We're All Cooking Chicken Wrong

Just because it's white, doesn't mean it's done.
29 April 2020, 10:37pm
Image from Pixabay

You've made 126 different types of banana bread in unison with everyone on earth this past week. Now, take a few minutes to upgrade your chicken prep. If you've ever wept pathetically on your bathroom floor, stomach muscles convulsing with a power you'd marvel at were you not instead wishing for death, you'll get why this matters.

Scientists understand, and they are rightly concerned that we're all judging the doneness of our chicken wrong: by its colour (white, not pink), and its juices (clear, not pink). These two popular "gut feel" methods are not actually enough to reduce the pathogens Salmonella and Campylobacter, according to a new study in the journal PLOS ONE. They're not backed by science, either. Just whichever wholesome person taught you how to put a roast on.

To see how the general population decides when a bird is done, a group from the Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research surveyed 3,969 households in France, Norway, Portugal, Romania and the UK. They also visited 75 additional households and watched on as its residents unselfconsciously made chicken for dinner.

Per the media statement, here's what they found:

... checking the inner color of chicken meat is a popular way to judge doneness, used by half of households. Other common methods include examining meat texture or juice color.

However, the researchers also conducted laboratory experiments to test various techniques for judging doneness, and these demonstrated that color and texture are not reliable indicators of safety on their own: for example, the inner color of chicken changes at a temperature too low to sufficiently inactivate pathogens.

Obviously the answer is a food thermometer? Apart from the fact only one of the 75 observed households used one, we get that wrong, too: by testing only the middle of the meat when "most bacteria is present on the surface."

In other words, you have to check the temperature all over: in the middle, around the edges, and on the surface. It should be a minimum of 165 Fahrenheit / 75° Celsius. Then, according to the paper, "check the core. When the core meat is fibrous and not glossy, it has reached a safe temperature.”

Now go forth and roast, baste, fry, poach or grill—and keep it down.