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Can Fully Cooked Chicken Still Be a Little Pink?

Can Fully Cooked Chicken Still Be a Little Pink?

Sometimes, chicken remains pink even after you cook it for as long as recommended. Can fully cooked chicken still be a little pink?

Chicken can still be fully cooked even though it is a bit pink. There are other reasons for a pink color besides the meat being undercooked. Smoked chicken is often pink no matter how well you cook it, and bone marrow pigment may give the chicken a pink color. 

I always use a meat thermometer to check if my chicken is done. If you don’t use a meat thermometer and go by the color, you might overcook the meat. Overcooked meat is rubbery and not tasty. 

Can Fully Cooked Chicken Still Be a Little Pink?

Yes, fully cooked chicken can still be a little pink. Just because it is a bit pink does not mean it is unsafe to eat. 

It goes by the internal temperature of the meat. When the internal temperature reaches a certain level, the meat is safe to eat and you don’t have to worry about it being a little pink.

The Internal Temperature

Once a chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 Fahrenheit / 75 Celsius it is safe to eat. That temperature is high enough to kill all the harmful bacteria that there might be in the chicken. 

Using a meat thermometer is much better and safer than trying to estimate the temperature without one. 

Reasons for Pink Chicken

Pink chicken isn’t always undercooked chicken. There are many reasons why chicken might be pink even though it is fully cooked. 

Bone Marrow Pigment

Depending on the age of the chicken at death, it might have myoglobin in its bones. Myoglobin helps the chicken store oxygen and is present if the chicken is younger.

When you cook the chicken, myoglobin may leave the bones and enter the meat. This will keep the meat looking pink even if it is fully cooked. The meat around the bones will be pinker than elsewhere. 

Smoked Chicken

Smoking a chicken changes the color of the meat. This can create pinkness throughout the meat or only near the surface. 

Smoked Chicken

If the chicken has been injected with liquid “smoke,” a certain part of the chicken may be pink. The pinkness may be spread out of the chicken has been smoked in the true sense. 

If the chicken is smoked, it will be a bit pink no matter what you do. If you cook the meat long enough or even overcook it, it will still have a pinkish color. 

Frozen Meat

If your chicken was frozen, protein might escape from the bird’s bones and into the meat surrounding it. The brown-colored protein can sometimes make the fully cooked meat look undercooked. 

The Meat Might Be Undercooked

Possibly, the meat actually is undercooked and not only appears that way. Food thermometers are relatively cheap (around $20-30) and give you a reliable way to check if your food is done.

If it isn’t, go back to cooking the food until the temperature is where it should be. 

Risks of Undercooked Meat

Some types of meat are safer when undercooked than others. This is not true for chicken. You might be fine eating rare steak, but don’t try to eat “rare” chicken.

There are many different bacteria that might attack you if you eat partly raw chicken. Different bacteria often have similar effects. You will get sick to your stomach and might have cramping as well. 

Many people have gotten sick from undercooked meat before. People don’t necessarily realize the cause of their sickness and think it might have been the flu. A short but intense “flu” is probably from bacteria in food. 

Most likely, you won’t need to go to the hospital. People usually recover from bacteria in their food on their own in a fairly short time. The sickness can be intense, but it may be completely over in only 24 hours. 

How Do You Know if You Are in Danger?

Some bacteria found on undercooked chicken, such as E.Coli, can be genuinely dangerous. If you have a fever of more than one or two degrees above normal, see blood in your stool, or are still sick after two days, call a doctor. 

Cooking Won’t Make Spoiled Meat Edible

If you have any meat that may have gone a little bad, get rid of it. Don't think that cooking it, no matter how thoroughly, will make it safe to eat. 

Cooking spoiled meat will kill all of the bacteria. However, bacteria produce toxins when they multiply. Cooking will not get rid of these toxins. 

Don’t Overcook the Meat

If you falsely assume that the chicken is still undercooked because of its color, you may undercook the meat. Overcooked meat is better than unsafe undercooked meat, but overcooked meat isn’t tasty. It may be dry, rubbery, tough, and too much effort to chew. 

When you overcook the chicken, the color changes and becomes dull and light yellow. Properly cooked chicken is white or pink and not yellowish. 

Key Takeaways to Chicken Being a Little Pink

The right way to tell if a chicken is safe to eat is with a meat thermometer. If the internal temperature is above 165F/75C, then the chicken is safe to eat.

You don’t have to worry about the chicken being a little pink as long as it is hot enough. Heat will kill all of the bacteria before it fully changes the color of the chicken. 

Never try to cook meat that is starting to go bad. Bacteria may have already created harmful toxins that you can’t remove from the meat. Heat will kill the bacteria but won’t remove the toxins. 

Don’t eat undercooked meat. You could get food poisoning plus many other diseases. People are right to be careful with undercooked meat. 

Lindsay Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! I created this website to be a resource for everyone who wants to make the best home possible.