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Why does my roast chicken always do this?

No matter what method I use to roast a chicken, it seems I always end up with some - sometimes a lot - of bright red juice in the cavity of what certainly seems like a fully done chicken.
Most recently, I cooked a 4.2 pound free-range chicken per Thomas Keller's Bouchon recipe on Epicurious (which tasted fabulous). I cooked the chicken for 80 minutes at 450. The breast had reached 160 and the thighs 180 (and when we ate the thing, it was most definitely done). Yet as I pulled the chicken out of the oven, here comes the red juice pouring out on to the potatoes I'd sliced and put under the roasting rack. It was disgusting. I put the chicken on a plate and roasted the potatoes another 10 minutes or so, which must have been enough to kill any remaining bacteria because none of us got sick. But I'm still confused. This chicken had been frozen, but it had thawed in the refrigerator for three days, and though after two days it was still somewhat frozen, I can't imagine it wasn't completely thawed when it went in the oven. Does anyone have any idea why this is happening and/or what I can do to prevent it?

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  1. not sure - are you rinsing the chicken (inside & out) and drying with paper towels, also inside & out? When I unwrap the chicken from its packaging, I always do it over the sink & drain out the juices, then rinse & pat dry. If this isn't the problem, I hope someone else has a solution for you!

    1 Reply
    1. re: elfcook

      The breast meat of the organic chickens I cook often has red spots, and as many other people have written, it's probably because the birds are young. By the way, I too have heard many safety experts say not to rinse chicken before cooking because doing so spreads bacteria around your sink.

    2. Try letting the chicken rest in the oven before pulling it out (shorten the cooking time if you have to).

      1. Chickens are harvested very young these days and the red in the meat's juice is because the bones of the bird were not fully mature. It's not you!

        5 Replies
        1. re: lil magill

          Yes. This is merely a cosmetic issue. It helps to let the chicken rest for a while, too.

          1. re: lil magill

            So are you saying if I leave it in the oven for, say, another 10 minutes with the heat off and/or door open, that stuff will reabsorb? I hope so, because I'm already rinsing it inside and drying it well. The only way I've been able to eliminate this red stuff is to cook the chicken to the point that the breast, at least, is waaaaay dry.

            1. re: redthong

              resting time is strictly out of the oven time. I tent with foil then lay a doubled terry kitchen towel over meat that's resting. Resting allows the meat to retain it's juices when carved. Ever see a beautiful piece of rare meat turn suddently grey when cut? It did not rest!! Sometimes resting time can be as much as 20 minutes for T'day turkey....

              1. re: lil magill

                take the chicken out of the oven and let is rest at room temperature. Ask yourself what would JC do....(Julie Child that is)...let it rest at room temp for 5-10 minutes before carving.

                1. re: lil magill

                  Doesn't the skin end up soggy when you cover it so thoroughly?

            2. You know, I get the free range/ non-factory farm chicken and haven't had this problem. I wonder what type of chicken you are using and if it matters? Maybe they're not as young? No judgment here- -just an issue I've never experienced.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Procrastibaker

                FWIW, this has happened to me with the chickens we get from our local farmers. (free-range, all that jazz)

              2. With the temps that you are measuring you need not worry.

                2 Replies
                1. re: chefj

                  Are you SURE that the bird is actually cooked on the inside? What is the temperature of the bird cavity, not the breast or the thighs? Chicken is cooked when the juices run clear, not necessarily when your DIRT says so. I'm sorry, but I agree with the OP. The red stuff is a deal killer and it is disgusting.

                  I'd be inclined to cover the breast with foil for the last part of the roasting and just leave it in the oven fifteen minutes more. Yeah, yeah -- I'm going to be accused of ruining the bird, but a bloody bird is a ruined dinner for me.

                  Don't feel bad. Chickens aren't really all that easy to cook. Most recipes were developed when you could still find pretty little three pound birds in the supermarket, not these breast-heavy overgrown "young" birds that weigh in at nearly five pounds. That is a 67% increase in mass, i.e, going from a three pound bird to a five pound bird, and you need to make some adjustments. Would you feel the same way if the T-Day turkey was running red juice? No way, right? You would just adjust by cooking the bird slower and longer, and you would tent the breast to prevent it from drying out.

