Have you ever bitten into a piece of chicken and then started wondering whether it is properly cooked? That might leave you questioning whether undercooked chicken has a different flavor to cooked chicken, and how you can tell the difference.
What does undercooked chicken taste like? Raw chicken will have very little taste, but chicken that has been partially cooked will probably have some flavor. It will still be bland but may taste somewhat like cooked chicken. Often, the most noticeable factor in undercooked chicken is the low temperature and a gelatinous, chewy texture.
Why Doesn’t Raw Chicken Taste of Anything?
Raw chicken has minimal flavor, like other raw meats. This is because when you cook meat, something known as the Maillard reaction occurs, and this gives the meat flavor. The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction that occurs within the meat, and it produces both color and flavor as the meat finishes cooking.
In general, the Maillard reaction only occurs when food is heated above 140 degrees F. Chicken is fully cooked at 165 degrees F, so if it is undercooked, it’s likely that the Maillard reaction will not yet have occurred, as the meat will be too cold.
The Maillard reaction happens when sugar interacts with an amino acid inside the flesh. The flavor will be determined by which amino acid is reacted with, and many different flavor compounds can be formed via this reaction. This happens in many kinds of foods, not just meat, but it is responsible for giving cooked meat its delicious taste.
Without the Maillard reaction, the chicken will taste bland and lack the flavor profiles of properly cooked chicken. That’s why raw chicken has almost no flavor, but partially cooked chicken may have some if this reaction has begun.
Can You Eat Undercooked Chicken?
You should not eat undercooked chicken. Although chicken sashimi is sometimes served in certain countries, raw chicken is not generally safe for human consumption, as it could contain dangerous bacterial strains. Even lightly cooked chicken may be dangerous to eat, especially if it has been cooked very briefly.
Chicken is commonly associated with the salmonella bacteria, and this can cause serious food poisoning, with symptoms ranging from prolonged vomiting, weakness, fever, and diarrhea. In extreme cases, victims of salmonella poisoning may need to go to a hospital for treatment, and occasionally, food poisoning will prove fatal.
You should therefore not eat undercooked or raw chicken. It is only safe to do this if the chicken has been prepared by an expert, using the inner breast of the chicken – the part that has the lowest risk of containing salmonella bacteria. Even this can be considered risky.
Chicken is also a major source of campylobacter, and many food poisoning cases result from eating chicken that has been insufficiently cooked.
Do not attempt to prepare undercooked chicken or chicken sashimi at home unless you are an expert and you can source chicken that has been handled correctly while being reared, killed, and stored. Improperly prepared chicken is dangerous.
What Should You Do If You Realize That Your Chicken is Undercooked?
If you are eating chicken and you suddenly realize that it is not fully cooked, you should spit out what you have in your mouth, and then get some water and rinse and spit out any residue. Do not continue eating the chicken.
You should not attempt to induce vomiting if you have consumed undercooked chicken, as this can be damaging to your guts. Instead, wait to see if food poisoning symptoms develop, and either wait them out or speak to a doctor if they are serious.
Food poisoning symptoms can show up in as little as a few hours or may take as long as five days. Salmonella poisoning tends to show up quickly, and you might start to feel ill in just six hours, whereas campylobacter poisoning usually takes at least two days.
It isn’t pleasant to have to wait for symptoms to occur, but there is little else you can do. The less chicken you have consumed, the lower your risks of getting serious food poisoning are.
How Can You Ensure That Chicken is Fully Cooked and Safe to Eat?
The best way to ensure that chicken is properly cooked is to use a meat thermometer. You can also use the chicken’s texture and color for guidance, but a meat thermometer offers the most accurate and reliable means of testing.
You should insert the probe into the chicken at its thickest part and take a temperature reading. If the chicken reads 165 degrees F, it should be safe to consume. If the reading is lower, continue cooking the chicken for longer.
You can also use the color of the meat to judge how well cooked it is. If the chicken is pink in places, it is still undercooked; the flesh should be white and brown all over.
Similarly, the texture will give you a good clue. Fully cooked meat should cut easily when you run a knife through it. Undercooked chicken will compress and wobble under the knife and has a rubbery sort of texture. It may also be stringy if you bite into it.
You can also check whether the juices that are coming out of the chicken have turned clear. If these juices are still pink or even bloody, the chicken is not cooked yet. Once the juices have turned clear, the chicken should be done.
Many chefs use a combination of these methods to judge when chicken is cooked, but if you are inexperienced, use a meat thermometer as your main guide. All the other signs are useful but will not give you a definitive answer about whether the chicken is ready to eat. They should not be depended upon.
Undercooked chicken will have minimal flavor, and the less well-cooked it is, the less flavor it will have. Cooking chicken is what releases its rich taste, so if you bite into a piece of chicken and notice that it is lacking in taste, be careful. If it is also rubbery and chewy, it probably hasn’t been cooked properly, and you should not consume it.