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"What does the redness near the bones of a cooked chicken mean?"

Hi Anne and Sue,

When I cook chicken, there is sometimes a dark red tinge inside and around the joints of the bird, even though it's been in the oven for the required amount of time. Does this unusual coloring mean the meat isn't cooked adequately?

- Joan Beelow


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Dear Joan,

You're not alone in experiencing this discoloration of chicken joints. It's a condition that occurs most often in chicken that has been frozen. As the bird freezes and then thaws, it sometimes causes pigment to leach out of the bone marrow and accumulate as a deep red color around the bone. You'll also likely notice it in the meat right next to the bone.

As cooking progresses, this discoloring changes too, moving from dark red to brown, much the same way the color of the meat itself changes during cooking. You see this process happening most often in young birds, those suitable for broiling or frying. As the bones of older birds become denser with age, this leakage is less likely to happen.

There's no need to worry about the quality or the safety of the meat, though we agree, this discoloration isn't particularly appealing. It does NOT indicate that the meat is insufficiently cooked. It's always wise to check the doneness of poultry, however, with a meat thermometer. Poultry is cooked when it reaches 180° F (82° C) in the thickest part of the thigh, and when the meat juices run clear. Once these conditions are met, you can relax and enjoy your chicken dinner.

Anne & Sue



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