Chicken Still Pink After Cooking? Don't Panic

Here's the situation: your thermometer reads 165°, but that meat still looks pretty darn pink. What do you do? According to the USDA, looks can be deceiving.

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.

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.

What are your thoughts?

Safe Food Handling: The Color of Meat and Poultry from the USDA

Related: A Little Pink: USDA Lowers Temperature Guidelines for Cooking Pork

(Image: Emma Christensen)

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