If you’re wondering what the right internal temperature of your chicken thighs should be, you’re in the right place!
In this TheGrillingDad.com guide, you’ll learn:
- The safe internal temp of chicken thighs
- The temperature you should cook them to
- And much more!
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Cooking and eating chicken thighs is one of life’s great joys.
Roasted, pan-seared, deep-fried, or baked– chicken is delicious any way that you make it!
Above and beyond the taste, however, is the safety of your poultry.
No matter how you choose to cook it, there’s one thing that you always have to keep in mind: The chicken thighs’ internal temp!
Consuming raw chicken is dangerous, as uncooked meat is home to a host of harmful bacteria.
The bacteria Campylobacter is commonly found in poultry, followed by Salmonella and Clostridium Perfringens.
Salmonella is the leading cause of foodborne illness, and was found to be present in 1 in 25 packets of chicken from the grocery store.
As such, cooking to the USDA-recommended chicken thigh internal temperature is the only way to ensure that your chicken is safe to eat!
After all, what matters most but the safety of all at your table?
In this article, we’ll discuss exactly how hot your chicken needs to be in order for it to be considered fully cooked and safe to eat.
We’ll also tell you exactly at what temperatures you’ll get the best flavor and texture! This will ensure that your chicken is perfect from both a safety and deliciousness standpoint- every single time.
Chicken Thighs Internal Temp:
Chicken is the most commonly eaten meat among Americans, and it’s easy to see why.
Along with being a healthier option than most meat-based protein sources, it’s also one of the more affordable choices for families.
In addition, it’s very versatile- working well in many types of cuisines and with a variety of different flavors.
Despite its flexibility, chicken is definitely meat that is best when cooked above its minimum recommended temperature.
Keep in mind that this isn’t “overcooking”! Chicken is very different from steak, which many would (rightly) argue should not be cooked too long.
With chicken thighs in particular- a darker cut of meat- the minimum temperature may not cut it when it comes to the best possible taste!
Cooking it below the optimal temperature may be safe, but it won’t result in the chicken having the ideal texture or being as moist and flavorful as it can be.
A chicken thigh is said to be best-tasting when cooked to 185℉. This is due to the specific nature of the cut.
It’s made of collagen, a common type of protein that requires a high level of heat to properly break down. High heat converts the collagen to gelatin, which is much more tender and juicy.
Therefore, cooking chicken thighs to an internal temperature of 185℉ is going to result in a moister, more tender meat, whereas cooking it to a lower temperature is going to give it a more chewy texture.
So, it all depends on what you prefer- but most people would rather their meat be more tender and sweet!
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So, What’s the Safe Temperature To Cook Chicken Thighs?
The minimum internal temperature, according to the USDA, of any cut of chicken should be 165℉.
This is a higher level than other types of meat, such as pork or beef.
This temperature will ensure that any bacteria that were present in the raw chicken will be completely killed and no longer able to cause illness.
At this point, the chicken thigh is completely safe to eat!
Thighs vs Other Type of Chicken
In this section, we’ll compare the ideal chicken thighs’ internal temp to that of other parts of the chicken.
The USDA does recommend that, regardless of whether you’re cooking a whole chicken or separate breast or thigh pieces, you should make sure the internal temperature reaches 165° F.
This temperature is the bottom threshold for all safely-cooked chicken, as well as other types of poultry such as turkey.
So, always remember: It doesn’t matter which part you’re cooking, the safe internal temperature is always 165° F!
Again, this is a minimum, and not necessarily the best temperature in terms of tenderness and flavor. The optimum temperature and cooking style will vary from part to part.
With chicken breast meat, for instance: The less you cook it, the more moist and flavorful it will be!
In contrast, chicken thighs can be cooked at much higher temperatures and for longer durations to improve the end result.
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How Long Does it Take to Cook Chicken Thighs?
To make sure you achieve the optimum internal temp, a number of cooking methods may be used.
(Please note: the guidelines here are based on the USDA recommendations for legs and/or thighs weighing 4-8oz.)
You will need to:
- Roast them in your oven at 350° F for between 40 and 50 minutes
- Grill them at 350° F for between 10 to 15 minutes per side
- Simmer them in your pan for between 40 and 50 minutes
The USDA notes that the above are the bare minimum safe cooking times.
You should cook your chicken thighs for longer to gain more flavor and a better texture. Shoot for 185°F.
How To Test The Temperature of Chicken Thighs
To test the temperature of chicken thighs, your best bet is a meat thermometer.
