Our guidelines for baking a whole chicken versus its individual cuts factor in both food safety and flavor.
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baked chicken legs with chickpeas olives and greens
Credit: Johnny Miller

Chicken is a crowd-pleasing dinnertime staple and the most consumed meat in the United States. A lean and affordable protein with a mild flavor, it cooks quickly and is endlessly versatile, starring in all kinds of dishes from curries to casseroles. And like other meat and poultry, it needs to be cooked to a safe temperature.

That's why we're sharing how long different cuts of chicken should be baked in the oven—because timing varies whether you're cooking it whole or in parts (and breasts and legs require different treatment!). With this information, you can rest assured that you're chicken will be cooked to perfection every time.

White Meat vs. Dark Meat

White meat, which is found in the breasts and wings of the chicken, is lean, mild, and cooks quickly in comparison to the rest of the bird. Known for being less caloric and fatty than dark meat, it is also more prone to drying out when overcooked. You can bake white meat chicken, but it lends itself well to quicker methods like broiling, sautéing, and grilling.

Drumsticks and thighs are the dark meat parts of a chicken. They have a slightly higher fat content than white meat (about 3 extra grams of fat per 100 grams of meat), which results in a juicier bite with more chicken flavor. With dark meat, the muscles are tougher and can take a little longer to cook through and become tender, so you have more options in the kitchen, like braising, roasting, and frying.

How Long to Bake Every Cut of Chicken

Whether you're cooking white or dark meat, the goal is the same: You want a juicy, moist piece of chicken that is cooked to a safe internal temperature—which, according to the USDA, is 165°F for this poultry type. For the sake of simplicity, we're sharing optimal cooking times for baking at 350°F to achieve this temperature. Note that certain recipes may take less time if the oven is hotter.

Part

Oven Temp

Time

Whole chicken

350°F

20 to 25 minutes per pound

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

350°F

20 to 30 minutes

Chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on

350°F

30 to 40 minutes

Whole chicken legs or thighs, bone-in

350°F

40 to 50 minutes

Chicken drumsticks

350°F

35 to 45 minutes

Chicken wings

350°F

30 to 40 minutes

When to Bake Longer

While 165°F is the safest minimum temperature, it doesn't mean it is always the best temperature for every chicken part. For instance, if you aren't a fan of that slippery texture that a chicken thigh can have, consider cooking the meat a little longer until it registers between 170°F or 175°F. Dark meat chicken cooked a little further will be firmer, but should still be juicy and flavorful.

Checking the Temperature

For food safety, especially with meat and poultry, a good quality digital thermometer like Thermoworks Thermopop 2 is one of the best tools to have in your kitchen. To get an accurate read on your chicken, the thermometer should be inserted carefully according to the specific chicken part:

  • Whole chicken: Insert thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
  • Chicken breasts: Starting at the side, insert the thermometer into the center of the thickest part of the breast.
  • Thighs and legs: Aim for the center and thickest part of the cut. Don't touch any bones with the probe, as that will result in a false reading.

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