We have recently been asked about the color of cooked chicken on the grill, and why it sometimes might appear pink. We can assure you, it is not because the chicken is undercooked! Food safety is our highest priority, and there are systems in place to assure both quality and safety of the food we serve everywhere on campus. The goal of this blog post is to answer the specific question regarding how the chicken breast in Raymond Dining Hall is cooked.
The color of cooked poultry can vary greatly based on a number of factors. Everything from white, to tan, to pink, are safe to eat under the stipulation that the appropriate temperature, 165°F, has been reached. Here is some information about what influences the end color of a safely cooked piece of poultry…
In young birds, oven gases readily permeate the skin creating a chemical reaction involving hemoglobin while cooking, therefore altering the final color. Older birds have a thicker layer of fat in between the skin and the meat making it less likely to develop a pink color. Naturally occurring (emphasis on naturally!) nitrates and nitrites in feed and water can also determine the color of the meat both before and after cooking, as can a marinade that includes a nitrite or nitrate-rich ingredient. While it is not necessarily possible to identify one single reason why any piece of poultry might appear to have a pink color, we can certainly hypothesize. For example, garlic in a marinade may play a role as it finds itself on the low-end of the medium category for nitrate content of common vegetables. However, with all things science, it is not a hard and fast rule that garlic will have enough nitrates on its own to change the color of poultry 100% of the time. The range is vast, as no two cloves of garlic are the same, just as no two pieces of chicken breast will be exactly the same. See where I am going with this?
You could have a very young piece of chicken breast, and a clove of garlic with a nitrate content at the high end of its determined range, making for a pink colored piece of cooked chicken. Or, the complete opposite – older chicken, low nitrate content in the garlic, and a white piece of cooked chicken.
In Raymond, we marinate the chicken on the grill with oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. It is then cooked in the oven and finished on the grill. The temperature is checked for every single batch we cook to ensure food safety, no exceptions. If you ever have a concern regarding food safety on campus, we are here to help! All dining managers and supervisors are ServSafe certified, the national standard for food safety management certification, and can address your questions. You can also send us an email at email@example.com.
Sarah Ereio, RD, LDN
Registered Dietitian | Providence College Dining Services