Is It Dangerous To Eat Pink Canned Chicken?

Canned chicken is a true jack-of-all-trades — there are just so many ways to make a delicious meal out of it. From simple chicken and rice dishes to tasty chicken and pasta recipes, this versatile protein is a quick and easy addition to your mealtime repertoire. Canned chicken usually comes in a whitish color, but it's not uncommon to crack open a can and see a pinkish hue, almost like it's still bloody and undercooked. You may feel like chucking it in the trash, but hold up a second: According to the USDA, a pink hue is actually pretty standard for properly cooked chicken.

The pink tinge in canned chicken is often a result of chemical changes during cooking. Chicken blood cells contain a protein called hemoglobin. When chicken cooks in a gas or electric oven, the oven's gasses react with the hemoglobin, and boom — pink chicken. The thinner skin and fat tissues the bird has, the more easily the gasses can sneak into its flesh to cause that change in color.

Another potential reason why canned chicken is pink? Nitrates and nitrites. These chemicals exist naturally in water and are also common food preservatives. Under high temperatures during the cooking process, they can react with chemicals in the meat, leading to that rosy hue. So, that pink hue is not cause for alarm. But before digging in, there are other things you can check to make sure your canned chicken is good to go.

How to make sure your canned chicken is safe to eat

You don't usually need to store unopened canned chicken in the fridge. However, it's important to keep the cans somewhere dry and cool — the sweet spot is below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Canned chicken does have an impressive shelf life of 2-5 years when stored properly. That said, it never hurts to check the expiration date or best-by date on the can to make sure it's still within the recommended time frame before you chow down. While you're at it, also give the can a quick once-over. Keep an eye out for any dents, bulges, rust, or leaks that might hint that something's off. If you spot any of these red flags, it's best to play it safe and toss it.

As always, trust your senses. If you open a can of chicken and something smells off or looks questionable, it's better to be safe than sorry and skip it. Once you've popped the can open, finish off the chicken ASAP. Any leftovers should go into an airtight container and be eaten within the next three or four days. Don't let any leftovers chill in the fridge for too long — no meal is worth the risk of foodborne illness, and the chicken would taste stale anyway.