Why Does This Drumstick Look Dark Red? Is It Safe?

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Dear Home-Ec 101,
I have a question concerning prepping chicken legs. My family LOVES chicken legs but the unsightly blood that sometimes comes along with chicken legs leaves us all a little disgusted. I’ve read about and tried the salt brine method for removing the blood but have had almost no success.
Any tips?
Squeamish in Squamish
Heather says

You’ve taken me back to college and an obsession with all things Gir. It’s got chicken legs!

On a more serious note, I know the feeling. Any kind of pink or red in chicken and my internal gag reflex goes haywire, “Step away from the chicken, step away from the chicken, salmonella, salmonella!”

However, you’ll be relieved to know that the reddish color you’re seeing has nothing to do with whether or not the chicken has been cooked adequately.

The bones of young vertebrates (animals with a backbone) haven’t fully ossified or made the change from cartilage to bone. If you’re ever in need of a nap, google poultry skeleton ossifcation and age determination. That’s some exciting stuff, right there. What it comes down to is that mass produced poultry is sent to slaughter very young.

If you remember health class at all, you may remember that the marrow of long bones is where the production of red blood cells occurs. The interior of a marrow bone  is a rich red due to the amount of hemoglobin found within. Because the bones of young poultry are still porous, freezing and slow cooking allows some of that hemoglobin to move from the marrow of the bone into the surrounding flesh.

This may not be pretty, but it is not at all a health risk.

Generally, unless you’re raising and butchering your own chickens, like my friend Ang, you’re stuck with whatever age chicken is available. This means your chickens will almost always be on the young side and you’re more likely to encounter this red discoloration.

You can reduce, but probably not eliminate the discoloration by trying the following:

Do not freeze bone-in chicken.

Keep in mind that chicken does not store for long in a refrigerator and should be kept on the bottom shelf to prevent cross-contamination.

Cook chicken quickly by par-boiling before grilling.

Season a pot of water, bring to a full boil add the chicken drumsticks and reduce the heat as soon as the water returns to a simmer. (Need to know the difference between boiling and simmering?) Simmer the drumsticks for 5 minutes, remove from the heat, cover the pot tightly, and let the chicken cook in the water for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the water, drain on paper towels, and immediately grill or bake (and baste with your favorite sauce) the chicken drumsticks until they reach 165F.

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com

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