Cooking poultry can be tricky business. If you’re anything like us, you examine (and re-examine) chicken for any possible pink areas before you dig in. And though most folks will tell you that if you cook until it’s white, it will be fine to consume, the fear of being sickened by dangerous bacteria, like salmonella, is a terrifying reality.

That’s why we’ve spent time investigating just what it takes to ensure that poultry is safe and ready to eat. Interestingly enough, we’re slightly embarrassed to admit that we had been preparing it wrong the whole time—and we’re guessing that you probably have been, too.

So, without further ado, THIS is how you should be testing your favorite white meat. Spoiler alert: It’s much more straightforward than you may think!


It ain’t in the juices

Stop me if you’ve heard of this one before…

“Chicken is done when its juices run clear.” That’s a pretty common thought process, right? After all, tons of cookbooks and home chefs will tell you that this is the secret to making sure that you are giving your poultry the attention it deserves.

Now, we think that this misconception originally caught on because it is, quite simply, an easy “rule of thumb” to remember, but as it turns out, poultry hovering under the 165-degrees F mark can still produce clear juices.

In fact, this flesh-colored fluid is actually called myogloblin, and according to experts, even sizzling temperatures sometimes don’t have an effect on its hue. This means that if you use this faulty system, then you may end up OVERCOOKING your chicken—not exactly a foolproof culinary method!


Pink and purple can be your friend

If you haven’t been cooking your poultry according to the aforementioned “juice color system”, then we bet that you usually cut the meat first in order to examine what’s inside.

While we completely understand that you don’t necessarily want to serve your dinner guests pink – or sometimes purple – chicken, it isn’t necessarily a sign that the chicken is under-cooked.

As a matter of fact, it’s quite common to encounter purple pieces around the bones of the chicken. Food52 actually cooked a thigh to 180-degrees—well above the required temperature—and these areas were still purple. Interesting!


165 is the magic number

meat thermometer in turkey in an ovenTheDomesticGeek
As you’ve surely surmised, simply looking at a piece of chicken will not clue you in on whether or not it is fully-cooked and safe to eat. The ONLY way to know if a piece of poultry is ready to be served is to stick a food thermometer into the thickest part of the bird; if it reads as anything over 165 degrees Fahrenheit, then it’s time to eat!

For even more common (and not so common!) grilling myths, be sure to check out this post by our friends over at Food52. It’s time to start treating your meat right!

What do you think of this poultry-related misconception? Was this revelation surprising to you? How do you ensure that your chicken and turkey is safe to eat? Tell us all about your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!