Some old kitchen wisdom has its basis in science, and some just sounds good. Like the one about cooking chicken until the juices run clear. We’ve heard it for years, but Cook’s Illustrated did some investigating and found that it is a completely unreliable test of temperature.
It’s always our fear that we’ll poison our guests when we’re cooking dinner for a crowd, so we like to know the right way to do things. Roasting a chicken seems pretty foolproof, but you can’t be too careful when serving poultry. By the time you’ve sliced into the meat, it’s too late to cook it less, and you really don’t want to be putting sliced chicken back in the oven.
For a fully cooked chicken, you want the breasts to measure 160 degrees, and the thighs to come in at 175. The tests found that juices could run clear when the breasts were only at 145 degrees, which is way undercooked. And the juices could run red when the breast measured 170 degrees, which is way past done. As we said, going by the color of the juices is a terrible way to check for doneness.
So go out and get yourself a meat thermometer. Not only will your chicken taste better if you cook it to the correct temperature, but it’s a matter of food safety. Let’s stay safe out there, everyone!