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Why is my chicken pink?


…because it was smoked!


We occasionally get asked why our bbq chicken and bbq wings sometimes look pink on the inside. It’s a fair question since we often grow up thinking that pink chicken means it is not cooked properly.


This isn’t the case with smoked barbecue, and there is real science behind it.


As an genuine BBQ smokehouse, we smoke all of our meat low and slow the authentic way. This means we cook at a lower temperature for a longer period of time, using smoke to both cook and flavour the meat.


Our bbq chicken is brined for 24 hours, then rubbed in our special chicken spice mix then smoked for 5 hours using hickory wood. And the same for our wings.


The science behind the smoke…


Myoglobin is a protein stored in muscle. When exposed to high temperatures in normal cooking, myoglobin breaks down (denatures) to give a consistent colouring through the meat. For chicken this might be the whiter colour you might expect for e.g. an oven-cooked chicken breast.


However, something different happens when you smoke meat. We slow smoke our meats, including our chicken, at a lower temperature for a much longer period of time. During the smoking process, the smoke interacts with the myoglobin in the meat creating a chemical reaction that changes the colour of the meat to pink. This is the same reaction that causes the smoke ring you see on our brisket, pulled pork and ribs. Wings are small enough that the smoke can easily penetrate throughout the whole wing.


This doesn’t mean they're undercooked, just that it’s been properly smoked. We probe our meats to make sure they have hit an safe temperature of at least 75C before they get to you. In fact, the pink colour is often called the 'Ring of Truth' in American BBQ, as it's a sure sign that the meat has been properly smoked.


Pink Meat Near the Bone…


You also might see pink or darker meat near the bone for certain cuts of chicken, that won't get lighter no matter how long you cook it. Legs and wings have more myoglobin, which is part of the reason, however haemoglobin (like myoglobin) near the bone can also react to form heat-stable coloured compounds that persist and retain a pinker / redder colour long after cooking. Finally, juices in the bone can seep through and appear on the meat near the bone. Again this isn’t because the chicken isn’t cooked properly (in fact, cooking for a long time is required for this process to occur) and this near-the-bone reaction is actually quite common for bone-in chicken, smoked or not.


We hope that's helpful in explaining some of the many reasons that chicken can be pink in colour, but is still safe and delicious to eat!


We take food safety very seriously at Bluegrass so if you ever have any concerns please let us know - in person or please contact us via email.

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