October 7, 2020

Study Finds Common Chicken Doneness Tests Not Effective

A study published in Plos One has found that common chicken doneness tests are not enough to ensure that pathogens in the bird have been destroyed before it is served. The study was conducted among 75 households in Europe from five countries. Researchers wanted to investigate whether actual and recommended practices for monitoring chicken doneness are safe. And a cross national web survey collected cooking practices for chicken from 3,969 households.

Study Finds Common Chicken Doneness Tests Not Effective

Chicken is often contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. There have been many outbreaks linked to improperly cooked or undercooked chicken in the past few years.

In a lab kitchen, chicken breast fillets were injected with cocktails of Salmonella and Campylobacter, then cooked to core temperatures between 55°C (131°F) dnd 70°C (158°F). Then microbial survival in the core and on the surface of the meat were determined. In a parallel experiment, the color of the center of the chicken, the color of the juice, and the texture were recorded. Finally, scientists tested a range of cooking thermometers available to consumers. Chicken should be cooked to 74°C (165°F) to be safe to eat.

Researchers found that most consumers check the color of the meat as a doneness indicator. Most consumers thought that this is a way to mitigate risk. Most households check cooking status from the inside color and/or inside texture.

The lab study found that the color change of chicken meat happened below 60°C (F), which corresponds to a less than 3 log reaction of Salmonella and Campylobacter. At a core temperature of 70°C (158°F), pathogens survived on the fillet surface that did not come into contact with the frying pan; this can happen when chicken is pan fried. No correlation between meat texture and microbial inactivation was found.

A minority of respondents used a food thermometer; just 6.8% of study participants used one. The biggest challenge with this tool was the long response time. And the researchers found that thermometers that are available to consumers aren’t always accurate.

So color of the meat and the texture are not adequate indicators of doneness. Food thermometers are still the best way to tell if chicken is cooked to a safe final internal temperature. But the problem with many food thermometers is that they take time to reach the actual temperature of the bird.

One interesting point is that the exterior of the chicken sometimes not high enough to kill pathogens on the surface. If you are sautéing chicken in a pan, it’s a good idea to turn it with tongs to make sure that all of the outside surface does come into contact with the pan. And if you have someone in your household who is at risk risk for food poisoning complications, it may be worth your while to invest in a good and accurate food thermometer.

Make sure all surfaces are cooked well. Use a good food thermometer every time you cook poultry. Watch out for cross-contamination between raw chicken juices and other foods. And don’t depend on color or texture as doneness indicators.

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