                  You could try a vertical roaster. That seems to eliminate the problem completely.

                  1. re: RGC1982

                    The temp of the cavity will be roughly just under the same temp as the oven toward the end of cooking.

                    Personally, I don't worry about the red juice, and just cook the thigh to just under 160F. But I can see that if one wants the fat to drizzle down over potatoes, then they might get grossed out by what looks like bloody water. I wonder how those potatoes came out?

                2. This has happened to me. I had no idea it was related to the harvesting age of the bird (as posted above). I thought, perhaps, the Purdue people were adding some sort of color-lock preservative that was causing bloody liquid to come out of a bird that measures 165 degrees fahrenheit on a thermometer that I know is calibrated. However, I'd serve it (after resting a bit) because temperature's the important thing here, not color.

                  Supporting my suspicions of the commercial chicken industry, when I buy a bird that's free-range "organic" this doesn't happen. Go figure.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: shaogo

                    This red liquid is not blood. The red comes from myoglobin. Changes in color are associated with changes in this molecule.

                  2. really glad to read your post and the replies. i have had this happen on numerous occasions with organic chickens, amish chickens, bell and evans chickens. after reading the replies i will attempt roasting again but resting longer. i agree with you the red stuff is gross, always makes me think it is undercooked even though the temps say otherwise.

                    1. I don't think your chicken was completely thawed. Even when the meat feels soft and thawed, the bones can still have ice crystals inside. What if you were to place a couple of slices of bread in the cavity to soak up excess juices? At least the juice wouldn't spill out when you move the finsihed bird.

                      1. I just made a roast chicken for the umpteenth time and I can say with some confidence what causes this. Your chicken is too cold. The cavity stays colder then the outside of the bird. It's either not sitting at room temp long enough or it is not thawed 100%. My cavity had a few ice crystals in it and, against my better judgment, I roasted anyway. Flood of red juice. In the past when I used fresh chickens that were brought to room temp before cooking I never had this issue.

                        A general lesson I have learned about cooking is to let meat rest before (to get the chill out) and after (to redistribute juices).

                        1. I always let take whole chickens out of the fridge an hour before I put them in the oven. This takes some of the chill off the bird and an hour isn't long enough to risk food safety. It's also important for the bird to be completely thawed. These days it can take as much 15 hours/pound to thaw poultry in the fridge.

                          I roast whole birds to 180F (measured in the breast) and let them stand at room temperature, loosely covered in foil, for at least 15 minutes before carving.

                          Consider that the recommended endpoint temperatures for meats are based solely on what's needed for microbiological safety. Sensory qualities such as texture, appearance, tenderness, flavour and moistness are not factored in to the recommendations. At 165F you get a safe chicken, not necessarily the best tasting, most tender and juicy chicken. I get a much better eating experience when I cook a whole bird to 180F.

                          Also, food safety experts now recommend against rinsing chicken before cooking. Rinsing contaminates your sink, and possibly the counter and who knows what else, with chicken juices. Then you have to stop and try to clean up properly before anything else comes in contact with those surfaces and gets contaminated. It's safer, and easier, not to rinse.

                          1. Your temps sound safe. I try to bring any meat up to as near room temp as possible before cooking, I use one of those aluminum defrosting platters all the time, my cast iron stove top griddle works pretty well too. Then the oven doesn't have to overcome the 40 degree or cooler internal temp from defrosting. Just don't leave the meat out at room temp all day and your safe, IMHO.

                            1. alice waters says let the bird sit outside of the fridge for an hour before sticking it in the the oven

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: tstar

                                I am no great cook I admit but I always roast a cut up at 350 for 60-70 minutes. When I roast a whole chicken it needs to be roasted for 120 minutes or I get red liquid and underdone chicken every time. I always use Lawrys seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder and a pinch of poultry seasoning and people come for miles for my chicken. I am always mystified that people like my cooking because I see far better cooks all around me.

                                1. re: SIMIHOUND

                                  hmmm, i've never tried lawrey's on a chick -- but i do eat it with cottage cheese. thanks for the idea. (typically, i just use everglades seasoning).

