Chicken is always a delicious cuisine, whether you’re preparing it yourself, ordering from an eatery, or eating from your most preferred restaurant. It’s among the most consumed meat in America.
Although chicken is delicious, it can be hazardous to your health when you consume it when undercooked or raw because of bacteria like campylobacter and salmonella. Most of us believe that a well-cooked chicken needs to be white, but what should you do when you cook chicken with pink color?
Should you recook it? Or can you take it as it is? And what happens if you eat pink-colored chicken? Such questions disturb most people a lot. This article focuses on answering all these questions. Kindly read on to learn everything about chicken color, recommended cooking temperature, plus other details that will help you make safe and delicious chicken.
The dangers of eating undercooked chicken
Salmonella bacteria is a major concern when cooking any form of poultry like chicken and turkey. This bacterium is found mainly in an animal’s gut, and it’s more prevalent in chickens. It can cause food poisoning, typhoid fever, gastroenteritis, enteric fever, and other severe health issues.
In case you get infected, and the bacteria spreads beyond your intentional tract, you may suffer from life-threatening problems.
Campylobacter is another fatal bacterium you can get by eating undercooked chicken or food in contact with undercooked chicken. If ingested, it can lead to bloating, fever, bloody stools, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Research indicates that some bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, making it hard to treat them. In 2018, the CDC reported a salmonella outbreak in 14 multi-states which was caused by contaminated chicken, sickening about 92 people.
Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure your chicken is well-cooked to kill such bacteria and enjoy a safe (and tasty) chicken.
Is pink chicken safe?
According to the USDA, the primary determinant of a well-cooked chicken is temperature, not color. We mostly think that fully-cooked chicken should have all its juices cleared out, not pink-colored, and cooks under at least 165 F temperatures. But among these factors, only appropriate temperatures indicate doneness.
USDA explains further, saying that it’s common for a well-cooked chicken to have a pinkish tinge, particularly to younger chickens with highly permeable skin and bones. When cooking chicken, the hemoglobin found in its muscles can react with air making it have a pink color even when it’s fully cooked.
How chicken is fed or preserved can also affect its color. For example, frozen chicken tends to be pink when cooked.
Nevertheless, you should avoid eating pink chicken, particularly if you’re not sure of the exact temperature they used to cook it. There are several ways you can avoid cooking chicken with pink color, which we’ll also discuss below.
It’s best if you also were very keen on the juices your chicken produces. It’s best that you wait till it’s clear, not bloody or pink.
Causes of pink color in chickens
Most sold chickens are between 6-8 weeks old. Such chickens are young and have thin, hollow, and porous bones than older chickens. The bone marrow is usually purplish due to myoglobin, which is a protein responsible for oxygen storage. When this protein leaks into meat, it causes the area around it, even the bones, to change color, even when cooked under extreme temperatures.
The cooking technique you use can cause your chicken to have a pink color. Cooking methods involving less cooking temperatures like smoking can lead to chicken with pink color. Utilizing a gas oven and BBQ can cause your chicken meat to change color, usually a reddish tinge.
How to prevent your chicken from having a pink tinge
Even though research shows pink chicken is safe, it’s often hard to believe it’s safe and stop thinking of what happens if you eat pink-colored chicken. Completely avoiding pink meat isn’t usually easy. Some chicken can be white when fully cooked, and others remain pink.
If you really hate pink chicken, you can avoid eating pink chicken by reducing pH levels or purchasing more older chicken with less porous and highly calcified bones. The pH levels can cause your chicken to turn pink; the higher the pH is, the pinker the chicken.
You can minimize this effect by using acidic marinades such as vinegar and citrus to reduce the pink tinge in your chicken meat. However, this approach is less effective when reducing pinkness caused by myoglobin.
To avoid the myoglobin effect, you can opt to remove all bones in your chicken before cooking. If the bones miss, you won’t have to worry about the purplish or pink meat.
How to know your chicken is fully-cooked
Up to this point, you now know that fully-cooked chicken isn’t necessarily white but can be pink too. There are four main ways to check if your chicken is safe for eating, and they include:
1. Right temperature
If your chicken is still pink and you’re not sure if it’s fully cooked, you should check its temperatures on the fleshiest areas, like the thighs. If your chicken is well-cooked, it should read at least 165 F.
If it’s in a restaurant, it would be best you ask for another dish if you don’t trust their cooking. It’s best to eat chicken and any form of meat from reputable eateries to avoid uncertainties. It’s not worth risking your health and time eating unsafe chicken.
2. Check texture
There’s a noticeable difference between a fully-cooked and undercooked chicken. Poorly cooked chicken is usually dense, jiggly, and rubbery with a shiny feeling. Overcooked chicken usually is hard, dense, and has an unpleasant stringy texture.
A well-cooked chicken is melty, juicy, and has an in-between texture. It would be best if you know how perfectly cooked chicken meat looks like.
Chicken meat usually shrinks after it cooks due to the release or evaporation of fats and moisture. If your chicken doesn’t reduce in size, it’s probably poorly cooked and needs more heat and time to cook.
Proper chicken cooking is crucial for healthy living and wellbeing. As much as pink chicken isn’t necessarily harmful, it’s essential to ensure you cook your chicken well to avoid getting infected by deadly bacteria like salmonella and campylobacter.
It’s advisable that you cook your chicken at 1650F temperature, give it enough time, check its texture, and use an effective kitchen thermometer to check if it’s safe for consumption. To avoid pink chicken, you can use acidic marinades and avoid cooking young chickens.
You should place your thermometer in the thickest part of the meat and avoid pushing it closer to the grill for more accurate and reliable results.