Using a meat thermometer is crucial to ensuring chicken thighs are cooked to the right internal temperature, as it’s not always possible to tell just by the appearance of the meat!
Checking the Internal Temp of Chicken Thighs With a Meat Thermometer
Checking with a meat thermometer is always going to be the most reliable way to check how “done” the chicken is.
Firstly, always ensure that your meat thermometer is working appropriately.
You can either use an instant-read thermometer- where you stick it in the meat when you think it is nearly done- or a digital thermometer probe, which is left in the meat while cooking and beeps when it hits the set temperature.
Place the thermometer into the thickest part of the cut of meat and avoid touching the bone.
Try to keep the tip of the thermometer at least a quarter of an inch from the bone, as being too close will make it read hotter. If you’re unsure, try a few spots until you feel confident with your method.
If and when the temperature reads at least 165° F, your chicken is cooked safely!
Checking the Internal Temp of Chicken Thighs Without a Meat Thermometer
Without a meat thermometer, chicken thigh internal temperature cannot be checked to any degree of numeric accuracy.
While some home cooks who make chicken thighs regularly via the same method may develop the confidence to skip this step, it’s always best to test your meat with a thermometer since cooking equipment can malfunction.
Still, there are a few methods you can use to confirm whether your chicken is ready without one, but understand that these are not anywhere as accurate as testing with a thermometer.
The first is a visual test. When cutting into or probing the meat, the juices should run clear, with no red or pink coloring.
If the juices aren’t clear, you’ll need to cook the meat further. However, in using this method, you’ll have released the juices that are best kept inside the meat- which will then dry out the chicken!
Just looking at the meat can still be misleading, as cooked chicken thighs can be slightly pink when well cooked.
Another method is simply knowing the weight of your chicken thigh, and then following all cooking temperature and weight guidelines closely. As you might imagine, there’s quite a bit of room for error with this technique as well!
Can Chicken Thighs Still Be Pink?
Surprisingly, yes, chicken thighs can still be pink but be safe to eat. This is what complicates matters, and also why testing the temperature of the meat is so important for chicken thighs.
Chicken thighs may still have small pink patches, especially around the bone. This occurs primarily in younger birds, but there are other factors at play here as well.
One is from the pigment in the bone marrow, which can leach into the surrounding tissue. Another is the blood in the muscle that can react with the air during the cooking process.
Commercial marinades, such as those a supermarket may baste their chicken products with, contain nitrates that can give even fully cooked flesh a pink color.
The USDA itself states that meat color is no indication of safe poultry, and that an internal temperature of 165° F is the best way to be sure!
Chicken Thigh FAQs
How do you know when chicken thighs are fully cooked?
The only sure way to know is by testing the internal temperature of the chicken.
When a chicken thigh’s internal temp reaches 165° F at the thickest, fleshiest points, you’ll know that it’s fully cooked!
The meat should be a minimum of 165℉ to be safe to eat, but to get a better texture 175-185℉ may be a more optimal temperature.
Are slightly undercooked chicken thighs OK?
No. A chicken thigh that has not reached the internal temperature of 165° F all the way through is considered undercooked and unsafe to eat.
Consuming undercooked chicken- even a small amount- can lead to serious illness.
This is due to the presence of harmful bacteria, such as salmonella, which reside in raw poultry and can only be killed through a full cooking process.
What happens if you eat undercooked chicken thighs?
Eating undercooked chicken will introduce harmful bacteria into your digestive tract.
The main concern is ingesting Salmonella which has not been destroyed in the cooking process.
Salmonella infection is a bacterial disease, and people will typically start noticing symptoms after 8 to 72 hours of eating undercooked chicken.
Once infected with the food-borne illness, you may experience what’s known colloquially as food poisoning!
Symptoms of Salmonella infection include diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever, and vomiting.
These symptoms can last up to a week.
While symptoms will generally clear on their own, people that have a Salmonella infection need to be careful of dehydration, and are advised to see a doctor immediately if they start to experience bloody stools.
- Chicken thighs are safe to eat when they reach an internal temp of 165 degrees Fahrenheit
- However, they taste the best when you cook them all the way to 185 degrees Fahrenheit
- Eating undercooked chicken can lead to some awful symptoms, avoid these
- Chicken thighs can show pink but still be cooked, that’s why it’s best to check the temperature
- Measure your internal temperature by using a meat thermometer for the most accurate readings