                              2. I always roast my chickens breast down, so that the breast is basted throughout (and indeed sitting in the good stuff in the pan.) That way, if I want to make sure it's really well-cooked, I can leave the chicken in the oven without concern that the breast will dry out. The legs don't really seem to suffer from additional heat.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                  somerville, that's just what I was going to say. I always roast chicken breast down, and leave it sit in the turned-off oven for about a half hour before serving it.
                                  I have never seen any red juices come out, so I wonder if the higher heat coming through the back of the chicken cooks those juices quicker.
                                  One thing I love about roasting the bird breast down is the crackly skin on the back and thighs, and the wonderful little 'oysters' under the crisp skin.

                                  1. re: jmcarthur8

                                    my family doesn't know that oysters exist. They've never seen them, as they all magically evaporate in the kitchen while the bird is being carved.

                                      1. re: jmcarthur8

                                        I won't tell your family if you don't tell mine. ;)

                                      2. re: sunshine842

                                        here also,along with the very crisp "parson's nose" It was years before the hubby caught on.

                                  2. I sometimes get red juices running in fully cooked chicken (instead of juices running clear) if I do a dry brine. Which I usually do. Also seems to happen with chickens that were in a chlorine bath, when I use Bell + Evans I don't think that it has happened - though I wouldn't be all that alarmed if it did but was still up to "temp".

                                    1. my experience has been that this happens 80% of the time i make a chicken whether it is organic or generic grocery brand. usually i tip it out after 45 minutes or so and continue cooking. if the juice is clear from the thigh when you remove the thermometer then the juice is clear in terms of being cooked enough. once the juice is out of the bird, it doesn't 'clarify' so what's in the cavity is in there regardless of the temp inside the cavity.

                                      the one and only time that the red funk was so bad as to frighten me about the safety of the meat was from a chicken I had frozen. i do think mine was not fully thawed (after a night in the fridge and 6 hours of water-changing in the sink) which contributed to a longer slower cook than i normally do. but ultimately i determined that the red liquid was because the chickens are harvested (too) young and freezing expands blood vessels and marrow inside the (too soft) bones. i'm not sure if i had a bird with a broken bone or what but the thing was unappealing even if i had cooked all of it to 180.

                                      the extra gross part of this was that it was a 6 pounder which makes me all the more disturbed by industrial meat. what kind of hormones must a bird be getting to be 6 pounds but too young? that said, i have the same taste and swooning guests from both quality birds all the time.

                                      main advice: buy it and cook it within a day or two. freezing a whole chicken (especially the cheap ones) is a bad plan.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: jenna321

                                        the "Turned Roasted Chicken" recipe in the 1997 version of Joy of Cooking has always been an absolutely failsafe recipe for me.

                                        You put the chicken on a V-rack -- on its side, then roast for 25 minutes for the first 3 pounds, plus 3 minutes for each additional pound. With a wooden spoon or a skewer and some paper towels, you then turn the bird over and roast again for the same time.

                                        Then turn the bird breast-side up and roast for another 20-25 minutes or until it reads 170 on an instant-read thermometer. Pull it out, let it rest for 10 minutes, then carve (by which time the temperature will have risen to 180)

                                        Comes out crispy and golden every single time, and I've only rarely had to extend the cooking time.

                                        (I now have a convection oven with a rotisserie...which does the turning for me and turns out an absolutely gorgeous bird every single time)

                                      2. Others have mentioned the bones,and I agree. The bones exude the blood in their marrow. Look at the juiced running from the thigh-that's your indicator.
                                        I also think it's a result of the high temp you roast at. Nothing wrong with it, but I think the high temps contribute to the blood. I've seen this happen when I sear bone-in chicken thighs. Kinda gross, I agree ;-)

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: monavano

                                          Enough of the high heat/bone marrow/organic 'free range vs. perdue chickens already! Bringing the chicken up to room temp for an hour prior to prepping and roasting will rid you of this problem. Also, as others have stated, you must let the chicken rest properly prior to carving. The protein in chicken shinks lengthwise when reaching temps up to 120 degrees, after than it shrinks widthwise. When the protein comes out of the oven, it rests letting 'some' of that moisture loss soak back up and the carry over cooking with the temp rising another 5 to 10 degrees will ensure that your chicken is cooked to perfecton without being dried out.

