Here’s the situation: your thermometer reads 165°, you’ve properly checked your chicken’s juices and let it rest, but when you cut into the meat still looks pretty darn pink. What do you do?
While we’ve been culturally trained that done chicken be white, it turns out you don’t need to recook your chicken just because of a little pink blush. Here’s what you need to know about color, temperature, and other doneness indicators that make chicken safe (and delicious) to eat.
Is It Safe to Eat Pink Chicken?
Salmonella is still a very real concern when it comes to cooking chicken, turkey, and other poultry. It gets knocked into our heads again and again that poultry is safe to eat only when its juices run clear, when the meat is no longer pink, and when it registers at least 165° in the thickest part of the thigh. But of those, only temperature is the real indicator of a fully-cooked chicken. The USDA says that as long as all parts of the chicken have reached a minimum internal temperature of 165°, it is safe to eat. Color does not indicate doneness.
The USDA further explains that even fully cooked poultry can sometimes show a pinkish tinge in the meat and juices. This is particularly true of young chickens whose bones and skin are still very permeable. Pigment in the bone marrow can color the surrounding tissue and make the bones themselves look very dark. Hemoglobin in the muscles can likewise react with air during cooking to give the meat a pinkish color even after cooking. The chicken’s feed and whether it’s been frozen can also affect the final color.
What Happens If You Eat Undercooked Chicken?
Even knowing this, it’s startling to cut into a chicken and see pink. Reprogramming the automatic association between pink chicken and under-cooked chicken is going to take some work. Undercooked chicken, that is chicken that has not been cooked to 165°, can aliments that range from mild stomach distress to food poisoning, so make sure you always use a digital probe thermometer to test for doneness, if you ever have any doubts.