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Chicken is a little challenging to get right. The problem is that it’s really easy to get wrong. Here’s a guide to help you get oven placement right every single time.
If roasting a chicken, place the meat on the bottom rack position of the oven. When cooking chicken breasts or thighs, place the meat on a center rack. Avoid using the highest rack positions when cooking meat to ensure thorough, even cooking without burning or drying out the chicken.
Following these few simple steps will help you never mess up placement again, prevent from burning, and make sure your meals cook all the way through.
Why Placement Matters
This will help us understand why we need to place chicken at the bottom and middle of the oven.
Ovens typically have two heating elements and nice fancy tech that helps to regulate the heat in certain ranges. An oven will never be precisely at whatever temperature you set it to. They fluctuate as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit above and below the specified temperature.
Most ovens have a bottom and top heating element. These heating elements work in bursts and these bursts are of intense heat. We know that heat rises so, the top of the oven is going to be the hottest at any given point in time.
This makes the top section of the oven great for toasting and broiling, but not good for chicken that tends to be thicker, and needs to be cooked evenly. The center of the oven is a great sweet spot for medium-sized pieces of chicken.
You can also check the temperature of the chicken on the inside to make sure it’s cooked all the way through. Check out this meat thermometer from ChefsTemp and get $10 off. You will get accurate temperature readings in 2-3 seconds.
Here’s a great video that explains the usefulness of multiple placements within the oven, as well as how to place foods for cooking on multiple sheets at the same time.
Where to Place Different Chicken Dishes
How much chicken are you making? How much space does the chicken take up in the oven? These are important questions to ask when deciding on placement.
With chicken, the goal is to have the dish as close to the center of the oven as possible. This doesn’t apply to the tray, or sheet, but to the actual chicken.
Let’s say you have a 15-lb whole chicken to roast. You want the top of the chicken to be in the center of the oven. If the bottom of the chicken is in the center of the oven, that will mean that the top of the chicken is going to be way too close to the heating elements at the top.
Roasts and large cuts of chicken should be placed towards the bottom rack position. With smaller cuts of chicken, it’s okay to have them on the center rack because they might only rise up from the baking sheet about an inch or two.
Cooking chicken in the center of the oven will keep the bottom of the meat from getting too cooked, or the top from getting burned by the high heat output of the heating element.
Conventional vs. Convection Ovens
Will a convection oven make a difference in chicken placement? We have to understand a little bit about the difference between conventional and convection ovens.
Conventional ovens work with standard heating elements and regulate temperature through sensors that turn the heating elements on and off when the temperature in the oven gets too hot or too low.
These ovens are cheaper than a convection oven, but they do tend to have pockets of heat or colder pockets that will develop. The reason for this is that those ovens work on standing air. They simply heat up.
This is where a convection oven is a little bit different. These ovens have a feature where they will turn on a durable fan inside of the oven while it is cooking. This spreads the heat evenly throughout the oven.
How Does that Affect my Chicken?
The difference between these two types of ovens is important for several reasons. This changes some of the placement needs within the oven and affects the surface temperature of the chicken.
Convection ovens offer two main benefits. It will brown the surface of the chicken much faster than a standard oven. This is because there is hot air constantly blowing past the meat. This serves to retain the moisture that the meat already has inside of it.
Since you’ve made chicken, you probably know that chicken is lean meat. It’s going to have a lot less moisture than other meats like beef or pork. Another benefit of the convection oven is that it gets rid of some of the downsides of cooking multiple dishes in the same oven.
The first video explains that it’s important not to stack dishes on top of each other in the oven. The reason for this is because heat is rising and falling as the main source of raising the temperature of the food. With a convection oven, the hot air is blowing all around and will be able to reach all of the levels within the oven.
The fan feature of a convection oven means that placement in the oven won’t matter as much for medium-sized pieces of chicken. As long as they’re not on the top rack position.
So Which Rack is it?
Place regular-sized chicken breast, and thigh meat in the center of the oven. Place larger pieces of chicken, like a whole chicken on the bottom rack so that it is in the center of the oven. Follow a similar placement strategy for convection ovens as you would with a conventional oven.
Know that with a convection oven you can get away with having a little more food in the oven, and you’ll get a little quicker browning of the chicken. Between all of these different tips, you’ll never have to wonder what rack to put the chicken on. You’ll be able to get it right every time.
As always, be safe when preparing food. Also, make some for your friends. Don’t hide those great cooking skills that you’re learning. Check out some of our other articles on cookforfolks.com and go cook for your folks!