how to tell if chicken is done without a thermometer

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Last Updated on: 14th November 2022, 01:57 am

Smoking is a fine combination of maintaining the right temperature and moisture to achieve the best flavor.

Thermometers are a huge help when it comes to smoking chicken because they can tell you when to check for doneness of meat.

But a good quality thermometer can’t be affordable for some of the backyarders. While others don’t know how to use one for smoking.

So they can panic over how to tell if chicken is done without a thermometer.

After making sure the chicken is done, you need to rest it for sometime to reabsorb the meat juices.

In this article we are going to explain it in detail.

Checking  if the chicken is done without thermometer

You can tell whether a chicken piece is done or not without a thermometer. But it will require some practice to master.

You will have to decide it based on your intuition, so you will have to be really careful before making your final decision.

If you are not using a thermometer to check the doneness, then you will have to examine the chicken physically to decide if it’s done or not.

You can tell if the chicken is done by checking it’s color, ,meat juices , bark and time taken for smoking.

Get the feel of chicken

I know it might look philosophical but you have to get the feel of chicken before making the final decision about whether it’s done yet or not.

After we have examined its exterior for smoke deposition and interior for tenderness, we now have to examine it as a whole.

“Feeling of the chicken” means touching the chicken to decide whether the chicken has been done or not based on your intuition.

Make sure to wear heat-safe gloves before doing so. You should consider checking it’s heat to estimate the temperature.

There are various methods for estimating the temperature of the chicken, but you should choose one that you are most comfortable with.

As you are not using a thermometer, you will have to estimate the temperature by touching.

Testing temperature by back of hands

The FDA advises that the chicken should be cooked at least 165°F to kill the bacteria present within it .

In this case , due to the absence of the thermometer, we have to estimate the temperature by placing the chicken chunk on the back of your hand.

  1. First of all, you will have to cut a small piece of chicken with a knife and take it off . You should consider wearing gloves to avoid any injuries.
  2. After cutting the piece, you will have to put the chunk on the back of your  hand.
  3. If the chicken has been heated up to 165°F and cooked properly, then the piece of chicken will feel like a hot cup of coffee on the back of your hand .

You should be extremely careful about doing this because if the chicken is too hot, it can burn your hand.

Testing temperature by a using a metal object

If you are not able to decide the temperature of the chicken by the above method, then you can try checking the temperature by this method.

It is much safer than the above one because you don’t have to place the meat in direct contact with your body.

  1. To test the temperature by this method, you will have to take a pointy metal object like a skewer or a knife and insert it into the middle of the chicken chunk.
  2. Let it stay there for a while until it reaches equilibrium, i.e. the same temperature as of the chicken.
  3. After that, pull the skewer off the chicken and place it on your lips . This way, you can tell if the internal temperature of chicken is higher or not.
  4. If the skewer feels hot, then it means that the internal temperature of chicken is higher than your body temperature.

On the basis of temperature, you can decide further if it’s hot enough to kill the bacteria or not.

But if it’s too cold, then you should avoid putting it on your lips because it can be contaminated by bacteria.

Finally, you should pick up the chicken in your hands and shake it gently. If it shakes easily and feels like jello, then you can assume that its done .

By following the complete process described above, you can decide whether the chicken is done or not without a thermometer.

By examining the appearance

If you want to know if a chicken  has been smoked completely or not , then you should probably start by examining its color first.

It has been traditionally used for centuries, even before the the invention of temperature. A finely smoked chicken  will have a unique appearance.

The color of chicken  should have darkened a little bit to assume that the chicken  has been exposed to smoke for enough time .

You should not worry about the other factors at this point because we are going to examine all of them one by one .

Furthermore, if you are smoking the chicken, then you should also consider checking the smoke ring to see if it is smoked completely or not.

If it has a smoke ring, then it is done smoking. But if it doesn’t have one, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t cooked yet.

The reason is that chicken is a lean meat and can be cooked perfectly without the development of smoke ring.

A smoke ring usually develops on the red meat because it contains a higher hemoglobin count.

A smoke ring is developed after the breakdown of hemoglobin.

Check the interior color

Now that you have looked at the appearance of the chicken  and have a good idea if the chicken  has been smoked or not, we are going to move into the deeper portion of the chicken  to make sure that the chicken  chunks  have been cooked properly.

To examine the interior color , you should take a fork and knife and cut out a piece of smoked chicken .

The color of the chicken indicates if the meat has been cooked properly or not  but you should not completely rely on color but rather take it into account along with other factors..

An undercooked chicken chunk  will have a light pink color on the inside. It turns into a white or opaque color when cooked properly.

The color change  is mostly  due to the breakdown of meat proteins at higher temperatures.

One thing that you should keep in mind is that the interior and exterior of the chicken  should be examined separately.

