When you go to make chicken for dinner or meal prep chicken for the week, you want to make sure you use a recipe that you will love and will provide with your juicy, tender chicken, each and every time right?! So when searching for the right recipe you may wonder what the best way to cook chicken is or you may find yourself with questions like “Do you cover chicken when baking it”? These are important things to know and understand and that’s what we are going to cover in this post.
After reading this post, you should confidently be able to bake chicken and know the best way to make it, whether it’s the whole chicken or pieces of chicken and how you should properly store them so they last for as long as possible. There’s nothing like a delicious chicken recipe that gives you juicy, tasty chicken and you accidentally ruin it by baking it or storing it incorrectly. Instead, let’s learn the right way to do things so they stay fresh and delish!
Do you cover chicken when baking?
The blanket answer is, no you do not have to cover chicken when you are baking it. In general, deciding if you need to cover your chicken or not will also depend on what kind of chicken you are wanting to make.
Overall, if you want a juicier, moist whole chicken you may choose to cover the chicken when baking it. To do this, use aluminum foil to make a tent over the top of the whole chicken to keep the moisture that the chicken will release as it cooks trapped inside.
If you want a nice crisp skin on your chicken, do not make an aluminum foil tent, or cover your chicken as it bakes. This will let the juices evaporate a bit and make the skin crispier as it bakes.
It is also possible to combine these methods, baking the chicken covered for a portion of the time and then finishing it off uncovered, or vice versa.
How to Bake Chicken Pieces
Things to remember when baking pieces of chicken:
- Using a meat thermometer is a great way to make sure your chicken reaches a safe temperature before consuming it.
- Chicken should reach 165F internally before eating.
- When using an instant-read thermometer, make sure the tip of the probe stays in the chicken and doesn’t poke through the chicken and touch the baking dish.
- Always measure the internal temperature at the thickest part of the meat and never against a bone if you’re using a piece of bone-in chicken.
- Different cuts of meat will require different amounts of baking time. Also, bone-in vs boneless meat will also require different baking times.
- I often like to line a baking sheet with foil or a baking mat to help make clean up easier.
It’s important to pay attention to the cut of chicken and know how long to bake it for. This will also vary depending on the size of the chicken pieces.
- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts cooked at 350F, generally take 35-45 minutes depending on the size.
- Boneless, skinless chicken thighs cooked at 350F, generally take 20-30 minutes depending on the size.
- Bone-in, skinless thighs or drumsticks cooked at 350F, generally take 35-45 minutes depending on the size.
- Bone- in chicken breasts cooked at 350F, generally take 40-50 minutes depending on the size.
- Bone- in chicken legs cooked at 350F, generally take 40-55 minutes depending on the size.
- Wings cooked at 350F, generally take about 25 minutes depending on the size.
How to Bake a Whole Chicken
Most of the tips we shared above about baking chicken pieces properly, should be repeated about baking a whole chicken. Always use a meat thermometer, place it properly, ensure it reaches 165F (some places recommend 180F) and use appropriate baking times depending on the size of the chicken.
Other things to consider when baking a whole chicken:
- Even if your recipe doesn’t specifically call for it, it’s never a bad idea to bring your chicken before baking it. Create a salt water mixture using a few Tablespoons of salt and water to brine the bird for 20-30 minutes before baking it. Doing this naturally enhances the flavors of the chicken and locks in the moisture, especially in the chicken breasts to really solidify that you won’t have dry or tough chicken.
- Most recipes recommend baking your whole chicken at 350F or 400F. While they’ll both yield a delicious chicken, there are times that a higher temperature is more appealing than a lower temperature, or vice versa. When baking a chicken at 350F, you’ll usually end up with more of a tender, juicy chicken. When baking at 400F, you’ll often end up with a chicken with nice cripsy skin.
- You can stuff the cavity of the chicken with potatoes and vegetables, like carrots and celery, or stuffing like you do with a turkey to bring out even more incredible flavor and make a complete meal out of it.
- While we generally recommend cooking a whole chicken uncovered, if you find that the skin of your chicken is crisping up nicely and turning a nice dark golden brown, but the internal temperature is not rising and cooking fast enough, you may wish to cover the bird so the chicken cooks faster without burning the skin.
How to Store Baked Chicken
For best results, baked chicken, whether broken down into individual pieces or left as a whole baked chicken should be stored in an airtight container and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Storing your baked chicken properly ensures that it stays safe to eat for as long as possible, making it the perfect protein source to use for meal prep all week long.
Additionally, you can freeze leftover chicken. Once the chicken has cooled to room temperature, simply transfer either the whole chicken, or chicken pieces to a freezer safe container or freezer safe bag before freezing for up to 3-6 months.
Do you roast a chicken covered or uncovered
If you’re looking for the best roast chicken recipe, our friends at A Stray Kitchen have a great roasted chicken recipe. This is a great recipe that also shows you how to make chicken gravy and chicken stock from scratch using the whole bird and the drippings. This recipe only requires a few simple ingredients: a whole chicken, olive oil, water, salt and black pepper. Super simple! You can easily change it up by adding different flavors using fresh herbs and spices.
When you follow this recipe, you’ll use a combo method of cooking chicken. First roast the chicken uncovered in the oven on a roasting rack, then you’ll remove the chicken and cover it with a sheet of aluminum foil while it rests for 15 minutes before cutting it. Letting the chicken rest while covered keeps it juicy and allows you to have tender meat every time.
Always use a roasting pan so your chicken drippings can drip into the bottom of the pan beneath the chicken and not make the bottom half of the chicken soggy instead. I also suggest adding some water to the bottom of your pan so it can mix with the drippings as the chicken roasts. Otherwise, you risk letting your drippings burn if they just fall to the bottom of the pan. Also, the additional water in the pan will create some steam to help keep the bird most as it bakes. Check on the amount of water in the pan as the bird bakes and add more as necessary.
When choosing a roasted chicken recipe, keep the required cooking time in mind. If you wish to have crispy skin, you should choose a recipe that cooks at a higher temperature and for a shorter period of time. If opting for a lower temperature and slower time (longer cooking time), then you’ll end up with a fall-off-the-bone, super tender chicken. You’ll also see the low and slow approach used when making chicken soup from scratch using a whole chicken.
Is letting your chicken rest necessary?
Ideally, anytime you roast a whole chicken you should let it rest before carving into it. As the chicken rests, it allows the juices to be redistributed throughout the entire chicken, making sure that you end up with moist, tender, and very flavorful chicken throughout.
I suggest letting it sit for 5-10 minutes before you dig in if you have the time. If you’re short on time, you can wait just a few minutes, this will lock in some extra flavor and also make it easier to handle when cutting.
Do you cover chicken thighs when baking
There is no need to cover your baking dish with chicken thighs as the chicken bakes. Leaving your chicken thighs uncovered, allows the dark meat to remain moist and keep the juiciness locked inside under the skin as it crisps up.
It doesn’t matter if you’re baking or roasting a whole chicken or cut up chicken, you should always let the chicken come to room temperature before baking or roasting. This helps make sure that the chicken cooks evenly throughout. If you try baking or roasting cold chicken, you risk not cooking it appropriately. It’s easier for the outside to cook faster than the chilled inside, giving you a crispy, dark skin with an undercooked, unsafe inside.
Want to learn more about how to bake foods in the oven?
Now you know everything about how to properly bake and roast a chicken whole, or cut up. Grab your favorite recipe, decide what kind of chicken you’re going for, and enjoy!