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How to cook chicken perfectly every time

Read our guide to cooking whole chicken, chicken breast, drumsticks, nibbles & wings. Tender, moist, juicy & bursting with flavour every time. What are you waiting for?

Chicken is one of the most versatile meats around — ideal for a huge range of savoury dishes from the humble chicken soup to spicy hot wings. Not only is chicken delicious, it’s often an affordable way to put some lean, healthy protein on your plate. 

Unlike a steak, chicken needs to be cooked the whole way through, but not so much that it loses all those tasty juices that keep it moist. Find out how to buy, store, prepare and cook a huge range of chicken cuts to impress at any meal.

Click here for more delicious chicken recipes 

How to buy and handle chicken

At PAK’nSAVE, we stock a huge range of different chicken cuts so you can find everything you need for dinner. Here are a few tips to help you buy and handle chicken safely.

  • Give your chicken as little time out of the fridge as possible. Pick up your chicken towards the end of your grocery shop, or try to keep the shop short.
  • Bring a chilly bag with your reusable shopping bags to keep the chicken cool for longer.
  • Boneless chicken is often more expensive, but that’s because you aren’t paying for the weight of the bones as well.
  • Reduced chicken can help you save money, but be sure to use it on the same day you buy it.



How to store chicken

Chicken needs to be stored the right way to prevent cross-contamination and the development of bacteria. Check out these tips from The Poultry Industry Association of New Zealand to keep your chicken safe and healthy.

  • Always use chicken before its use by date. Otherwise, pop it in the freezer as soon as you get home from the supermarket.
  • If you take the chicken out of its recyclable butchery tray, make sure you keep it covered up in a clean plastic container or snaplock bag.
  • Place chicken on the bottom shelf of the fridge, with nothing beneath it. This stops any chicken juice from contaminating other foods.
  • When thawing your chicken, allow it to defrost gradually in the fridge — not on the bench or in the sink. A whole chicken can take at least 24 hours to defrost, while smaller cuts can take up to nine hours.
  • Once thawed, cook chicken within 24 hours. Do not refreeze defrosted chicken.

How to handle and prepare chicken

The way you prepare chicken will depend on the cut and recipe you’re using. Keep everything clean while you handle and prepare chicken with these tips.

  • Don’t rinse raw or frozen chicken, as this is more likely to spread bacteria than remove it. Instead, pat it dry with a paper towel
  • Always wash your hands in hot soapy water after handling raw chicken, and thoroughly clean any chopping boards, crockery or knives that have come into contact with the raw chicken.
  • After you’ve cooked the chicken, don’t put it back on the surface you prepared it on unless you’ve thoroughly cleaned it first.


How long do you cook chicken for? 

How long you cook your chicken in the oven depends on the style of cooking. Chicken should reach an internal temperature of 82°C, for bone-in cuts, or 76° C for boneless. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, cut into the thickest part of the chicken and if the juices run clear then it’s cooked.

Tegel recommends the following cooking times:

  • Roasting: Cook a whole chicken for 20 minutes plus an additional 55 minutes per kg at 180°C.
  • Pan frying: Bone-in chicken cuts need 20-40 minutes in a pan, while boneless portions require approximately 10 minutes, depending on size.
  • Deep frying: Bone-in chicken deep fries in roughly 15 minutes in 190°C oil.
  • Baking: A bone-in chicken piece cooks in 50-60 minutes at 180°C.
  • Grilling: With the bone in, your chicken will need 15-30 minutes on the grill. Kebabs will cook in about 15 minutes.
  • Casserole: Cook bone-in pieces for 1.5 hours at 180°C.
  • Steaming: Steam whole or bone-in portions for roughly 30 minutes per 500g.


How to get evenly cooked chicken every time

The temperature of your oven or stove has a huge effect on how your chicken turns out. Oven temperatures sometimes aren’t accurate, so it can help to buy an oven thermometer.

An oven thermometer measures the real temperature inside your oven, so you can be sure you’re cooking accurately.

Of course, the meat will still cook so long as the oven is hot — it might just be faster or slower depending on the temperature. A Wiltshire Meat Thermometer helps you know for sure when your chicken is ready to eat, regardless of oven temperature. This is also a great option if you’re cooking on the stove instead.

Some ovens can have hot or cold spots if they aren’t calibrated properly. If your chicken is cooking unevenly, you may need to contact the oven manufacturer.



Flavouring your chicken

There are lots of great ways to add different flavours to chicken, such as stuffing, marinating or dry rubs. When marinating, brining or otherwise flavouring your chicken over a long period of time, ensure the chicken stays in the fridge.

