Where to Place a Temperature Probe in a Whole Chicken?

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You should know how to monitor the internal temperature when cooking especially with meat like chicken. This starts with accurate readings from a meat thermometer…

But where is the best part to insert? And will you need to place the probe in more than one place? 

Read further for a greater understanding of where to place an instant-read thermometer in your chicken to perfect a delicious meal with peace of mind!


Where to Insert Temp Probe in Whole Chicken

Did you know you’ll need at least 2 clean and calibrated probes? There are 2 different temperatures to monitor within each major part of the chicken.

– 1 for the light meat in the chicken breasts.

– 1 for the dark meat in the thigh/legs.

Take the first probe and locate the breasts. Avoid the breast bone in the middle for a faulty reading and check if one of them is slightly bigger than the other.

Place the probe into the middle of the larger breast.

Take the other probe and locate the meatiest part of the biggest thigh. Insert the probe into the middle of the thigh meat while being very careful to avoid the bone.

What Internal Temps Are We Monitoring for Each Probe?

Below are 2 internal temperatures you need to look out for on each probe thermometer. Remember, these ensure you don’t have undercooked chicken and lower the chances of foodborne illnesses. 

– The safe temperature to consume breast meat is 165°F.
– The safe temperature to consume thigh or leg meat is 180°F.

Proper Probe Placement & Why It’s Important for an Entire Chicken

Below are the reason why we need to think about the probe placement in chicken.

Monitoring the Safe-To-Eat Internal Temperature for Food Safety

Food poisoning from undercooked chicken is no joke, it can kill you! Utilizing a properly placed temperature probe will stop this from happening.

You have the correct temperatures above, so make sure you do it properly the next time you cook chicken.

Helps With Timings & Organization

Cooking a whole chicken is harder than you think!

From general organization and cooking times, having a live reading of your chicken meat makes for better control of your dish.

It Prevents Overcooking Your Chicken

Thirdly, the correct placement of your probe will ensure you don’t overcook the bird.

Especially the white meat which is prone to going dry.


How to Protect the White Meat While Finishing the Dark Meat

If you hadn’t noticed, the delicate white meat has a lower internal temp than the dark thigh meat. 

When your thermometer probe reads 150°F in the white meat you will need to cover them with aluminum foil. This will protect and reflect the heat while they finish cooking.

Don’t worry if the internal temp is 5 to 10°F less than the desired temp… Carryover cooking will do its thing during the resting period!

White Meat (Breast) vs. Dark Meat (Leg & Thigh)

The white breast meat from chicken has a lower target temperature reading. This is mainly due to the protein structure and low-fat content.

The dense proteins and water content allow quicker cooking and a temperature difference.

Dark meat contains more fat and connective tissue which takes longer to break down. The fat acts as an insulator that retains more heat during cooking.

A higher temperature allows for the fat and connective tissue to break down. Remember the difference between each meat before your probe placement.

How the Temperature Probe Works

The metal probe has a semiconductor that is sensitive to changes in temp. This is perfect for inserting into meat or other food products. 

Did you know? The sensor isn’t located right at the end as you may think.

It is about an inch down and toward the middle of your probe.

This is very important to remember before placement in your chicken. You always want to be inserting the probes into the thickest portion. 

Types of Thermometers for Accurate Temperature Readings

You want any type of digital thermometer that you can monitor in real time.

There are many varieties, from an oven-proof thermometer you can leave in the chicken. Or a standard meat probe that you can insert quickly and then remove with minimal effort.

Don’t buy a chicken with a pop-up timer! These generally can malfunction and are hard to remove when calving.

Don’t leave something as important as this to a little plastic timer.

If you have an electric pellet grill, this may come with a temperature probe!

Proper cooking is smoking in my opinion to get that chicken flavorful! So why not use the pre-installed probes?

Avoid the Bone When Inserting a Food Thermometer

It is common to touch the bones of your chicken when inserting your meat thermometers. A chicken is small and you need to be precise!

Touching the bones will render the reading inaccurate. The little bones conduct and retain heat differently from the fat and proteins. 

Basically, the bone may be hotter or cooler than the meat temperature. Rendering the whole thing useless and increasing the horrors of food poisoning! 

Be especially careful when inserting the probe into the dark meat to avoid the leg bones. You don’t need to insert any probes into chicken wings for obvious reasons. 


Do I Take the Temperature Reading From Chicken Before Carving?

Yes, you should always take the temperature when your chicken is whole. Carving will considerably lower the temperature of your meat.

It will also be more challenging, as the individual pieces are smaller.

How to Calibrate a Meat Probe in an Ice Bath

An ice bath sets the standard and well-known conditions to work from. In this case, the condition is the point of freezing.

– Grab a standard drinking glass or mug and fill it with ice and water.

– Let it stand for a minute for the temperature to average and the water to get cold.

– The ice water should be a consistent 32°F or 0°C.

This temperature is known as the base for your calibration.

Summarizing Where to Insert Probes in an Entire Chicken

– You will monitor 2 separate temperatures for the white and dark meat.

– Understand the type of thermometer you have and how to use them properly.

– Calibrate your probes as per above with ice water.

– Position the meat thermometers according to the above info and in the thickest part of the cuts. 

– Avoid bones for an inaccurate reading, you don’t need to insert them into the wings.

– Do not carve the chicken before you know it’s at a safe temperature.

– Leave the probes in while you are resting. 

Smoke On!


Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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