The other night I made chicken, I always make a whole chicken because I like to have a variety of different pieces and don’t like anything to go to waste. I found, as I had been finding the last 3-4 times I had made a chicken (using different methods from roasting to stewing) that the legs, wings, basically any joint or bone was bleeding quite a bit when I would cut into it even after the internal temperature of the chicken was well into the safety zone for cooking poultry. It had even caused some of the meat near the bone to be slightly discoloured. I wondered a bit about it, but thought little of it because the temperature was correct at various spots in the bird so I knew it was safe to eat.

It wasn’t until we sat down to eat when ‘the kid’ mentioned that she had a conversation about how sometimes there was blood in her chicken at our house and the person had replied that I could go to jail for serving it, that I realized just how uneducated some people are about food safety and poultry. Not to mention our Canadian justice system, but that’s a topic for a different blog.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Cooking your poultry and handling it safely are very important to keeping you and your family healthy. I just think there is a bit of a misunderstanding about what is safe and what isn’t. I decided to look into my bloody chicken to find out just what is going on – from the USDA – here is the skinny.

To make sure the poultry you are eating is safe make sure that it has a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees that you check with a meat thermometer by inserting it into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. It’s about temperature, not colour.

There are many reasons for blood in your chicken – the two main reasons being that a) a chicken was not fully bled out before it’s heart stopped beating leaving little blood spots in the meat or as in my case b) blood is made in the bones of chicken just like in people, so there may be some residual blood that comes out when bones are cut – such as those at the joint of wings or drumsticks and thighs.

In young fryer chickens, such as the ones I normally buy from Aubreys – even though they are weeks older than the ones sold normally, the bones haven’t had a chance to calcify entirely and it can cause pigment from the bone marrow to seep through into the meat causing discolouration. It turns meat dark when cooking and it is perfectly safe to eat. In fact, freezing adds to the amount of blood that comes out when cooking. 

This is what had been happening to me. I used to shop on Thursdays, then leave my bird in the fridge for a day and cook it on the weekend. Lately I had been shopping Tuesdays and freezing my chicken until the weekend. I had noticed more blood when I would cut the joint of my safely cooked bird. Now I know that freezing the bird contributed to this. 

It may not be appetizing to eat the red parts of your chicken – and you can feel free to skip them. But they do have more iron – and are perfectly safe as long as they have reached a minimum of 165 degrees.  

Remember that undercooked and raw chicken can have bacteria that can make you sick. Be sure to wash your hands, knives and any surface areas that touch pre-cooked chicken with soap and hot water. Also remember to use a meat thermometer to ensure you are cooking your meats to the proper temperature.

** As a side note – the name of this post comes from an SNL skit that has been stuck in my head for days. It goes on way too long and it wasn’t that funny when I was watching it, but damned if I don’t laugh thinking back to it now.