Last night I was grilling chicken thighs on a barbecue and I was told that if there was any pink inside them, they are not safe to eat. My question is twofold:

(a) Is this true?

(b) Is there a way to tell that doesn't involve cutting the thighs open to have a look at the colour?

  • There is a similar question on the temperature one needs to cook chicken
    – papin
    Jul 28, 2010 at 2:53
  • @papin: I had a look at that question but it seems as though that's more about baking rather than grilling, so oven temperatures etc. weren't of any help to me.
    – bryn
    Jul 28, 2010 at 5:40

4 Answers 4


Pink has to do with blood, which typically runs clear once it reaches a certain temperature. This is not a great rule of thumb for making delicious food.

It's particularly problematic with thighs, because they contain a vein that can remain red or pink well through the cooking process. This is less so if the chicken is washed or the veins cleaned.

The key is temperature, not color. If you have a meat thermometer, aim for 165-170°F (74-77°C), keeping in mind that meat will continue cooking for 5-10°F (3-6°C) once it's pulled and allowed to rest for 5 minutes. If you don't have a thermometer, aim for meat that is responsively tender but not too firm, opaque rather than transparent, and not slimy or gelatinous in texture. Thighs are a little more tolerant than breasts when it comes to drying out because they have more fat, but nothing is sadder than overcooked meat (except maybe salmonella poisoning).

  • the FDA says 165 for poultry, and you need to make sure that you are temping the chicken while not touching the bones at all. Jul 27, 2010 at 23:51
  • 3
    Whenever anyone writes "If you have a meat thermometer" it should be replaced with "If you don't have a meat thermometer, go out and buy one." They are cheap and you will never have to even think about whether you are poisoning your guests or not. Sep 7, 2012 at 21:06

From a food safety perspective, the only meaningful measure is temperature. Hit 165f for 10 seconds throughout the thigh, and you're good. The nice thing about thighs, at least in my opinion, is that the temperature for quality significantly exceeds any target safety temperatures. I prefer my thighs to be closer to 180f, with meat visibly beginning to pull from the bone (sort of similar to what you would see if you were making ribs). I find that thighs cooked to the minimum safe temperature tend to have a gummy, unpleasant texture. So if I'm willing to eat the thigh, you can bet it's safe.


I have found that when i cut up chicken to be used in curry or what not, the chicken is fully done when I can cut it easily with a spatula. If it sinks through and doesn't cut all the way then it's not done.

  • 1
    Unfortunately 'spatula' is an overloaded term, so it is difficult to know if you mean to refer to a bench scraper, a fish slice, a frosting spatula or a bowl scraper. If you choose to edit and include this information, please also specify the material it is made from, since a plastic or silicone spatula will probably perform differently to a metal spatula. Sep 22, 2012 at 10:03

I have heard that you can stick a fork in and if it comes out with a light shake the thigh is done, if it is hard to shake the thigh off it needs more cooking.

For me I just time it, I know how long it takes for the different recipes I make.

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