If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a crispy chicken leg whose insides look like a bloody mess, there’s no need to throw out the entire batch. As long as the bird was brought to an internal temperature of 165°F (73°C) for at least 15 seconds, it’s safe to eat.
The USDA stands by their recommended temperatures for safe cooking. There isn’t a spore, bacteria or blood cell yet (known to cause food borne illness) that has adapted itself to withstand temperatures in excess of 165°F. Yet, even with safety standards that are backed by science, chefs from far and wide continue to cook their chickens to death for fear that they might be underdone. No doubt, a bloody center is unnerving, but does it really mean your bird’s not cooked?
According to a study conducted by Iowa State University, today’s marketed chickens are considerably younger and far more tender than they were years ago. Their bones have not yet matured and are still somewhat soft and porous. As the internal temperature of the bird heats up, marrow can – and quite often does – seep through the soft bone into the surrounding meat. The result is bloody and/or red meat.
When a young chicken is deep chilled, ice crystals form inside the bone. They expand and force the heme out of the marrow through the soft, porous bones. During the cooking process, the tissue will darken in color. Although the appearance can be off-putting, the meat is not harmed when this happens.
To combat this occurrence, restauranteurs are being forced to sell over cooked chicken to address the red blood color in the meat and around the bones. As a result, chicken is often dry, unappealing and tasteless. By and large, consumers are being duped into believing that bloody chicken is dangerous.
Dr. O. Peter Snyder, Jr., Ph.D. of the Hospitality Institue of Technology and Management says, “If consumers were taught to eat safely prepared, bloody chicken, as they want to do with beef, they would be able to enjoy juicier chicken.” The trick is to learn how to prepare safe-to-eat chicken and get over our fear of a little blood in our birds.
An accurate thermometer will do more to put your mind at ease than anything you read in a book or see on TV. A probe inserted into the center of a chicken breast, leg or thigh will tell you all you need to know about whether or not your bird is cooked. Chicken brought to an internal temperature of 165°F will have been sufficiently cleansed of bacteria and will be ready to eat – regardless of its color or trace amounts of hemoglobin.
While a majority of us like our beverages cold and our meat bloody, we’ve become highly suspect of moist chicken. Protect yourself against bacteria (like salmonella and E. coli) by following safe food handling procedures and using the most accurate temperature instruments you can find. Hint, they’re all right here!