A chicken  chop can be smoked properly but can be undercooked due to the presence of lower temperatures. While it can be cooked properly, it should require more time for smoke deposition.

By meat juices

After you have examined the color of the chicken  , both interiorly and exteriorly , you should probably have a good idea of whether the chicken  is done or not.

But you should follow the process to confirm your decision .

After examining the color of meat , you should examine the color of fluid present in the chicken .

These fluids are usually known as meat juices, because they enhance the flavor of chicken  when smoked properly.

To examine the meat juices, you should consider poking the chicken  with toothpicks or any other pointy object.

A small amount of the meat juices will seep out of the chicken  at the point where you have poked the toothpick.

You should consider examining the color of the meat juices carefully regardless of their amount. If the color of meat juices is clear, then it means that the chicken  is done .

If it’s red or pink, it means the chicken isn’t done yet.The pinkish color is due to the blood present in the juices.

Chicken size

The size of the chicken is also a good indicator of whether the chicken has been smoked or not.

When a chicken chunk is uncooked, it will have a larger size due to the the presence of moisture inside it which is evaporated during smoking.

So when you are checking whether the chicken has been done yet or not , then you should probably see if it has decreased in size or not.

If the chicken has decreased in size, then it means that it has been exposed to heat for enough to time to evaporate it’s moisture.

Finger test

Finally, after you have examined the colors and meat juices of the chicken, you should consider checking it’s texture to make the final decision about whether it’s done yet or not.

If the chicken is done, then it will be firm on the outside.

The raw chicken will be soft and tender on the outside. A test called the “finger test” is used to check the doneness of chicken by its texture. by the way here is our guide on How long can raw chicken sit out?

The finger test means comparing the firmness of your fingers with the chicken to decide if it’s done or not.

A raw chicken will be as soft as  the palm area of your hand below thumb, when hand is relaxed .

If you touch your thumb with the middle finger, then you will feel a little bit of firmness, it will be the same as the medium rare cooked chicken.

If you touch your thumb with your ring finger, then it will feel like the chicken which is medium cooked.

A done chicken will have the texture of touching your thumb with your pinkie finger. So you can imagine that the chicken becomes harder as it cooks.

how to tell if chicken wings are done without thermometer

Now that we have discussed how to tell if the whole chicken is done or not, let’s get deeper into checking chicken wings for doneness.

Generally, you can apply the same procedure used for checking the doneness of chicken to it , but some factors may differ.

One of the major and effective ways to tell if the chicken wings are done or not is by using the bone wiggle test.

In this test you have to just pull a bone and stretch it , if it moves around in joint, then yiiu can say that the chicken wings are done

Examine meat juices

You can tell if chicken  chops are done or not by just looking at the color of it’s meat juices.

If the color is clear, then it means the chicken  is done, while meat juices containing a pinkish color show that the chicken  chops are not done yet.

To check the color, you will first have to take some toothpicks and poke the wings with it. As a result, a small amount of meat juice will seep out.

You should be careful about poking too much because it can result in the chicken drying out.

The bone wiggle test

Chicken wings usually contain some bones in them , due to which they become difficult to differentiate between cooked and uncooked because bones can release different proteins into the meat .

Due to which, the wings can remain pink forever, whether they are done or not.

But bones also help in checking the doneness of chicken wings in more effective and simple way.

You can just pull a bone present in the wings and try to move it around in the joint.

If the bone moves without any friction, then the wings are done, while friction means the wings are uncooked yet.


After examining the results of the bone wiggle test, you should consider examining the bark of chicken wings.

You should keep in mind that you are not examining the color of bark but the thickness of bark on the surface of the wing.

Bark develops on the surface of chicken wings due to the reaction of different rubs and sauces with the smoke.

So if the chicken has a thick and crispy bark, then it would have been smoked completely. But if it has a thin and delicate bark, then you should smoke it for some time .

Check the color

After examining the bark of the chicken wings, you should consider checking it’s color to make the decision more accurate.

Like tenderness, you should also take in account the exterior and interior color to decide if it’s done or not.

The exterior of the chicken wings  should have a dark color due to the deposition of smoke.

If the color is not dark or hasn’t changed much, then it means the chicken wings have not been smoked for enough time.

So you should consider placing it in a smoker for some time .

On the other hand , to examine the color interiorly, you should consider cutting a piece of wing’s by fork and knife.

If the color is opaque, then it means the chicken is done while a pink color means it’s still undercooked.

The final Verdict

You can tell if the chicken is done or not by examining its meat juices, color , bark and by bone wiggle test.

It is possible to tell if chicken is done or not without thermometer but for more accuracy you should consider using a thermometer.

if you are interested in digging deeper into checking doneness ,then don’t forget read our article on how to tell if pork is done without a thermometer.

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