What Exactly Is The White Gooey Substance That Appears When Cooking Chicken?

You're just about to finish cooking dinner and you go to check on the chicken only to discover that there is a disturbing unknown goo that is now seeping from the main dish. You quickly scrape it off before anyone sees, lest they decide not to eat it, but now curiosity has gotten the better of you. What was that stuff?

There's good news and there's bad news. The good news is that the goo is totally natural. It's not something that was secretly injected into the chicken and that you've accidentally sleuthed out into the open by cooking it. The bad news is that it's a coagulated concoction of fat, protein, and water that has been forming inside the chicken, which you've just released through heat. The same cause of this goo is also responsible for the foam that can form on top of chicken stock. Not the most appetizing thing on the menu, especially since its official name is "scum."

That being said, it's perfectly safe to eat. A similar process of coagulation occurs with eggs, lentils, chickpeas, and pork among other foods. You might still want to scrape it off, though. Food doesn't look very appetizing when served with scum on it.

How to keep scum away

You may have noticed that scum doesn't always appear when you cook chicken, so what causes it to happen? The most common reason has to do with freezing. If the chicken is frozen, thawed, and refrozen multiple times, the structure of the chicken's cells is damaged, which makes them break and release their contents. If enough cells break down like this, you get a liquid mixture of protein, fat, and water floating between the muscle fibers. As soon as you heat this mixture up, it starts to solidify and gets pushed out.

If you don't want to have to worry about scraping the scum off, get your chicken from a source that's as fresh as possible. Less time spent in the freezer means fewer damaged cells, which means less or no scum when you cook it. There's no surefire way to guarantee you will never see the goo again, so the best advice is to recognize that it's a natural process. At the end of the day, although there are chicken cooking tips that we can implement, the scum is essentially here to stay, and we'll just have to get used to it.