  • Stuffing: Stuffing imparts flavour into a whole roasted chicken and helps to maintain moisture. You can make your own or buy a stuffed chicken from your PAK’nSAVE butchery.
  • Marinades: A marinade penetrates the meat over time to impart loads of flavour and moisture. Allow chicken to marinate for at least two hours, but don’t marinate for more than a day or the marinade can over-tenderise.
  • Brines: A brine is a salty liquid similar to a marinade that moisturises and tenderises the meat, but tends to have fewer flavourings. You can even use buttermilk as a brine!
  • Rubs: Rubs are mixtures of herbs and spices, and sometimes oils (such as olive oil), that flavour the surface of the chicken, so you get lots of flavour without overbearing that delicious chicken taste. Why not try a Peri Peri chicken rub for your next roast?


Why do you need to let chicken rest?

Lots of chicken recipes tell you to let the chicken rest for 5 to 15 minutes after cooking. But why should you wait that long to eat?

Resting your chicken after using a high-heat cooking method like roasting, pan-frying or grilling helps you get succulent, juicy chicken every time.

After you cook chicken, the muscle fibres are tense and all the juices have rushed towards the centre of the meat. By resting, those muscles can relax and the juices can be reabsorbed into the rest of the meat, keeping every part of the chicken nice and juicy.


How to cook a whole roast chicken in the oven

A perfect roast chicken served alongside some crispy potatoes is a Sunday dinner classic. Everyone has a favourite part of the chicken, whether it’s a juicy drumstick or succulent breast. To make sure everyone’s favourite piece gets cooked to perfection, follow these tips.



How long to cook the roast chicken

Roast a whole chicken in the oven for 20 minutes + 55 minutes per kilogram at 180°C. If you’re using a fan assisted oven, or “fan bake”, crack the temperature down a notch to 170°C.

It is perfectly safe to put raw chicken in the oven.

For crispy skin, always pat the skin dry with a paper towel and season with plenty of salt and black pepper. Then roast the chicken breast-side up.

Add extra flavour and moisture by stuffing the chicken with a quartered onion or lemon, as well as robust herbs like rosemary and thyme. Or save time with a pack of Greggs Sage and Onion Stuffing Mix.


How to tell if chicken is cooked

To test if the chicken is heated all the way through, insert a meat thermometer into the meat between the leg and breast. Cooked chicken should be between 76°C and 82°C. Be careful not to hit the bone, as this can affect the reading.

If you don’t have a meat thermometer, simply slice the meat between the leg and breast with a sharp knife. If the juices run clear, it’s good to go.

Always let the roast chicken rest for five to 15 minutes before carving.


How to carve a whole roast chicken

Carving a roasted chicken is easier than it looks — all you need is a sharp knife.

  • Place the chicken on a large chopping board, breast-side up.
  • Using a sharp knife, find the joint between the breast and the thigh. Your knife should break through this joint with a little pressure, separating the legs from the bird. Cut through any skin to
  • make a clean separation. You can separate the thigh and drumstick in the same way, if you like.
  • Remove the wings using the same method, finding the joint close to the breast.
  • Lastly, you can cut slices off the breasts while they’re still on the bird, or run a long knife under the breast to remove them whole.
  • There’s often extra pieces of dark meat that you can put from the carcass with a fork — be sure to get every last bit!
  • The leftover chicken carcass can be used to make chicken stock or soup, so don’t throw it out yet.


How to cook chicken breast

Chicken breast gets a bad rap because it can be easy to overcook. It doesn’t have to be a struggle to get juicy, succulent chicken breast every time. Follow these tips to ensure your chicken breast is tender and not rubbery.


Juicy and succulent chicken breast on the barbecue

To ensure even cooking, place the breast between two pieces of cling film and gently pound the chicken with a mallet or rolling pin until you achieve an even thickness.

You can speed up the cooking time by slicing the thickness of the breast in half. Place one hand flat on top of the chicken breast to hold it still and gently guide a sharp knife through the breast. Try this for our chicken fillet with Italian salad.

How to season chicken breasts

Always season your chicken with salt and black pepper. Don’t leave salt on the breast for too long before cooking, as this can dry it out.

There are lots of different ways to cook a chicken breast, but popular methods include baking, pan searing and poaching.


How long to cook chicken breast in the oven

Oven baked chicken breast takes longer than other techniques but gives you time to make a salad while the chicken cooks. To bake whole chicken breasts, cook in a 200°C oven for 15-20 minutes. Try stuffing a chicken breast with basil, garlic and ricotta before baking for a sensational Italian-inspired meal.


How long to fry chicken breast

Pan frying a skin-on chicken breast is a great way to get that moreish chicken crackling. To pan fry a chicken breast, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken breast for 3-5 minutes on each side, depending on thickness.


How long to poach chicken breasts

Lastly, poaching is a great way to cook chicken without any extra fat or oil. To poach chicken breasts, place the chicken, cold water and any seasoning in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to just below a simmer and poach for 10 minutes.


How long to cook chicken drumsticks 

Grab a drumstick off the barbecue and kick back for the evening! Chicken drumsticks are loaded with succulent dark meat, meaning they can hold up to the heat of a barbecue as well as low, slow cooking methods like a roast or casserole.


