- Undercooked poultry can pose serious health risks.
- However, pink chicken can still be safe to eat if reaches the right temperature.
- The meat of safely cooked chicken can stay pink for a number of different reasons.
There’s a reason your server never asks if you’d like your chicken served rare. Undercooked poultry can pose a serious health threat. That’s why you should never eat cooked chicken that still looks pink inside, right?
Actually, the answer to that question isn’t entirely straightforward.
It is true that if you eat undercooked chicken, you run the risk of contracting potentially lethal bacteria.
It’s dangerous to eat raw or undercooked chicken due to the possible presence of bacteria such as salmonella or campylobacter.
According to Mayo Clinic, salmonella can normally be found in the gut of many different types of farm animals but is especially common in chickens. When humans are infected by Salmonella, they can experience food poisoning, gastroenteritis, enteric fever, typhoid fever, and other serious illnesses. If the infection spreads beyond the intentional tract, it can cause life-threatening complications.
Campylobacter can also invade your system if you eat undercooked poultry or food that has touched undercooked poultry. According to WebMD, it can cause diarrhoea, bloating, fever, vomiting, and bloody stools. Though most people recover in about a week, some people can experience serious complications.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria is also becoming a public health concern. The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) reported 14 multi-state salmonella outbreaks as of October 2018, according to Consumer Reports. The most recent salmonella outbreak was caused by tainted chicken and sickened 92 people. The strain was discovered to be resistant to multiple types of antibiotic drugs, making it more challenging to treat.
It turns out that temperature – not the colour of the meat or juices – is the best way to tell when chicken is safe to eat.
Cooking chicken thoroughly is the best way to kill dangerous pathogens, but looks can be deceiving.
According to the USDA, the temperature is the best and only real way to tell if chicken is fully cooked and ready to eat. That means that all parts of the chicken should reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit before you dig in.
In some cases, this means that a perfectly cooked chicken might still be a little pink inside. As long as you take the bird’s temperature with a cooking thermometer at multiple places – not just the thigh – and get a reading at or above 165 degrees, a rosy tinge shouldn’t be a health concern.
And what about the advice that a chicken’s juices should run clear before you take it off the heat? Though clear juices can be one indication of thorough cooking, only a thermometer will be able to gauge if a chicken is done. If the temperature is right, don’t fret if those juices seem a little pink.
There are actually a few reasons why chicken meat sometimes stays pink after cooking.
So why would thoroughly cooked chicken stay pink? Everything from the age of the bird to the way it was raised can influence the colour of its meat.
The pink colour in the meat of safely cooked chicken is particularly common in young birds. The bones of younger chickens are more permeable than older animals, which can allow the bone marrow to leak into the surrounding meat and produce a pink colour. The hemoglobin in chicken tissues can also create a heat-stable colour that lingers even after the bird has been thoroughly cooked.
Here’s a refresher on how to handle chicken safely.
Even though you might be ok eating pink chicken, it is still possible to get sick from consuming poultry that hasn’t been properly stored or handled.
The way you thaw your chicken is important. You should never thaw perishable foods like meat or eggs at room temperature or in hot water. This can cause the outer layer of the food to reach what the USDA calls the temperature “danger zone” – between 40 and 140 degrees – even if the center is still frozen. Bacteria can multiply rapidly at temperatures warmer than 40 degrees, making your meal a hotbed of potential pathogens.
You should also be sure to wash your hands well after handling raw chicken and never allow raw poultry meat or juices to come into contact with other food. That means you should carefully sanitize cutting boards, utensils, and countertops after you prep chicken and before you prepare other foods.
Finally, don’t partially cook or brown chicken and finish cooking it later. This can raise the meat to unsafe temperatures that may allow bacteria to grow.
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