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Can Chicken Be a Little Pink? Is It Safe? 

Can Chicken Be a Little Pink? Is It Safe? 

There’s nothing worse than roasting a whole chicken, letting it rest for 10-15 minutes, and carving it only to find pink chicken. 

Pink Chicken is one of the scariest things you will encounter in the kitchen as it immediately makes you panic. You start to wonder whether the chicken is cooked or undercooked. 

Thoughts like am I going to make my family and friends chicken sick soon follow behind. You even consider tossing the chicken in the trash and ordering takeout. 

The truth is there’s no need to stress about pink chicken. Pink chicken may not be as dangerous as you thought. 

What Happens When You Eat Undercooked Chicken?

Eating raw or undercooked chicken is out of the question as it is dangerous and potentially life-threatening. Chicken contains bacteria like salmonella or campylobacter.

Salmonella can be found in the animal intestines. However, salmonella is especially high in chickens. Exposure to salmonella could lead to typhoid fever, foodborne illness, enteric fever, gastroenteritis, and several other severe illnesses. 

If the salmonella infection spreads past the GI tract, it could lead to life-threatening circumstances. 

In contrast, campylobacter can cause vomiting, diarrhea, fever, bloody stool, and bloating. Most people can recover from food poisoning within one week.

However, some cases of food poisoning are severe and can last for several weeks. 

Can Chicken Be a Little Pink?

Twenty years ago, cooking pink chicken would have been an atrocity. Ink chicken was associated with chicken, so persons would not have consumed the chicken.

However, pink chicken is a scary thing of the past. So, yes, chicken can be a little pink

Most of us have heard one or all of these statements over and over again, especially when cooking chicken. They are probably playing on a loop in your head right now. 

First, chicken is cooked when the juices run clear. Second, chicken is cooked when it is no longer pink on the inside.

Third, chicken is cooked when it has a temperature of 165°F. 

However, technically only one of these statements is accurate. The color of the chicken’s juices and the meat are unreliable ways to tell if the chicken is cooked.

The temperature is the only accurate way to determine if the chicken is cooked. 

When the chicken has an internal temperature of 165°F, it is finished cooking and safe for consumption. Ultimately, chicken can be a little pink, but as long as it has the correct temperature, it is cooked. 

What Makes Cooked Chicken Look Pink?

Cooked chicken can have a pink color for several reasons. For example, if the meat was frozen, undercooked, or smoked, it could have a pink color.

Myoglobin bone pigment can also cause pink chicken.

When chicken is frozen, a protein called myoglobin can seep out into the bones and meat. Once the chicken is cooked, the bones and chicken meat can develop a brownish color. 

This brown color may lead you to believe the chicken is undercooked. However, this brown color is not an indicator of doneness. 

If you’ve smoked chicken in your offset smoker, you probably noticed the meat had a pink tinge. The smoking process caused this pink color. 

Depending on how the smoke was infused into the chicken, you may see a ring of pink right under the surface of the meat once you cut into it.

The chicken could even have a pink color running throughout the meat. 

If you inject your chicken with liquid smoke before adding it to your propane smoker, the meat may have a slight pink tint. 

Again, this pink color is not an indicator of doneness. The truth is you could smoke the chicken for 20 hours, and it will still have a pink color due to the smoking process.

It doesn’t matter how long you let the chicken sit in your electric smoker. It will still have a pink color. 

However, removing the chicken after 4-5 hours is best rather than testing out this theory. The smoked chicken will start to dry out, and no one likes dry or overcooked chicken. 

Even though a pink color is not an indicator of doneness, it could be a sign that the chicken is undercooked.

Undercooked chicken also has a jiggly yet dense texture, and it looks rubbery and slightly shiny.

Additionally, an undercooked chicken will also have a temperature below 165°F. 

If your chicken is undercooked, do not consume it. 

Continue cooking the chicken until an infrared or probe thermometer registers an internal temperature of 165°F. 

Remember, the temperature is the only way to determine if the chicken is safe or unsafe to consume.

Furthermore, a thermometer will also prevent you from overcooking the chicken. 

Aim your infrared thermometer at the thickest part of the chicken to test the chicken for doneness.

If you are testing the chicken’s doneness with a probe thermometer, insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat.

Once the chicken has the correct temperature, place it on a butcher block or plate and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.

The average chicken sold in butcher shops or food stores is 8 weeks old or younger. These young chickens have thin yet hollow bones. These bones contain myoglobin. 

Myoglobin is a protein that transports or holds oxygen in the blood. As the chicken cooks, the myoglobin can seep into the meat causing the bones to develop dark pink color. 

This dark pink color is not associated with the doneness of the chicken. 

Final Thoughts

Several factors can result in pink chicken, including smoking or cooking frozen chicken.

The pink color can give the illusion that the chicken is not cooked. However, pink chicken may not be as serious as you think it is. 

As long as you’ve got your handy dandy thermometer, you can measure the temperature of the meat.

Remember to cook your chicken to 165°F, and you won’t have a heart attack the next time you cut into pink chicken.

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