If you've ever noticed your chicken bleeding while you fry it, or seen a little blood in your chicken drumsticks, you've probably been a little grossed out. Here's how you can prevent this from happening, although it may not actually be blood.
Is the Chicken Bleeding?
The USDA explains that two proteins, known as hemoglobin and myoglobin, are responsible for the red color in meat. Myoglobin, which is responsible for the majority of the red color, is found in the tissue cells of the meat. Unlike hemoglobin, it doesn't circulate in the blood.
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The amount of myoglobin in the chicken can vary depending on factors like its age, species, gender, diet and the amount of exercise it gets. Myoglobin content increases with age for instance, so older birds have more of it. Muscles that are used more frequently also have more myoglobin.
A September 2017 study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology notes that when a chicken is slaughtered, its blood circulation stops. According to the USDA, the chicken is then drained of the majority of its blood and only a little bit remains in the muscle tissues. Most of its hemoglobin is removed through this process and only a little bit remains in the tissues along with some myoglobin.
It's possible that the liquid you're seeing is not actually blood. The USDA notes that many people often mistake the pink liquid they see for blood, but it is actually just water that the chicken has absorbed during the chilling process. So what you're seeing is just the release of that water and not the chicken bleeding.
Per the USDA, improperly bled chickens are identified by cherry red skin and are supposed to be discarded at the plant itself.
Preventing Blood in Chicken Drumsticks
Brining the meat with salt before you cook it is a simple trick that can help you reduce the amount of redness (myoglobin) or blood in your chicken drumsticks. In fact, kosher meat is also treated with salt to remove any leftover traces of blood from the meat.
The USDA explains that you can brine the meat in two ways. The traditional method is to let the meat soak in a solution of salt water. This not only helps draw out any remaining blood and myoglobin, but also enhances the flavor of the meat and makes it more tender and juicy.
Dry brining is the other alternative, where you coat the chicken in salt and spices but don't use any liquid. The salt will draw out the moisture of the chicken and it will soak in its own juices, after which the liquid will get reabsorbed into the meat.
Follow these steps listed by the USDA to brine the meat in liquid:
- Make the brine solution: Prepare a brine solution with 3 tablespoons of salt per quart of water. You can add a sweetener like sugar, honey or molasses to the solution if you like, to give the chicken more flavor and improve browning.
- Brine the chicken in the fridge: Submerge the chicken in the brine solution in a stainless-steel or glass container. Cover it and place it in the fridge for up to two days. Afterward, discard the brine.
Follow these steps listed by the USDA to dry brine the chicken:
- Make the spice mix: You will need 1 tablespoon of kosher salt or seasoning salt for every 5 pounds of chicken. Add other ingredients like garlic, citrus, herbs and spices for flavor.
- Rub the chicken with the mix: Coat all the surfaces of the chicken with the mixture of salt and spices. Put the chicken in a food-grade plastic bag, remove as much air as you can and seal it shut.
- Refrigerate it: Place the chicken in the refrigerator for up to two days, massaging it every 10 hours or so. When you're ready to cook it, take it out of the fridge and pat it dry with paper towels.
The USDA states that brining the meat is an optional step; you can cook the chicken as is, and it is safe to consume as long as it crosses an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit when you cook it.
Keep in mind that while chicken is a high-protein, low-carb and relatively low-calorie food, frying it isn't the healthiest way to eat it. A January 2019 study published in the BMJ found that regular consumption of fried chicken was linked to a higher risk of heart problems and death.
- USDA: “The Color of Meat and Poultry”
- Journal of Food Science and Technology: “Determinants of Broiler Chicken Meat Quality and Factors Affecting Them: A Review”
- USDA: “Chicken From Farm to Table”
- City University of New York: “Halal and Kosher Certified Food”
- USDA: “Poultry: Basting, Brining and Marinating”
- USDA: “Is It Necessary to Rinse, Soak or Brine Chicken to Make It Safe?”
- USDA: “Keep Food Safe! Food Safety Basics”
- USDA: “Chicken”
- The BMJ: “Association of Fried Food Consumption With All Cause, Cardiovascular and Cancer Mortality: Prospective Cohort Study”