Chicken is a dietary staple for many people, it can be cooked in a multitude of ways and paired with almost anything for a delicious and nutritious meal.
When eating meat, we are often aware of the potential dangers of consuming a protein that isn’t cooked properly.
In this article, we are going to identify when chicken is safe to eat and how to ensure that it is cooked properly so you don’t get sick from eating it.
Why Is The Chicken Pink?
There are a number of reasons a cooked chicken might have a little more pink in it than you’d expect.
Bone Marrow Pigment
On occasion, cooked chicken can appear pink inside and you may question whether or not it is safe to eat.
When chickens are processed they are frozen to prolong the freshness of the meat and this can cause the bone marrow pigment to seep through porous bones into the meat during the thawing and cooking processes.
Bone marrow is safe to eat from an organically farmed chicken as it is packed with nutrients and minerals.
The pigment can cause a change in the color of the cooked meat and you may question whether it is cooked or not, but this won’t impact the cooking process.
If you’ve ever cut a piece of chicken cooking in a pan and seen it is very dark pink on the inside, it’s a sign the meat isn’t cooked thoroughly.
Never eat undercooked meat, it’s never safe to do this, and could have harmful consequences later on.
Certain cooking techniques such as smoking can cause a pinkish color to occur throughout the flesh of the meat or just below the surface of the meat.
When the flesh is exposed to the smoke and the lower temperatures associated with the cooking process, this pink color will remain on the meat no matter how long it is cooked.
How To Tell If Chicken Is Cooked?
As every oven, grill, and stove top is different you’ll notice that cooking times may vary slightly.
This means you need to know how to tell if the chicken is cooked with your own instincts rather than just relying on standard cooking instructions or packaging information.
Using A Thermometer
To get a sound piece of mind as to whether your chicken is cooked, using a meat thermometer is the best way to do this.
The probe of the thermometer should read 75℃/165℉ according to The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
If the chicken is one or two degrees below the ideal temperature then you can still take it off the heat and let it rest for a few minutes and the chicken will continue to cook.
Checking The Color Of The Juices
Using a kitchen utensil you can press down on the chicken and see what color the juices that come out are.
If the juices are clear or white in color then this is an indication that the chicken is cooked. Pink or red juices indicate that the chicken needs to be more thoroughly cooked.
Check The Inside Color
Cutting into the thickest part of the chicken you’re cooking is vital to help identify if the meat is cooked.
Making a small incision and pulling it apart allows you to see if the meat is cooked through.
If there are pink hues within the white meat of the chicken, then you’ll need to cook the chicken for longer. Fully white meat inside indicates that it is cooked.
Buying A Good Thermometer
To save you the worry and hassle of attempting to judge whether or not chicken is cooked through visual inspections, it’s easier to just buy a chicken thermometer.
These are easy to find and inexpensive to purchase. Kitchen thermometers can come in digital or analog versions and can cost as little as $10.
All thermometers will have a probe which is a piece of metal that sticks into the meat to measure the temperature.
The thermometers can be used with any cooking technique and give you accurate results within seconds.
If you fancy yourself a bit of a foodie, there are a number of expensive options that have more elaborate features but a simple and inexpensive one will do the trick just fine.
You can buy a kitchen thermometer from any kitchen store, large homewares retailer, or online retailer, such as this one here.
Risks Of Eating Undercooked Chicken
There are various risks associated with eating undercooked meats, especially chicken.
Did you know that chicken is the meat eaten most by Americans? As a result it is important to know the risks associated with eating the undercooked meat.
Salmonella is the most common pathogen associated with eating chicken and is something we are warned about from a young age.
But do you know what salmonella actually is?
This bacteria can be found in contaminated food and water sources which causes people to get sick if they consume a product containing these pathogens.
Common symptoms of salmonella poisoning include diarrhea, fevers, and stomach cramps.
These can occur anywhere from a few hours or a few days after consuming the contaminated item.
In more severe cases, salmonella poisoning can cause infections in blood, urine, bones, joints, or the nervous system which can lead to more serious diseases down the line.
At this point, individuals will need to be treated with antibiotics.
The bacteria can live on the chicken you eat and if not cooked thoroughly, the bacteria are not killed off which results in people getting sick.
Campylobacter is another type of bacteria that is the most common cause of diarrheal illness in the United States.
People can get sick from coming into a single drop of juice from a raw chicken that contains this bacteria. This pathogen is also found in undercooked chicken.
The bacteria can come into contact with parts of the chicken when slaughtered.
The symptoms of this illness are similar to that of salmonella poisoning but include experiencing bloody diarrhea which can last up to a week.
Medical attention may be necessary if suffering from a severe case of this type of food poisoning as it is more dangerous than salmonella, especially for those with weaker immune systems and so on.
According to information from The World Health Organization, Campylobacter bacteria can be killed when the food it is living on is thoroughly cooked.
This cements the importance of checking chicken is properly cooked before consuming it and also highlights the need to follow basic food hygiene practices in the kitchen.
When preparing food, you may accidentally cross-contaminate areas of your kitchen if raw chicken contains any pathogenic bacteria.
Despite cooking the chicken thoroughly, if these pathogens are present on the surfaces or utensils in the kitchen, the risk of you becoming sick increases.
Always thoroughly wash your hands before and after preparing and eating food, handling raw chicken, and so on.
It is also important to keep raw and cooked foods away from each other in the refrigerator, and in sealed containers to avoid any leakage.
Here are some simple tips and tricks to help you get properly cooked chicken every time.
- Don’t cook chicken or other poultry in the microwave as this can cause the meat to cook unevenly, with some parts remaining undercooked.
- Ensure the probe of your thermometer doesn’t touch any bones in the meat as this can compromise the accuracy of the reading.
- Make sure your oven or grill is hot enough before you start to cook, but don’t crank up the heat unnecessarily.
- Cut the meat into smaller more manageable pieces to help it cook quicker and more thoroughly.
The Bottom Line
Although there are many ways to visually check if a chicken is cooked, the best way to ensure you’re eating a safe product is to use a kitchen thermometer.
Cooking the meat to the recommended temperature will ensure it is properly cooked.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Eat Cooked Chicken If It’s Pink?
Although we are often told that cooked chicken will not be pink inside, color isn’t considered an indicator of how thoroughly the meat is cooked by officials.
The USDA states that if all parts of the chicken reach a temperature of 165℉, then the chicken is safe to eat regardless of the color.
Can Chicken Be White And Still Undercooked?
Interestingly, if a piece of chicken is white all over it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s completely cooked.
Changes in color and texture have been found to be unreliable indicators of whether or not the chicken is cooked.
As a result, pathogens could still be active within the meat and cause harm to those that eat it.
The best way to avoid any chance of food poisoning is to properly heat the meat throughout and ensure it reaches the recommended temperature.