Internal Temp Chicken Wings: Getting to the Sweet Spot

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Chicken Wing Dish

What temperature do chicken wings have to be before they’re safe to eat? More to the point, how long does it take them to get there? The cooking time depends on the method and the size of the wings, but I can give you a general idea. Read on for more info. 

Internal Temp Chicken Wings

All poultry has to heat to 165 degrees Fahrenheit before it’s considered safe for consumption. Since chicken wings are white meat, it’s important not to cook them too far past this point, or they’ll dry out. Try to remove them from the heat once they’ve achieved an internal temp of 160, then let them rest for a few minutes to finish cooking.

Why it Matters

Poultry products have to cook to a certain temperature in order to kill off any potential bacteria. That’s true of all meat products, but with chicken and turkey, it’s critical. Here’s why. 

Red meat—beef, pork, and lamb, to name a few—has a greater density than white meat like poultry. That means the dangerous bacteria dwells close to the surface. As long as you’ve seared the exterior, the rest of the meat should be fine

Seasoned Chicken Wings On Wooden Board

With chicken, though, the bacteria can burrow further below the surface. The only way to be sure that you’ve destroyed it all is to cook the meat thoroughly, all the way to the center. 

What’s Considered a Safe Temperature for Chicken? 

The USDA recommends heating all poultry products to a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. At that point, the bacteria that cause food poisoning will be wiped out in a matter of seconds. 

In point of fact, it’s possible for the bacteria to die off at lower temperatures. The problem is that it takes longer, and you have to make sure that it never dips below the threshold at any point while you’re waiting. That’s too much of a hassle for most people, so 165 is the standard. 

I should mention, though, that while it’s safe to eat the meat at this temperature, I prefer to let the dark meat cook longer. Thighs and drumsticks are more juicy and succulent when they’ve cooked to at least 175-180 degrees. The meat is rich enough to take the higher temperatures without drying out. 

Wings, on the other hand, are made of white meat, like the breasts. That means they will dry out if you cook them past the 165-degree mark. For that reason, it’s preferable to take them off the heat when they’ve reached 160 degrees, then allow them to rest for a few minutes. 

How Long to Cook Chicken Wings

Grilled Chicken Wings

The total cooking time depends on the method. The size of the wings can also be a factor, but most of the wings you’ll buy in the supermarket will be roughly the same size. 

When you make chicken wings in a smoker set to 250 degrees, the total cooking time will be about 2 hours. Lowering the temperature to 225 will lengthen the process to about 2-½ hours, but I don’t recommend this because the skin might turn rubbery. 

You can speed things along by cranking the smoker temp to 400 degrees. The wings should be done in 45 minutes or so. This method works better in the oven than the smoker, though, because 45 minutes isn’t long enough to allow the smoke flavor to permeate the meat. 

What if you want to deep-fry the wings? When the oil is heated to 365 degrees, the meat should cook through in 8 to 10 minutes. This is the favored method of restaurants and pubs, and it gives the wings a wonderfully crisp exterior and a juicy interior. 

If you’ve never deep-fried chicken wings before, check out this informational video first. 

Can Chicken Wings Be Pink? 

Sometimes, amateur chefs become alarmed when they notice a pinkish tinge in the center of meat that they thought was fully cooked. The fact is, sometimes chicken will still have some pink in it even when it’s cooked to 165 degrees. 

Crispy Chicken Wings In Plate

You should never rely on color as an indicator of doneness. While the chicken can be pink beneath the surface and still be safe to eat, the reverse also applies. The meat might be completely white and opaque throughout, but it might not have cooked to the safe temp yet. 

Smoked meats are more likely to retain some reddish color, especially near the exterior. That’s the phenomenon known as the “smoke ring,” which is created when the nitric oxide in the smoke reacts with the myoglobin in the meat. 

When you use cherry as a smoking wood, the meat will have a rich mahogany hue when it’s fully cooked. The smoke dyes the food a lovely shade of red, giving it an impressive appearance. 

Final Thoughts

Chicken wings are done when they’ve cooked to 165 degrees. This should be easy enough to remember—it’s the same temperature at which all poultry products are considered fully cooked. Since wings are white meat, though, you have to be extra careful not to overcook them. 

Happy grilling!

Darren Wayland Avatar

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