                                        2. If you use one of those bird roasting cone racks that fit into the cavity and roast the chicken vent down and neck end up, you get uniformly browned skin on all sides and no juices can collect inside.

                                          1. Alot of people do not let the bird get to room temp before cooking. When pulling out of fridge or if defrosted make sure that it is not still even slightly frozen especially inside the cavity by the thighs. I've seen many people think a bird is done, then do not take temp in the right part of the thigh thinking it is done. Also resting like others have said is incredibly important with chicken and meat. Also check both thighs sometimes one side may be done but the other is a few degrees cooler.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: clint1245

                                              I create a natural rack of thick onion slices in my roasting pan, butterfly (spatchcock) my chicken, season it, rub on lemon juice + olive oil, and set it skin side up atop the onions. Roast at 425 (17 min. per lb.), let rest on a platter lightly covered with foil. Juices and fats collect on the bottom of the pan. The result is a healthier meal and both white and dark meat are perfectly done.

                                            2. United States Department of Agriculture

                                              "The Color of Meat and Poultry"

                                              "14. What color is safely cooked poultry?
                                              Safely cooked poultry can vary in color from white to pink to tan. For safety when cooking poultry, use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature. For a whole chicken or turkey, check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. All the meat—including any that remains pink—is safe to eat as soon as all parts reach at least 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer."

                                              "15. Why is some cooked poultry pink?
                                              Chemical changes occur during cooking. Oven gases in a heated gas or electric oven react chemically with hemoglobin in the meat tissues to give it a pink tinge. Often meat of younger birds shows the most pink because their thinner skins permit oven gases to reach the flesh. Older animals have a fat layer under their skin, giving the flesh added protection from the gases. Older poultry may be pink in spots where fat is absent from the skin. Also, nitrates and nitrites, which are often used as preservatives or may occur naturally in the feed or water supply used, can cause a pink color. "


                                              2 Replies
                                                1. re: SuzanneSmokes

                                                  Great research, Suzanne. From same article, there is also this bit, that applies to color near the bone:

                                                  13. What causes dark bones in cooked poultry?
                                                  Darkening of bones and meat around the bones occurs primarily in young (6-8 weeks) broiler-fryer chickens. Since the bones have not calcified or hardened completely, pigment from the bone marrow seeps through the bones and into the surrounding area. Freezing can also contribute to this darkening. This is an aesthetic issue and not a safety one. The meat is safe to eat when all parts have reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.

                                                2. You are roasting the exterior of the chicken at a screaming hot temperature. This is converting the exterior meat into rubber bands.
                                                  200 F...............(sorry can't be bothered). How high does your oven go?
                                                  Maybe you're not using a high enough temperature.

                                                  1. Whether in the oven or on the grill, a spatchcocked bird is the way to go. No red juices, crispy skin, and it cuts down the cooking time by a lot.


                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: grampart

                                                      I don't get how an intact bird actually fails to get browned.

                                                    2. Do you truss your bird. I used to, but don't anymore. It doesn't come out as pretty, but cooks a lot more evenly.

                                                      21 Replies
                                                      1. re: TroyTempest

                                                        Interesting, since that's the whole point of tying the bird up in the first place.

                                                        1. re: monavano

                                                          The inside of the thighs are tied tight up next to the body, so they don't get as even of heat

                                                          1. re: TroyTempest

                                                            The point is that the thighs won't overcook- they're not supposed to get done before the rest of the bird.
                                                            To each their own!

                                                            1. re: monavano

                                                              The thighs are fattier, they need to cook longer than the breast, unless you want a dried out breast

                                                              1. re: TroyTempest

                                                                I think you cook chickens in opposite world!

                                                                1. re: monavano

                                                                  Nope, and Jacques Pepin agrees with me

                                                                  1. re: TroyTempest

                                                                    Oh, well then!

