Baking chicken is arguably one of the scariest things you can do if you're a new cook. Forget trying to season it correctly, it seems like there are a million ways to get food poisoning by baking chicken yourself. But by educating yourself on how to bake chicken properly, you'll keep yourself safe while improving your cooking skills. Here are my best tips and tricks for making chicken without under or over baking it. 


ham, bacon, pork, meat
Jocelyn Hsu

Before putting anything in the oven, there are several basic tips for handling raw chicken:

1. First, do NOT wash the chicken. Not only is this not necessary, but it also sprays bacteria from the raw meat all over the sink. This contaminates your sink and leads to an unsafe cooking environment. 

2. If cutting, place the chicken directly from the package onto a cutting board. If baking whole, season the chicken according to your recipe and place in a greased casserole dish or roasting pan.

3. Make sure to thaw chicken before cooking. If you cook frozen chicken, the center will take much longer to thaw, which will result in a chewy outside and normally baked inside. When baking chicken, it is essential that chicken reaches the magic temperature of 165°F at its core.

4. Wash all items that have touched raw chicken in hot soapy water, the same as you would with other used dishes. You should also wash your hands after touching raw chicken.

How to Bake Chicken Breasts

Bake chicken breasts at 375°F for 35-40 minutes or until 165°F internally. 

The main problem cooks run into when preparing chicken breasts is keeping the meat moist for the duration of the cooking process. Here are four common methods used to bake the perfect chicken breast:

Option 1: Buy skin-on chicken breast and keep it on during the cooking. The skin traps in moisture and can be eaten or discarded once the chicken comes out of the oven.

Option 2: Mimic the chicken's natural skin using parchment paper. Simply place a single piece of paper over the chicken before cooking to prevent dry chicken.

Option 3: Cover the baking pan with a lid so as to not let any moisture escape. Tin foil would also work. 

Option 4: Choose a recipe that keeps the chicken moist via sauces. The liquid will replenish the chicken as it cooks.

Any of these methods or even combinations of them will keep the chicken's taste and moisture intact. 

There are different ways to get to the 165 degree mark: high temperature, shorter cook time (risking losing moisture) or low temperature, longer cook time (meaning a longer wait time). In the end, it really depends on the overall recipe, so long as the chicken is fully cooked.

How to Bake Chicken Legs/Thighs

chicken, pork, barbecue, meat
Christin Urso

Cook chicken legs and thighs at 400°F for 35-40 minutes or until 165°F internally. 

Chicken thighs give cooks a lot more leeway because of their high fat content. The temperature can be higher without drying out the meat and there isn't as great of a need to use one of the previously stated methods for baking chicken breasts. You can choose to bone-in or boneless, skin-on or skinless thighs and legs.

How to Bake Chicken Wings

chicken, chicken wings, cutting board
Casey Tang

Cook chicken wings at 425°F for 45-55 minutes or until 165°F internally (rotate periodically for even cooking).

While many people use a deep fryer to cook chicken wings, this method can be easily imitated in the oven using baking powder. The powder incites a chemical reaction that mimics the taste and crispy texture of the fryer without the mess. And because of the breading, chicken wings often don't need to be covered the way breasts do.

Other Tips for Baking Chicken

chicken, meat, turkey
Helena Lin

The temperature of the chicken is always the best way to tell if it's done or not. The interior of the meat should reach 165°F. This can be measured with a meat thermometer, which can be easily purchased at your local store or on Amazon for as little as $9.

A less exact method of checking the doneness of the chicken is by visually inspecting the meat. The juices should run clear when you prick the chicken with a knife, and upon cutting open the chicken there should be NO pink. Unlike steak, "rare chicken" is not edible, let alone a delicacy. 

If you should happen to take chicken out of the oven, start eating it and then spot some pink, it's still salvageable. Stop eating it, cut it up and fry it in a skillet. It's a bit of a hassle, but it's better than getting food poisoning. 

These tips may be a bit overwhelming, but by following the correct methods of preparation, temperature, and cook time, you'll know how to bake chicken like an expert in no time.