side
drumsticks4 oz.35 to 45 minutes40 to 50 minutes8 to 12 minutes per side
wings2 to 3 oz.20 to 40 minutes35 to 45 minutes8 to 12 minutes per side
 

This guide can help you estimate how long to cook your chicken, but because ovens have slight heat differences and chicken breasts may be larger or smaller than the average, it’s important that you double-check the internal temperature of the meat.

In order to destroy any possible contagions in your poultry, you must bring the internal temperature of the meat to 165°F (74˚C).

You can check whether you’ve achieved 165°F (74˚C) by inserting a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. In this case, close is not good enough, so make sure you put it back in the oven if it hasn’t reached this threshold.

Pink isn’t always what you think

avoid cross-contamination

Don’t rely on how your chicken breast looks to determine if it’s ready. Pink meat doesn’t necessarily mean it’s undercooked. Similarly, white meat doesn’t necessarily mean all bacteria has been killed.

Be cautious about cross-contamination if you’re cutting into your chicken to check its appearance. 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 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.

Preparation and storage are also important. The USDA suggests you always thaw frozen chicken in the refrigerator, microwave, or a sealed bag submerged in cold water. Chicken should always be cooked immediately after thawing. Bacteria is more likely to grow on raw meat that’s between 40˚F (4˚C) and 140˚F (60˚ C).

Cooked chicken breasts should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking. Your leftovers should remain safe for two to three days.

thumbs up Cooking and cleaning
  • Wash surfaces that come into contact with raw chicken.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after handling raw chicken.
  • Wash utensils with hot soapy water after using them on raw meat.

Chicken breast recipes

enjoy

So, now that you know how to safely handle chicken breasts, what should you do with them?

Chicken breasts are extremely versatile, and your options for how to prepare them are nearly endless. For starters, you can chop them into salads, use them in sandwiches, or cook them on the grill. For a healthy take on a classic, try this oven-fried chicken breast recipe or these flavorful herb-roasted chicken breasts.

Don’t be intimidated by cooking chicken. When you know the best handling practices, chicken breast is a lean protein that’s both tasty and safe.