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Chicken is a versatile ingredient and choosing to bake, rather than fry, chicken gives you a number of healthier recipe options. You can bake a chicken whole, or divide it into parts -- the wings, drumsticks, thighs, and breast -- and bake them individually. Worried that you can't get the same crispy skin baking a chicken wing or a drumstick? With the right recipe and good preparation, you can get a healthier but just-as-delicious crispy skin on your baked chicken.

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Preparing a Whole Chicken for Baking

When you purchase a whole chicken from the store, it has usually been flash frozen. The first step in preparing a whole chicken is to unwrap it, set it on some paper towels, and allow it to thaw out in the sink. It is better to let it thaw slowly and naturally than in water, and this latter method can increase the risk of salmonella. Once the chicken is thawed, remove the parts you do not plan to cook, such as the heart, lungs, liver, and neck. The easiest way to remove these is to reach up through the large back cavity and pull them out. You should only feel the bones of the rib cage if you have removed everything properly.

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Baking a Whole Chicken

Chicken is a fairly easy meat to cook, and once you've mastered it whole you can easily move on to a big Thanksgiving turkey! Gather salt, pepper, garlic, onion powder, and olive oil. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Rub the inside and outside of the chicken with the olive oil, then sprinkle with the seasonings. Set in a roasting pan with the underside facing upwards and cover with aluminum foil. Bake the chicken for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and baste with the juices. Replace the foil, bake for another 30 minutes, then baste again. Let the chicken cook uncovered for another 20 minutes or until the meat starts to pull away from the drumsticks and a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

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When is a Chicken Cooked?

Whether you're cooking a whole chicken or just some thighs or breasts, you want to be sure the meat is fully cooked. In general, chicken should not have any pink in it, especially near the bone. If you are baking bone-in chicken like a whole chicken or drumsticks, you can look to see if the meat is pulling away from the bone. The best and safest way to ensure your chicken is cooked through, however, is with a meat thermometer set into the middle of the meat. It should read 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Removing the Breast from a Whole Chicken

Once your chicken is baked, you need to carve away the breast. To carve the breasts free of the rest of the whole chicken, angle your knife and move it along the ribs to the left and right of the sternum.

chicken breast from whole chicken skynesher / Getty Images

Making Baked Chicken Crispy

Bake skin-on chicken breasts if you want crispy chicken -- the skin supplies the crisp. You can cook skin-on breasts at 375 degrees Fahrenheit with a light seasoning of salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder. Bake in a baking dish, uncovered, for 45 to 60 minutes. Make sure there is no pink near the bone, and the internal temperature is at 165 degrees.

crispy chicken breast skin on LauriPatterson / Getty Images

Why Bake Chicken?

Many people worry that baking chicken breast will make it too dry to enjoy. This makes them less willing to use this method, but baking is great for meal prep and dinner. For instance, baking lets you make multiple breasts at once, and once prepared they can be used in a variety of dishes such as chicken pot pie, soups, and salad! Getting a juicy and perfectly done chicken breast doesn't have to be difficult.

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Baking Juicy Chicken Breast

The key to good chicken breast is high temperature for just the right amount of time. By cooking at a higher temperature, like 400 degrees Fahrenheit, you quickly seal in all the juices and prevent it from drying out. 20 to 25 minutes at this temperature should result in perfect chicken breast. For even better results, you can try removing the chicken breasts from the oven when their internal temperature reaches around 162 degrees and cover them with foil. Let them rest until their temperature comes up to 165 degrees Fahrenheit when checked with a thermometer.

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Baking Multiple Chicken Breasts

If you are planning to cook a bunch of chicken at once, make sure your meat thermometer is accurate. While it is certainly more convenient to cook a lot of chicken at once, more meat in your oven can affect the quality and evenness of the baking. In general, you'll bake all your chicken breasts for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees, but be sure you keep a close eye on them. If you have any that are particularly large, consider flattening them a little to help each piece cook more evenly.

meal prep chicken breast baking sinankocaslan / Getty Images

Are Breasts or Thighs Healthier?

Chicken breasts are generally considered healthier than any other part of the chicken. The meat is leaner and therefore has less cholesterol. The healthiest chicken breast is boneless and skinless as well because the skin contains most of the fat. Chicken breast is also high in protein, which makes it a great option for people looking to lose weight and get fit.

chicken thigh chicken breast healthy

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How Long Have We Been Eating Chicken?

Domesticated chickens were not originally kept for food, but for sport. Cock-fighting was popular in many cultures for thousands of years. It wasn't until around 400 B.C.E that someone in the Mediterranean city of Maresha decided to try eating a chicken. Its popularity has only grown since then, and chicken is now even more popular than beef in the United States. In fact, the average person eats 80 pounds of chicken per year.

first to eat chickengeorgeclerk / Getty Images

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