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I tried to bake chicken thighs the other day and I used my probe thermometer to tell me when they were done. Well it seems that I did something wrong when inserting the thermometer because the thighs were still undercooked.

How can you use a probe thermometer on a chicken thigh to accurately take its temperature?

  • 5
    How do you know that they were undercooked? The main reason to use a thermometer is that it's more accurate than other indicators. – Aaronut May 14 '13 at 0:28
  • Food needs time to cook. Even it's reach the temperature it's still needs to stay there for a while for the texture to change and sometimes takes it longer to become safe to eat. – user3528438 Sep 8 '17 at 17:51
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I assume you cooked your chicken thighs to 165–175°F (74-80°C) (depending on preference). 165°F (74°C) is the recommended temperature for safety (at least by US authorities), 175°F (80°C) is often recommended for texture (in legs and thighs; not for breast).

The best bet is to measure in several spots. You generally want to guess the thickest spot of meat, insert the probe past the center, then slowly withdraw it. How slowly depends on the response time of your probe. You then use the lowest temperature you see, especially if you see anything under the food-safety temperature (165°F or 74°C).

If there are multiple pieces of chicken, you should check several. Especially if they're different sizes.

Probe response times are anywhere from 20 seconds on fairly cheap thermometers, down to 3 seconds on expensive ones (like a Thermopen). 10 seconds is typical. You'll know its finished responding when the numbers stop changing quickly.

You also should rest the chicken, loosely tented, for at least 5 minutes (for just thighs, more like 15 minutes for a full chicken) after taking it off the heat—this lets the heat even out, and also will reduce the amount of juice lost when cutting.

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You want to:

  1. Stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching any bone which would give you a falsely high reading
  2. Wait long enough for the temperature reading to stabilize (which may be 5-10 seconds depending on your thermometer)

Note that once you start measuring your temperature, you may be cooking your thighs properly, but may be so used to overcooked meat that properly cooked thighs are unpalatable to you. Of course, you should find the temperature you like as long as it is above the safety threshold.

Typically, thighs would be cooked to about 165-170 F.

  • When you freshly insert the thermometer, the temperature is going to still be going up—so failing to wait for it (when you've just stuck it in) would result on overcooking. – derobert May 13 '13 at 19:57
  • @derobert Erm... it does say "wait long enough for the temperature reading to stabalize"... what I am I missing? – SAJ14SAJ May 13 '13 at 19:59
  • OP complained of it being undercooked, not overcooked. I'm just saying that failing to wait probably wasn't OP's problem. – derobert May 13 '13 at 20:00
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    This is an answer on properly, not just one form of the error :-) – SAJ14SAJ May 13 '13 at 20:02
  • I am on a rampage, I guess. Touching a bone will give a LOWER reading, not higher – Douglas Held Feb 6 at 20:40
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According to the FSIS site you should check the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh. The middle of it is the part that will take the longest to cook, so that's where you should put the tip of the probe.

Take care to not touch the bones, since they can conduct the heat from the "outside" and give an incorrect reading.

Finally, it will depend on your taste, but I would overcook it the first time (let's say, 165 F) and then see if it's more or less to your desired point. Then I would adjust the temperature to the desired taste.

  • I am on a rampage, I guess. Touching a bone will give a LOWER reading, not higher – Douglas Held Feb 6 at 20:40
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I put the probe in the thickest part of the thigh and try to also hit the bone as the thickest part will have a bone n the middle. Also the last places to reach temperature are always closest to the bone. (I never put the probe near the ends of the bone (where it's not thickest anyway) and I've never had a false high reading. Just let the point touch the bone but don't push it into the bone.

I like to hit the bone with the point at the thickest spot. If it's 165 there then the rest is good. I also pick the thickest piece if they don't vary much in size. If they vary I check the smallest first. I pick them off from smallest to largest as they reach 165.

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    Interesting, another answer says to never touch the bones because they can falsify the reading. Do you have a source for the bone touching thing? – rumtscho Nov 11 '15 at 11:48
  • Unfortunately, the nonsense about the bones being really hot has been passed around for generations. This answer is the correct one. – Douglas Held Feb 6 at 20:42
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From this kitchen tips page on my blog:

To use insert the full length of the kitchen thermometers sensing area.

These are usually 2 to 2 1/2 inches for dial and 1 or less for digital thermometers (check manufacturer's directions).

Insert in a way that the sensing area is in the center of the thickest part of the food and not touching bone, fat or gristle.

Ideally you would require about 15 to 20 seconds for the temperature to be accurately displayed on a dial thermometer and about 10 seconds on a digital thermometer.

THINNER FOODS

Insert the thermometer sideways with the sensing area in the center for a thin foods, like hamburger patty or boneless chicken breast.

DISHWASHERS

Kitchen thermometers are not dishwasher safe. Wash by hand with hot soapy water and consequently rinse with water before and after use.

  • I've edited this for you as an example of how quotes should look, but this likely does not meet our guidelines - you still didn't use your own words at all, just copied from elsewhere (though thank you for providing a link in this case). I'll check with other mods before doing any more on this one. – Cascabel Sep 18 '17 at 15:29
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    Ah, I see that's actually your own blog. That makes a bit of a difference - it's your own words now, just reused - but it means you need to clearly note your affiliation. I edited that in for you too. (See cooking.stackexchange.com/help/promotion) – Cascabel Sep 18 '17 at 16:05
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Make sure you're not measuring the temp. of the pan as well. Just put the thermometer into the meat far enough that you're measuring in the middle of the piece of meat.

  • Please do not repeat answers already given. – Jan Doggen Sep 8 '17 at 7:34

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