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What temp is chicken done on grill?

Grilling chicken can seem tricky because getting it perfectly cooked through without drying it out can be challenging. Knowing what temperature chicken needs to reach to be safe to eat and properly cooked is key. Here is a comprehensive guide on what temperature chicken is done when grilling.

What is the Minimum Internal Temperature for Chicken on the Grill?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), chicken needs to reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to be considered safe to eat and fully cooked. This temperature kills any harmful bacteria like Salmonella that may be present in raw chicken.

Below 165°F, there is a risk of bacterial contamination. Chicken may appear cooked before it reaches 165°F, but it is not safe to eat yet. Using a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature is the only sure way to confirm chicken is fully cooked through on the grill.

Why 165°F for Chicken?

The USDA recommends cooking chicken to 165°F because this temperature has been scientifically proven to kill pathogens that cause foodborne illness, including the following:

  • Salmonella – This bacteria is commonly found in raw chicken and can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.
  • Campylobacter – One of the most common causes of food poisoning that leads to diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever.
  • E. coli – While most strains are harmless, some can cause bloody diarrhea, kidney failure, and even death.
  • Listeria – Listeria infection can cause fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions in addition to gastroenteritis.

Chicken naturally contains pathogens like Salmonella. While proper cooking can destroy these harmful bugs, undercooking chicken can allow them to survive and make you sick. Cooking chicken to 165°F provides an adequate margin of safety to kill these pathogens and prevent foodborne illness.

How Long Does It Take to Grill Chicken to 165°F?

How long it takes to grill chicken to 165°F depends on a few factors:

  • Thickness – Thicker cuts of chicken like a whole chicken or chicken breasts will take longer than thinner cuts like chicken tenderloins.
  • Bone-in or Boneless – Bone-in chicken can take slightly longer since the bone partly insulates the meat. Boneless cooks faster.
  • Temperature of Grill – Hotter grills will cook the chicken faster while lower temps will slow the cooking.
  • Temperature of Chicken – Chicken that starts off chilled from the fridge takes longer than chicken that has sat out and is closer to room temp before grilling.

For reference, the approximate grilling times for common chicken cuts to reach 165°F are:

Chicken Cut Approximate Grill Time
Chicken breast (boneless, skinless, 8 oz) 12-15 minutes
Chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on, 8oz) 18-22 minutes
Chicken drumsticks (8-10oz) 22-26 minutes
Chicken wings (whole, 3-4 oz) 15-18 minutes
Chicken kebabs (cubed breast, veggies) 10-12 minutes
Whole chicken (4-6 lbs) 1-1.5 hours
Chicken tenderloins 6-10 minutes

These times are approximate for grilling at medium heat around 375-400°F. Various factors like your grill temperature and thickness of the chicken can increase or decrease the time. Using a meat thermometer is the best way to test for doneness instead of relying solely on grill times.

How to Tell When Chicken Is Done Grilling Without a Thermometer

If you don’t have a meat thermometer on hand, there are a few ways you can test to see if your chicken is fully cooked:

  • Check internal color – Cut into the thickest part of the chicken. The meat should not be pink. The juices should run clear.
  • Poke test – Poke the chicken with a fork. It should feel firm when fully cooked.
  • Cut test – Make a small nick with a knife. The chicken should show no signs of pinkness.
  • Touch test – Feel the meat. It should be firm when squeezed rather than squishy.

While these methods can indicate thorough cooking, they aren’t foolproof. You could cut into an undercooked area and think it is done based on color. Opt for a thermometer whenever possible for the most reliable doneness testing.

What If Chicken Reaches 165°F but Still Looks Pink?

It’s possible for properly cooked chicken to still have a pinkish tinge even after reaching 165°F. This pink color is not an indication of undercooking. It happens due to the hemoglobin in tissues which can cause a pinkish hue.

As long as your thermometer confirms it reached 165°F, the chicken is safe to eat. The pinkish areas are perfectly cooked despite the color. Don’t rely on color alone to determine doneness.

What Temperature Should You Remove Chicken from the Grill?

You’ll want to remove chicken from the grill before it hits 165°F because the temperature will continue rising slightly after you take it off the heat. This carryover cooking brings the internal temperature up 5-10°F once removed from the grill as heat finishes conducting through the meat.

To account for carryover cooking, here are recommended grill removal temperatures:

  • Whole chicken – 160°F
  • Chicken breasts – 160°F
  • Chicken thighs – 165°F
  • Chicken wings – 165°F
  • Chicken legs or drumsticks – 165°F

The thicker the cut of chicken, the more carryover cooking will occur. Thinner cuts like wings and tenderloins need to reach closer to the final 165°F before removing since they won’t increase much in temperature. Monitor the temperature as you remove chicken from the grill and tent it with foil to allow carryover cooking to finish without overshooting 165°F.

Tips for Properly Grilling Chicken to 165°F

Follow these tips for perfectly cooked chicken off the grill every time:

  • Bring chicken close to room temp before grilling for more even cooking.
  • Use a meat thermometer and check temp in the thickest part of the meat, avoiding bone.
  • Aim to remove chicken around 160°F and let carryover cooking finish.
  • Allow thicker cuts to rest 5-10 minutes before serving for juices to redistribute.
  • Clean grill grates thoroughly before grilling chicken to prevent bacterial cross-contamination.
  • Use a marinade injector to infuse flavor while keeping skin dry for crisping.

What If Chicken Reaches 165°F but Still Looks Undercooked?

If your chicken reaches the 165°F safety zone but still appears slightly undercooked and pink, it should be safe to eat as long as you verify the temperature with a meat thermometer. Remember that color is not a foolproof indicator of doneness.

If the thermometer is working properly and confirms 165°F+, the chicken is properly cooked through. Some reasons it may still look slightly pink include:

  • Darker colored chickens to start with
  • grill marks
  • Smoking effect from any wood, charcoal or seasoning on it
  • Acidity from a marinade reacting with pigment
  • Minimal residual blood in the meat

As long as the final temperature hits 165°F for at least 15 seconds, you can be confident any pathogens are killed even if the color seems underdone. Enjoy your perfectly cooked chicken!


Knowing when chicken is safely and properly cooked to 165°F on the grill ensures you safely avoid undercooking while not overdrying. Use a meat thermometer for the most reliable doneness testing. The minimum 165°F standard destroys any dangerous bacteria that may be present in raw chicken. Mastering the ideal internal temperature can take the guesswork out of grilling chicken perfectly every time.