Can you cook chicken at 120 degrees?

In this brief article we are going to answer the question “can you cook chicken at 120 degrees?”.

No, chicken can not be cooked at 120 degrees.  As recommended by the FDA Food Code, boiling chicken to a temperature of 165°F (74°C) ensures that all bacteria are eliminated and the chicken is safe to consume. 

Cooking chicken at 120 degrees might rarely cook the chicken, but it doesn’t ensure that all the bacteria in it have diminished. If you cook your chicken at 165°F (74°C), you’ll instantly kill most of the bacteria in your food, which is an excellent rule of thumb to follow for food safety. 

165°F (74°C) is the temperature to aim for when cooking meals for persons at a higher risk of sickness (pregnant women, older adults, young children, and many others with weak immune systems).

Not commonly known is that chicken may accomplish the same 7-log10 decrease at temp as low as 136°F (58°C) for a minimum of 63.3 minutes. The retention duration for a 7-log10 decrease reduces as the inner temperature increases.

What happens to the chicken when it is cooked?

Let us delve into what happens to the protein as the interior temperature of chicken rises:

When the internal temperature of the meat is less than 120°F, it is still classified as raw. Muscle cells are linked together in long, thin fibers to form the “grain” of the flesh

At 120°F, coagulation of myosin protein starts, expelling any remaining liquid within the protein sheaths.

At 140°F, the residual proteins in the breast meat’s muscle cells congeal, managing to get all the liquid from the cell. The coagulated proteins impart firmness and opaqueness to the flesh.

At 150°F, the sheath protein coagulates and constricts fast. Water that has been driven out of the cells and accumulated inside the sheaths is drained from the breast flesh.

At temperatures above 150°F, the muscle fibers in the meat of breast meat have been nearly totally squeezed dry. As a result, the meat is now dry and powdery in texture.

160-170°F: After ten minutes, the collagen in the thigh flesh begins to change into gelatin, which helps keep the meat juicy and succulent, after the muscle cells have expended the majority of their liquid.

Is it preferable to cook the chicken slowly or quickly?

The slower the chicken is cooked, the better. That is the general guideline when it comes to preparing protein. Begin by heating the pan to a medium-high temperature before adding the chicken breast. While your oven will be sprayed, you will still have delicious chicken if you leave the skin on.

What temperature should chicken be cooked at?

According to the FDA Food Code, the chicken should be cooked to a temperature of 165°F (74°C). However, chicken pasteurization is a result of both time and temperature. If the chicken can be kept for 8.5 mins at 145°F, you can accomplish the same level of bacterial decrease as if you kept it at 165°F (74°C). 

How to avoid the proliferation of salmonella?

To avoid salmonella, it is critical to check the core temperature of poultry before cooking it.   Salmonella is an extremely tough bacteria. It thrives in a temp range of 35-117°F (2-47°C), which is higher than that of the majority of other common food bacteria. 

As per the CDC, approximately one in every six Americans becomes ill due to food contamination each year, with around 1 mil of those cases being related to salmonella. When dealing with chicken, it is critical to maintaining appropriate temperatures while cooking and storing it to avoid food contamination.

Calculating the Temperatures of Chickens

When cooking chicken, it’s important to keep a variety of temperatures in mind. There is the temp set by you in the oven and then there is the internal temperature of the chicken, which is calculated using an instant-read thermometer. 

Another consideration for food safety is the “minimum acceptable safe internal temperature,” defined as the temperature at which a chicken must be cooked before potentially hazardous germs such as salmonella or campylobacter can be killed.

As a last consideration, it’s important to cook chicken at a temperature that results in delicate, moist dark meat as well as white breast meat that’s free of stringiness or dryness.


In this brief article we have answered the question “can you cook chicken at 120 degrees?”


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Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.