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in the chicken cavity - kidney? liver?

I made Marcella's roast chicken with lemon for the 4th or 5th time this weekend. I noticed that one of the other times I made it, there were organ-y bits in the juices that seemed to run out from inside the cavity, despite rinsing.

This time, when I rinsed, I inspected more closely and was able to dislodge soft pink-brown pieces lodged under other tissue in the cavity. What is it and why is it in there?

I have never read about removing anything (beside the bage of giblets) before. Does anyone else find this mystery part? These weren't the highest quality birds - could that be the problem?


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  1. If it's soft and comes in blobby bits, it's probably liver. However, it's more common for the heart to remain stuck to the ribcage through cleaning and cooking.

    1. Was it a freshly killed chicken or one from the grocery wrapped in plastic? A lot of times when the chickens are in teh grocery they use a standard method of taking out the "guck" and leave some behind under some of the bony parts near the spine....
      Check when you buy the chicken if there are soft mushy parts up near the spine of the chicken (in the cavity)....they come out fairly easily but because it's usually between the ribs it's hard for a knife to take out, but easier for you to take out with your hands. They won't make you sick, but if you don't like the taste of liver, you won't like how they taste....

      1. Someone who's chopped far more chickens that I have once told me that the small amount of organ tissue that's stuck to the backbone is the spleen. Don't know if that's true.

        1. The somewhat amorphous organs pressed tightly against either side of the lower spine that are often left in the chicken body cavity are the kidneys. The spleen (which isn't a "paired" organ in any case) is elswhere. Here's a diagram that may help: http://www.msstate.edu/dept/poultry/p...

          1 Reply
          1. re: FlyFish

            I used this diagram a few times in the past. I often find 2 little organs up near the backbone far down in the cavity. They have to be kidneys. Certainly not liver, lungs or spleen

          2. I know exactly what you're talking about - it's not a heart and it's not anything remotely close to a liver. They look like small kidneys to me. I've always been unsure what those little things are! Considering that all chickens we buy are hens, (unless it's a capon) it may be an ovary(?). I'd tend to think that kidneys are much larger, but I'm certainly not a bird expert. Who knows. The diagram shows the spleen too far away from the spine and these things (if I may interject here) are attached to the spine - correct sloped?

            1. My wife told me it's the lungs. She's often correct.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Cpt Wafer

                It doesn't look anything like a lung ... it's reddish brown and solid. At least in mine.

                But it cooks through and I just ignore it.

              2. In my experience, it's part of the kidneys, which are lodged in chambers on either side of the backbone. Part of cleaning a dressed chicken is checking to make sure they have been removed and, if not, removing them, as they can add a slightly acrid note to the pan juices.

                1. I have always called that stuff "mud meat" and want to get that stuff cleaned out if at all possible. Most, if not all, is embeded along the spine within the thigh part. There is also a tendon (diaphram if not mistaken) about 1/2 way within the thigh if it was to be cut. I generally yank the tendon with a hemostat to do a good job cleaning

                  Years ago granny said cleaning those areas real good helped keep the bird fresh in the fridge. Although difficult to do many years ago, it is almost a must to "ice" down the bird if the fridge seemed to have a warm spot.

                  1. Those are the remnants of the kidneys.

                    1. Love FlyFish's diagram, one that identifies the eye but not the feet. Therein lies the rub. I use the chicken and the icky bits--but separately. I don't want to leave any bits in the cavity because: a) they don't help in the flavor of the chicken as we know it, and b) I want all those bits for other even more delicious preparations.

                      1. Didn't y'all dissect things in biology class? No hunters out there who clean their own stuff? I've dressed game and helped my father dress chickens.
                        The things mentioned above (livers, hearts, gizzards) that come in the packets with dressed fowl from the market are easy to identify because they are solid. The kidneys are smaller versions of the ones that you see in the store from other animals like beef. Same with fragile things like sweetbreads, spleens, etc. but in fowl they are usually too small to identify. Sometime in fowl, you'll find undeveloped eggs that haven't formed shells yet that are delicacies in some cultures. The lungs are identifiable spongy things; I've eaten "light soup" in China made from them. Ducks have a honker that looks like a bellows.
                        All this stuff however doesn't just rattle around loose inside the body cavity. It's inside a mass of tissue, blood vessels, and membranes like the diaphram, and that's what you find in the recesses of the backbone of a chicken that hasn't been completely cleaned.
                        It's not going to kill you if you eat it but some of it spoils quickly. You probably want to wash the inside of any fowl well before you cook it

                        1. Kidneys, yup. I never serve them, but I always eat them if I'm eating the lower back. If they were gonna hurt me they'd have done it sixty years ago...

                          Those little whitish bean doodads, on the other hand, I just strip out and trash.

                          1. The chicken kidneys are my favorite part (turkeys too).
                            Especially when the bird is roasted breast up, and kidneys down -- so they get all juicy. And when we make stock from chicken backs I eat the kidneys after they are boiled.

                            My mother would clean them out of the chicken, claiming they had a bitter taste. I asked her if she ever tasted them. She said no, since they were bitter.

                            They are not at all bitter, but they taste a bit like liver. But I do not put liver in my chicken stock.