How long to cook chicken drumsticks

Oven bake drumsticks at 180°C for 50-60 minutes for crispy skin. Finish drumsticks on the barbecue over hot coals or indirect heat to crisp up the skin and add lots of smokey flavour.

You can also add whole drumsticks to a curry or casserole for about 1.5 hours at 180°C. Remove the skin before you add the chicken to the casserole to avoid rubbery, chewy skin.

Finally, try battering and deep frying drumsticks for 15 minutes in 190°C oil. Brine your drumsticks in buttermilk first and add some cornflakes to your batter for super moist chicken and extra crunchy coating.

Drumsticks are cooked when the internal temperature reaches 82°C. Don’t be put off if the chicken isn’t white, as drumsticks have dark meat.


How to cook chicken nibbles

Chicken nibbles are the wings of a chicken broken down into smaller pieces. They’re perfect for feeding a crowd or throwing together for an easy weeknight meal. You can deep fry chicken nibbles or bake them in the oven for a healthier option.



How long to cook chicken nibbles

To deep fry chicken nibbles, heat oil to 190°C and cook the nibbles for roughly 8 minutes cook time or until the internal temperature reaches 82°C.

To oven bake your chicken nibbles, spread them on a baking sheet in a single layer and cook in a 180°C oven for 20-25 minutes.

For extra crispy baked nibbles, dry the nibbles with a paper towel then toss them in baking powder and flour before baking.

Add loads of flavour to nibbles with any combination of marinades or glazes. You can make a simple chicken nibble marinade out of soy sauce, garlic and honey, and optionally simmer it for 5 minutes cook time to make a sticky glaze.

Make hot wings by tossing baked or fried nibbles in buffalo sauce. You can lower the heat of buffalo sauce by mixing in melted butter. Serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing.

How to cook chicken wings 

Whole chicken wings can be cooked much like chicken nibbles or even in a casserole like chicken drumsticks.

The key difference between nibbles and wings is that the wings are larger and have the wing tip still intact. The wing tip doesn’t have a lot of meat in it but goes delightfully crispy in the oven.


How long to cook chicken wings 

Follow the same baking sheet instructions for chicken nibbles above, but increase the cooking time slightly to allow for the larger wings.

Or try chicken wings in a casserole-style dish, such as an Italian cacciatore.


Cooking chicken in a  slow cooker 

A slow cooker is a great way to make weeknight meals extra easy to make. Just throw in your ingredients and come home to a delicious ready meal. Not only can you make casseroles in a crock pot, you can even cook a whole chicken.


Succulent roast chicken with crispy skin on a board resting

When cooking casseroles, be sure to use a dark cut of meat like thighs or drumsticks. Choosing a bone-in piece can also help to maintain moisture in the chicken. Try our Chicken and Pumpkin Casserole for an easy weeknight treat.

Cooking a whole chicken in a crock pot can get you great results, similar to a rotisserie chicken but with even crispier skin.

  1. Place the chicken in a rack or on top of a ring of foil in the slow cooker.
  2. Rub the chicken with your favourite seasonings or rubs.
  3. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours.

It’s perfectly safe to put raw chicken in your cooker, so long as you cook it on high for at least one hour. There’s also no need to put any water in it, as there are plenty of juices in a whole chicken to stop it drying out.


How to cook a butterflied chicken

Butterflied chicken, also known as spatchcock, is a chicken that has been split and spread open to allow for faster, more even cooking. The flatter chicken has a broader surface area, allowing heat to penetrate it much faster.

A butterflied chicken can save you lots of time and help you get juicier meat all at once. Roast a butterflied chicken at 220°C for 35-40 minutes cook time, or throw over medium heat on the barbecue for 15-20 minutes.

You can buy butterflied chickens from your PAK’nSAVE butchery aisle, or even butterfly one yourself. To butterfly your own chicken:

Place the chicken breast-side down on a clean chopping board.
Using a pair of poultry or kitchen shears, cut down each side of the chicken’s spine to remove it.
Snip the white cartilage in the centre of the breast bone, then flip the bird over and press down in the centre to pop the carcass open.


Cooking chicken kebabs

Chicken kebabs, or chicken skewers, are pieces of boneless chicken threaded onto metal or bamboo skewers. They’re great for the barbecue, easy to grab and go and make portioning a breeze.


Chicken kebabs on a barbecue


Choose from a range of marinated premade kebabs at PAK’nSAVE or make your own using cubes of succulent boneless skinless chicken thigh.

If you’re making your own, be sure to soak bamboo skewers in water before use to ensure they don’t burn in the oven or on the grill. You can also marinate the chicken in a sauce of your liking, such as teriyaki, or our Vietnamese-inspired chicken skewer marinade.


How long to cook chicken kebabs

If the barbecue’s out of service, you can cook your chicken kebabs in a 180°C oven for 20-30 minutes. Or, heat up a wide griddle pan and cook the kebabs for 6-7 minutes per side over medium heat.

For more inspiration, check out all our mouth-watering chicken recipes here.