                                                                    But wait! What's this? Is it Jacques trussing the Ultimate Chicken?

                                                                    Why yes, he is.

                                                                    1. re: monavano

                                                                      seriously - truss if you want, don't if you don't.

                                                                      It affects the other camp not at all.

                                                                        1. re: monavano

                                                                          Wait - why are you saying "exactly?" You kinda started this with an opinion on TroyTempest's opinion.

                                                                          1. re: rudeboy

                                                                            Because what I see on CH all too often is this ridiculous push-back when someone's opinion is different.
                                                                            We disagreed and that should be that, but some people just can't stand the thought that they are not 100% correct, and we can go back and forth with quotes from vaunted chefs, but at the end of the day, it will not affect me cooking in my kitchen.
                                                                            Sharing an opinion, as I did, isn't a declaration of war or meant to insult anyone's cooking chops- it's a difference of opinion and I can post my opinion, too.
                                                                            It shouldn't get anyone's hackles up.

                                                                            1. re: monavano

                                                                              My hackles weren't up until this post. Winking or not

                                                                              "Uh, I don't need a lesson in spatchcocking. I do it from time to time, and I truss my whole bird ;-)"

                                                                              1. re: TroyTempest

                                                                                I'm sorry your feelings were hurt ;(

                                                                                1. re: monavano

                                                                                  yeah, even TT gets his fellings hurt. It's ok :)

                                                              2. re: monavano

                                                                Thighs definitely need higher heat than breasts.

                                                                1. re: kpaxonite

                                                                  Do you mean done temp?
                                                                  If so, I agree- there's no question about that.

                                                              1. re: TroyTempest

                                                                Uh, I don't need a lesson in spatchcocking. I do it from time to time, and I truss my whole bird ;-)

                                                            2. re: TroyTempest

                                                              No. The thighs need to cook to an internal temperature that is 10-15 degrees higher than the breast. Trussing prevents heat access to the inside of the thigh, making it harder to achieve the desired temp.

                                                              1. re: MRubenzahl

                                                                exactly. That is my experience. And many agree.

                                                                "I'm not a trusser" says Kristen Miglore, Food52's senior editor and author of their Genius Recipes feature. "For one thing, I'm lazy." (Kindred!) "But more importantly, trussing keeps the legs and thighs––which already take the longest to cook––tucked up against the body, so they cook even more slowly, leaving the rest of the poor chicken to dry out."


                                                            3. "Julia Child seasoned this roast chicken inside and out by packing sautéed vegetables, lemon slices and fresh herbs into the cavity, then rubbing the skin with butter. In typical French fashion, she trussed the bird to promote even cooking."


                                                              "Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out. The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.

                                                              Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird. Trussing is not difficult, and if you roast chicken often, it's a good technique to feel comfortable with. When you truss a bird, the wings and legs stay close to the body; the ends of the drumsticks cover the top of the breast and keep it from drying out. Trussing helps the chicken to cook evenly, and it also makes for a more beautiful roasted bird."


                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: monavano

                                                                I still don't care whether anybody trusses or not - sometimes I do, usually I don't.

                                                                But the feet end of the drumsticks of any chicken I've ever seen are hanging out in mid-air, and the "knee" end is at the very thinnest end of the breast meat, as they're on the opposite end of the body of the chicken from the breast meat -- and absolutely NOT covering the top of the breast.

                                                                So anatomically -- huh? And yeah - I saw that's a quote from Kelleher, so I'd ask him the same question.

                                                                Look at the photo in the link -- there is nothing covering that breast meat.

                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                  That would have to be one limber, double-jointed chicken!

                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                    Yeah, that statement threw me, too. I looked at the picture for a long time wondering what I was missing.

                                                                2. happens to me quite often. I just take to tipping my pan or the bird about 45 min into the cooking (like some upstream posted) and have stopped worrying about it.

                                                                  The only posts that seemed relevant to me (based on what I know happens in my kitchen) is that I don't often have time to let my chicken sit out at room temp for 30 min (or however long) before I roast them. So that might contribute for me - though the meat is cooked through for sure, just the "red liquid" in the cavity . . .

                                                                  So you're not alone ;)