                            The roast duck we get from Chinatown has luscious sweetbreads embedded in the fat near the neck. Tiny but tasty.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Joel

                              Count me in with Will and Joel: I love to munch on chicken (or any fowl) backbones and always have eaten the "kidneys", even when I was a child.... But then I like all kinds of innards! Just last week had a fabulous "crispy pork intestine" dish at a Sichuan place in San Francisco.

                              1. re: RWCFoodie

                                Yes, the test of a well-roasted bird is that the spine and limb ends are tasty....

                            2. Let's see what CH intelligence was like from three years ago...


                              Love these discussions AND those gnarly goodies. If you're sharing a bird with me, scoop 'em out and pass 'em over!

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: Mike R.

                                Did that thread give an answer? The ilium is a part of the hip bone not an organ, and the "oyster" is by no means an organ, it's just part of the meat near the thigh joint. I'm still confused, but being an anatomy student I can tell you they look very much like small kidneys, I only hesitate because I figured the kidneys would be bigger. It would be much easier to have a truly whole chicken and dissect the darn thing myself!

                                1. re: HaagenDazs

                                  Correct observation on the ilium and "oyster" - I'm an anatomy student as well (admittedly 40 years ago, but I don't think chickens have changed much since I was an undergrad).

                                  I can't believe this continues to be such a source of confusion and controversy - the organs in question are kidneys, there is no question. Here's a description from the USDA poultry site: "There are two tri-lobed kidneys, one on each side of the ventral surface of the vertebral column. This pair of kidneys is embedded in the deep bony crypts of the pelvic and synsacral area of the skeleton." They're reasonably large organs (typically 3 to 4 cm in length and 0.5 to 1 cm in width), certainly larger in relation to body size than human kidneys, one of which fits comfortably in the palm of an average hand.

                                  Organs in that area of the abdominal cavity that look like very small mammalian kidneys are testes - they tend to be yellowish in color rather than dark red.

                                  1. re: FlyFish

                                    I should have clarified too, I WAS and anatomy student. But all our chickens are hens, not roosters so testicles should be out of the question... unless they're (gasp!) FROM OUTER SPACE!!! Ok, I'm making myself laugh ;-) And I'm making assumptions here (assuming sloped and I are talking about the same thing) but the organs that I usually see in the chickens are no where near as big as 3-4 cm... more like 1 cm in length and .5 or less in width.

                                    1. re: HaagenDazs

                                      Are you sure about all chickens offered for sale being females? I was curious about that so tried to check into it before my post - I couldn't confirm that to be the case and in fact found some information that sort-of contradicted it but wasn't entirely clear. Given that broiling chickens only live a few weeks between egg and market, I wonder if they're even sexually mature. My wife did some work for a pharmaceutical firm related to Campylobacter infection in chicken farms a couple years ago, so I'll check with her and see if she knows anything one way or the other.

                                      1. re: FlyFish

                                        Cock or capon is a male. You'd pay more than for chicken...

                                        1. re: Karl S

                                          I agree that cock or rooster would be an older male, and you don't (at least I don't) typically see those for sale. Capon is a surgically or chemically neutered male, which is a special case that is usually allowed to grow larger than the usual supermarket chicken and results in a different product. I'm asking about the standard run-of-the-mill two and a half pound broiler chicken - all females?

                                          1. re: FlyFish

                                            Most meat chickens are Cornish cross breeds. The males put on weight more efficiently, therefore faster, than females. Many females are culled at hatching for that reason, which means most chickens you buy in the store are males, whether fryers (5-6weeks), broilers (7-8weeks) or roasters (about 10 weeks). Capons are castrated males at least 12 weeks of age. If not castrated, after that age, they begin to sexually mature and turn into cocks or roosters and start to turn very tough (excellent for coq au vin). Cornish game hens are Cornish cross females killed at about 4 weeks of age. Yes, females can be raised to much larger sizes, it just takes a few weeks longer, which means less profit. We raise mostly females for ourselves because they do not have as many problems with their hearts and legs giving out. When butchering the birds, the kidneys do sometimes get stuck next to the spine and the "white bean doodads" are the testicles.

                                    2. re: FlyFish

                                      Yep. Kidneys red, testes yellow.

                                      More diagrammatic descriptions here: (Ctrl f for kidney)


                                2. Bless you people! I've been trying to figure out what these delicious little tidbits are for YEARS. People either stare at me blankly like they've never noticed such a thing (even telling them it's on every KFC thigh in existence doesn't help), or they insist that it's the oyster, which it's not. I'm really not an organ meat sort of person, but I LOVE these things. Rich and musty and sweet. mmmmmmmmmm

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: juster

                                    ewww...I hate those things! They taste horrible! But yeah my Mom and sister and in love with them so I guess it depends on your palate! I loved the answer "my wife says...she's usually right" Good man ;p I guess the main thing is that it's not gonna kill u and if you like how it tastes, then keep it, if not, then take it out....

                                  2. Don't remove it or trash it! That stuff tastes incredible... whenever I have anything to do with a roast chicken I snaffle those bits for myself. Ironically I'm not an 'organ meat' lover, but I can't get enough of them from a roasted chicken. When I was a kid I always demanded the neck, parsons nose, and those little 'bits'... nowadays I leave the parsons nose alone because it's just fat, but I still love the 'bits'.

                                    1. The tasty organs in question are the kidneys, not the lungs.
                                      You can stop fighting with your girlfriend over it.