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Most recipes tell you to place chicken in an oven at X temperature for Y minutes (e.g. 400°F for 20 minutes), and stress that the internal temperature should reach 165°F on a thermometer (example).

I placed the chicken breasts on a large baking sheet, and baked them in a gas oven. I then checked the temperature, and noticed something odd.

The top of the chicken is undercooked (e.g. 150°F), the middle is perfectly cooked (e.g. 165°F), and the bottom is overcooked (e.g. 180°F). I'm guessing this is because the heat in gas ovens comes from the bottom of the oven. (I'm getting the temperature of each part of the chicken breast by inserting the metal probe vertically from the top of the chicken downwards towards the sheet, holding it in place for 1 second for a reading. I'm also assuming that the thermometer reads temperatures at the very tip of the metal probe.)

If it really is the case that the top of the chicken is undercooked while the bottom is overcooked, how is it recommended to cook chicken breast in the oven?

Are there any tricks such as flipping the chicken breasts once the middle reaches say, 150°F degrees? (I just randomly chose 150°F as a number less than 165°F, since the middle will overcook if you flip at 165°F and continue cooking.) Should I switch to broiler at any point? Any other tips?

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  • May have been that the "large sheet" that you used was too big for the oven and prevented the hot air from circulating around the oven to bring the oven up to temperature evenly.
    – gnicko
    May 30, 2023 at 0:32

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Chicken breast is hard to cook well which is why overcooked chicken is such a cliché of large catering contexts. You can give yourself an easier time by switching to thighs, or changing cooking method – for example to sous vide at the opposite end of the spectrum.

But if you are cooking breasts in an oven, you can help reduce overcooking by things like:

  • Starting with thinner pieces, which cook faster overall so there is less time to overcook. Making sure each piece is the same size so you can treat them similarly.
  • Preheating the oven fully to reduce the effect of the directional heating.
  • Moving/flipping the chicken as you suggest.
  • Covering with foil so the outside is less subject to intense heat while the inside cooks.
  • Monitoring the internal temperature closely and taking it out as soon as it is ready, bearing in mind that the internal temperature will keep rising for a few minutes when it is out. I would usually take chicken out of the oven at 70°C, which is a bit below the safe target temperature but that will be reached as it rests and the temperature equalises across the meat.

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