TikTok's Canned Chicken Controversy Explained

From teaching us an easy way to upgrade instant ramen, to introducing us to grated eggs on avocado toast, TikTok is one of the best places to find useful cooking hacks and all the latest food trends. Usually, the viral videos share game-changing tips, but a handful of others have been the subject of controversy. There's famously been watermelon with mustard, and "healthy Coke" combining balsamic vinegar and seltzer, but one that has really taken the cake, at least recently, is canned chicken.

When TikToker @pamparish took to the app to share footage of herself opening a jar of chicken thighs, she quickly began to rack up views and comments. In the video, @pamparish, reveals that she canned the chicken herself two years prior, and proceeds to prep it for chicken salad by picking out the skin, shredding the meat with a fork, then mixing it with egg yolk, mayonnaise, and pickle juice.

While both @pamparish and her dog seemed to love the final result, many commenters have found it far from appetizing. "I am traumatized forever and never eating meat again" one user wrote. Others, however, find it completely normal, pointing out how it compares to Spam and canned tuna.

Is it actually safe to can your own chicken?

Given that cooked chicken lasts in the fridge for only three to four days according to the USDA, it's hard to imagine that canning it could extend that period to two years, like in the viral TikTok. But, the truth is that as long as it's done so properly, canned chicken is shelf-stable for 18 months or even longer if the seal is intact and the jar is stored in a cool, dark place, Old Fashioned on Purpose says.

Per Clemson University, because poultry has a pH above 4.6, it's considered a low acid food. Low acidity levels create a breeding ground for Clostridium botulinum, so the only way to safely can chicken is to pressure-can it. That means using a boiling water bath, as @pamparish said she did in the video, is a risky method. Her canned chicken may have tasted perfectly fine, but as the USDA explains, pathogenic bacteria doesn't have any effect on either taste or smell, meaning it would be difficult to tell if it went bad or not.

It is safe to eat if you use a pressure cooker or buy it from the store, but TikTok viewers in this case were right to be suspicious of @pamparish's chicken.