Tonight, my friend and I ordered a fried chicken special at a restaurant with a local food theme. It was a great dish.

Both of us got very pink chicken. I am pretty sure that my plate had three drumsticks. Upon noticing the color, my colleague returned the dish to be more thoroughly cooked. I did not return mine, since last week I read the USDA fact sheet on poultry preparation. It says that temperature and not color should be used to test for safety, and that cooked poultry can be pink - especially when young. As I kept eating, I came across meat that was quite dark red - this was probably the pinkest chicken I have ever eaten. Other than the color, the texture and color of the meat did not seem raw.

I have a few questions:

  • Might the exceptional color be due in part to the breed (e.g. are there heritage breeds that have exceptionally red meat)?
  • Should I have been concerned (since I did not have a thermometer) (and should I have sent my chicken back?)
  • Is undercooked (pink) chicken more likely to be unsafe than undercooked (pink) beef? (Answers to previous questions seem to provide give conflicting answers: "no" as discussed in Why isn't it safe to eat raw chicken?; "yes" as discussed in Is it safe to prepare Chicken Tartare?)
  • this phenomena was covered in this question: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/27796/… Nov 28, 2012 at 7:07
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    For your third point: salmonella is a bacterium which needs rather high temperatures to die, unlike other harmful bacteria present in meat. Chicken is commonly contaminated with salmonella, while beef isn't. That's why food safety rules prescribe higher temps for chicken. So yes, undercooked chicken is less safe than beef. The answers to the first question you linked reflect the fact that some people consider the "less safe" part to still be safe enough for their level of risk aversion.
    – rumtscho
    Nov 28, 2012 at 12:17
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    I'd certainly have asked if the chicken is supposed to be pink—restaurants do sometimes make mistakes... Oh, and also, you can prepare your own "wow, that's pink" chicken in a 57°C water bath. Its weird.
    – derobert
    Nov 28, 2012 at 16:46
  • @Kristina I don't think it was covered - if this has the same cause, the presentation is different and requires the assumption that heritage chickens are more like ducks than commercial chickens. And my question is about chickens.
    – Abe
    Nov 28, 2012 at 18:43
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    @abe There are people who have gotten salmonella from chickens, see for example ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3127710 which starts with the words "Fresh and processed poultry have been frequently implicated in cases of human salmonellosis". I have never heard of salmonellas on beef, and there is no official prescription to cook beef to salmonella-killing temps, unlike chicken. I regard this as enough evidence to state that when it comes to salmonella, beef is safer than chicken. I have never looked into the details of the bacteria being inside vs. outside.
    – rumtscho
    Nov 28, 2012 at 20:36

2 Answers 2


Puffin meat is bright red. Duck meat can be rather red as well.

I have seen some cooking process that can make chicken red or pink, Jidori chickens for example cooked at low temperatures for long periods of time.

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    also any kind of smoking can add a pink layer around the surface of the meat
    – underarock
    Nov 28, 2012 at 20:13
  • @underarock- That is a truly beautiful thing. Nov 28, 2012 at 21:46

You did not mention whether the restaurant was committed to serving meat from free-range chickens. The living conditions can have a major effect on the meat produced.

I raise my own chickens, and I discovered that there is almost no "white meat" on a very active chicken. White meat is a product of inactivity. The more the muscles are used, the more blood flow is needed, so the more blood vessel development is needed, and thus, the darker the meat is.

I have not encountered chicken with pink or dark red meat when cooked among my own, but I have seen it in chickens that were not properly hung and "bled out" after slaughter. If I ever do encounter pink or red in chicken meat, I recook it if possible or discard it if not.

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