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Roasting Chicken--The Pink & The VW-done

So there I was last night, following Tom Keller's roast chicken recipe... The brined bird was seared on the cooktop and then cooped at 475F for 45 minutes in a wood-fired oven. I pull the skillet from the oven *exactly* when instructed (the internal temp at the thigh being 155F--so will rise to 165F after resting). It rests...

I ask Wahine what piece she wants, and the answer is "Thigh". As I carve it, the jus runs (a good sign, I think), and near the bone there's the slightest hint of pink...

UNACCEPTABLE, Wahine says. BACK IN THE OVEN. A discussion ensues, ending with Wahine claiming to know more about chicken than Tom Keller, and me claiming to have learned my lesson--to cook the sh$t out of any chicken I prepare for her.

Anyone else have this issue? Is it normal/safe (as I believe) to have this hint of pinkness at the bone?
Does anyone else have the squick factor/squeamishness over this that Wahine does? More importantly, how do you cook the bird so that the thighs are done (a/k/a have the sh$t cooked out of them) without also overcooking the rest of the bird?


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  1. I roast the bird breast side down. That keeps the breast juicy, and the thighs done perfectly. I agree with Wahine about the ick factor on underdone chicken. Plus the flavor of the thighs is so much richer when they are falling off the bone. And the crispy back skin! Delicious!

    1 Reply
    1. re: jmcarthur8

      I have the same ick factor going with pink at the bone.

      I'm going to try your method next time I roast a whole chicken, great idea.

    2. Put me in the camp with Wahine. Both in liking my chicken well done and not caring whether Keller likes it or not.

      I suppose the easiest way to is to cut the bird into pieces so that you can cook the thighs longer. I also think spatchcocking is preferable to roasting it in the "round" as far as even cooking goes.

      1. I remember two recent discussions about this (and agree about the squick factor, though these threads have helped somewhat:



        1. I don't like to use color as an indication of doneness in chicken ESPECIALLY when cooking with wood or charcoal.
          The woodsmoke very often creates a smoke ring which many people do not know about. You usually hear about it with brisket
          Now, you serve this to a rare-averse person, they'll complain no matter how much explanation you do (and I did plenty of explaining in the restaurant business).
          "LOOK the meat is WELL DONE on the inside. How can it be rare on the OUTSIDE"
          "I don't know, but I don't eat rare meat."
          etc etc

          Same (to some extent) with fowl. I served charcoal fired rotisserie chicken for years. The "dark" meat tends to pick up pink coloration (due to smoke ring effect) more than the breast and I had various people complain (for years - "my chicken is pink, I don't want it").
          Some accept the explanation, others know chicken better than me and refuse to hear anything (hey, just like Wahine!).
          I'd explain, "Our chicken is brined and cooked in a charcoal oven. The wood smoke creates a pinkish smoke ring which turns some of the meat pinkish. Raw chicken is opaque, kinda like raw fish, you know? Its not like beef which starts out raw and red, then changes to gray when cooked. Chicken, like fish, changes *texture* when cooked. Look, the pinkish meat is not "raw" and gooey like uncooked chicken or fish: its firm. Plus our birds are cooked to 165, ensuring its cooked..."
          "Yeah, well its not cooked" they'd say

          The leg bone can be especially problematic. Commercial chickens are slaughtered quite young, before their bone structure is fully mature or hardened. This allows marrow pigment to leach out in the cooking process. It begins as a salmon color, but turns blackish the more well-done the chicken is.

          So is the cause of your pain due to smoke ring or young bones? I don't know for sure, but a more pressing question might be:

          Is Wahine the wife, or the daughter?

          If the daughter, I'd suggest cooking the chicken the way you want and enjoy the ways of Thomas Keller.
          If its the wife, I'd suggest cooking the shit outta the bird and eat dry breast - a small price to pay for harmony, no?

          1. I think it is common for the area near the bones to be pink, especially in younger birds. Provided you get the internal temp high enough, it's safe.

            Lately I have been roasting chicken "under a brick" which gives a uniform level of doneness. The results are a little different than a usual roast chicken. Both are good. I imagine it would be fantastic in a wood oven.

            1. Dark meat is my first choice too. I use Pepin's cutting method for chicken and it always gets the thighs done just right without over drying the breast. I use his joint cutting technique even when I don't take out the backbone and flatten. Just leave the chicken whole, breast down, thighs and wing joints sliced, drumstick tips cut off. Works very well.

              2 Replies
              1. re: sedimental

                To clarify what M. Pepin does: on a whole chicken which is to be roasted, with the bird breast side up, slice through the skin and a little bit of the meat at the point where the thigh/wing joint connects to the body. This allows more surface in the joint area to be exposed to heat, in order to avoid the redness at the bone. This would not do any good if you truss your bird.

                1. re: greygarious

                  Yes, I also think the dark meat cooks better when you take off the end joint from the drumstick. Maybe The bone conducts heat better. I am not sure of the science of it but I have roasted chicken both ways and it works for me.

              2. Wahine is wrong, it is safe to eat. I've eaten probably flocks of Hainan-style chicken which is often slightly pink near the bone with the actual bone itself being red.

                Spatchcocking so the bird lays flat is a great way to roast chicken evenly. Additionally, make a couple cuts into the deepest and fattiest part of the leg and thigh to render grease and conduct heat into the inside.

                If you don't want to spatchcock, another way is to get a cast iron skillet roaring hot, then press the chicken into the pan dark-side-down. Let it render on the stovetop for a bit before putting it in the preheated oven. The hot pan will give the dark meat a jumpstart so it finishes at the same time as the white.

