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Why does my roast chicken always do this?

redthong Oct 24, 2009 02:29 PM

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?

  1. elfcook Oct 24, 2009 03:01 PM

    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. ipsedixit Oct 24, 2009 03:08 PM

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

      1. l
        lil magill Oct 24, 2009 03:15 PM

        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
          Karl S Oct 24, 2009 03:45 PM

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

          1. re: lil magill
            redthong Oct 24, 2009 03:50 PM

            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
              lil magill Oct 24, 2009 03:58 PM

              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
                rtms Oct 24, 2009 07:12 PM

                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
                  ChristinaMason Aug 15, 2010 06:12 PM

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

            2. p
              Procrastibaker Oct 24, 2009 03:58 PM

              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
                MrsCheese Oct 24, 2009 08:18 PM

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

              2. chefj Oct 24, 2009 04:01 PM

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

                1 Reply
                1. re: chefj
                  RGC1982 Oct 24, 2009 08:23 PM

                  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.

                2. shaogo Oct 24, 2009 07:17 PM

                  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
                    paulj Oct 24, 2009 08:46 PM

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

                  2. f
                    foodwich Oct 25, 2009 05:31 AM

                    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. h
                      hortscribe Oct 25, 2009 07:36 AM

                      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. tzakiel Aug 15, 2010 05:56 PM

                        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. Manitoba Chicken Sep 10, 2010 08:15 AM

                          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. d
                            dijon Sep 10, 2010 09:13 AM

                            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. t
                              tstar Sep 10, 2010 12:58 PM

                              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
                                SIMIHOUND Sep 10, 2010 06:55 PM

                                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
                                  alkapal Sep 11, 2010 11:27 PM

                                  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. s
                                somervilleoldtimer Sep 11, 2010 07:10 AM

                                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
                                  jmcarthur8 Nov 12, 2010 10:13 AM

                                  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
                                    sunshine842 Nov 12, 2010 11:12 AM

                                    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: sunshine842
                                      jmcarthur8 Nov 13, 2010 07:43 AM

                                      Ditto, sunshine! ;-)

                                      1. re: jmcarthur8
                                        sunshine842 Nov 13, 2010 10:03 AM

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

                                        1. re: sunshine842
                                          jmcarthur8 Nov 13, 2010 10:31 AM


                                      2. re: sunshine842
                                        lcool Sep 20, 2012 08:49 AM

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

                                  2. d
                                    DukeOfSuffolk Sep 11, 2010 10:50 PM

                                    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. j
                                      jenna321 Nov 9, 2010 09:28 PM

                                      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
                                        sunshine842 Nov 9, 2010 11:09 PM

                                        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. monavano Nov 12, 2010 11:45 AM

                                        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
                                          RhodeIslandRed Mar 3, 2011 02:44 PM

                                          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. t
                                          therealdoctorlew Nov 13, 2010 11:44 AM

                                          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. c
                                            clint1245 Mar 9, 2011 11:38 AM

                                            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
                                              brooktroutchaser Jul 3, 2011 05:56 AM

                                              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. s
                                              SuzanneSmokes Nov 25, 2011 06:45 PM

                                              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
                                                xiaobao12 Aug 9, 2012 10:08 AM

                                                Thank you for posting this Suzanne.

                                                1. re: SuzanneSmokes
                                                  MRubenzahl Sep 20, 2012 08:30 AM

                                                  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.

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