                3 Replies
                1. re: RealMenJulienne

                  Hi, RMJ: "...another way is to get a cast iron skillet roaring hot, then press the chicken into the pan dark-side-down. Let it render on the stovetop for a bit before putting it in the preheated oven."

                  That's part of the Keller recipe. How long do you consider "a bit"? I probably gave it 2 minutes on the hob after the flop.


                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    Hm, usually I give it anywhere from 2-5 minutes depending on how cold the chicken is. If it starts to smoke then I stop and put it in the oven immediately.

                    1. re: RealMenJulienne

                      Hi, RMJ:

                      Thanks, your advice was great. I did the flop (of a room-temp bird) at a high sear, bumped down the heat, and then waited 3 minutes before moving to the oven.

                      Much mobettahs, and no complaints.


                2. Try the Barefoot Contessa's recipe for roast chicken, amazing, easy and no fail. I cook my chicken until the thighs are loosened in the joints and I always use a meat thermometer.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Ruthie789

                    Thanks, Ruthie, but I didn't consider this a failure. The Keller recipe is easy and quick, too (except for making the brine a day ahead). I did use a thermometer, and the thigh was 165F when I carved.

                    How does the recipe you mentioned go?


                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      I am providing you the link to the Barefoot Contessa. As well as others have mentionned using a cast iron pan can help the process. I make my chicken on the BBQ using this recipe, it is tender, moist.


                  2. I've only roasted a whole chicken once since returning to an omnivore diet 1.5 years ago, so I won't give you cooking tips. I just want to chime in that I'm with you; a hint of pink at the bone is just fine.

                    1. Didn't have a chance to read what the others have mentioned, but if the temperature has reached 165 then you are good. Temperature is what kills bacteria - the color of the meat has no indication of that.

                      Though it is slightly offputting, as long as the chicken has reached 165, it is cooked.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: darrentran87

                        Being single, I just don't want to go to the time and trouble of roasting a chicken. I can't imagine having a chicken more flavorful or tender than Costco's bird. So I save time and uncertainty and frustration with a short drive.

                      2. James Beard wrote: "Prick the thigh joint to see if the juices run clear—don't be afraid of a little pinkness."

                        He also turned fowl when roasting—four sides for a turkey, finishing breast up. For a large chicken, one turn should suffice.

                        Temperature is the main thing for safety, but taste is another matter. If cooked just enough for safety is unappetizing, then cook it a little more.

                        1. For years l have used B Kafka recipe for roast chicken.
                          As far as what seasonings on outside or cavity, does not alter recipe
                          Put a base of cooked vegetables to hold chicken place.
                          With oven at 450 degrees,
                          Put 5-6 lb chicken in over on one side for 15 minutes
                          Change to other side for 15 minutes
                          Change to breast down for 10 minutes
                          Change to back down 20 minutes
                          If chicken smaller reduce times by a little

                          It has never failed, regardless of oven, pan, chicken, anything
                          Everything is cooked perfectly and both the breast and thighs are
                          both very moist and totally cooked.

                          Give it a try, in addition the juices should run clear, the thigh meat being pink is to be hoped for.

                          1. I'm very much a WELL-done person when it comes to pountry, especially whole birds... chicken or turkey. My grandmother never timed or tempted holiday turkeys or SUnday dinner roast chickens. When the wings/legs felt like they would pull right off... it was done.

                            If I'm cooking parts, prefer bone-in breast. Simple season of S&P and into HOT oven (maybe 400-ish) till skin is dark and crispy. Bone-in stuff seems fairly forgiving if you technically over-cook it. Boneless pieces, on the other hand... not so much. Will always buy boneless/skinless breasts when they're on sale. Have found there's a VERY small window between not quite done and a HOCKEY PUCK!?!

                            Yeasterdya, christened new gas grill with slightly pounded, marinated skewers of chicken tenders... maybe one of my favorite parts of a chicken?? KNEW they cooked a little too long.... a little dry and totally HARD once cooled down.

                            And I NEVER toss bones (parts or whole bird) without making stock! Bones, water, carrots/onions/celery, a few herbs and a slow simmer... several cups of FREE stock!

                            1. I don't mind the pink -but I don't like it when it won't fall willingly off the bone. That's more my criteria than the color. That wet tough stringy texture...eeuw.

                              1. I've found the temp of the bird before you roast it makes a big difference. I keep my fridge really cold, so my "thawed" meats are still quite chilly and there's a standing joke at my house that I never cook the chicken well enough. So many times it has been pink despite a thermometer reading of 165-180 deg. Theoretically safe, but no one will eat it.

                                If you watch the Keller video on YouTube, he says to bring the bird to room temp for about an hour before roasting. In my kitchen, esp in the winter, it's more like four hours, which then begs the question "how safe if you let it stand on the counter too long?"

                                Finally, for turkey and whole chickens I gave up and just starting brining the darned birds. The water bath fully thaws the insides and I've had much better results. I brine from 6pm til bedtime the night before, leave the bird on a rack in the fridge overnight, and pull it out of the fridge about 2-3 hours before cooking. (I stash it in my Fly-Proof Box: the microwave.) I roast it at 425 upside down for 20 minutes, flip and finish for another 40 min-1 hour. 475 is a little too hot for my liking.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: applgrl

                                  Hi, applgrl:

                                  Good point about starting temps, but I am an inveterate "Magic Kitchen" cook--this bird, eggs, pretty much everything I cook is already at ambient temperature.


                                2. At that temperature is it safe to eat? Yes, regardless of the pink meat in the thigh. However, a piece of thigh at 165f is not very appealing.