The autumn season in Manitoba (Canada) can be tricky, some days are sunny and warm and others bitter cold. Today is one of those rare warm days so my family and I are planning to cook some chicken on the BBQ. I use a probe thermometer to ensure the poultry is cooked to 74C (165F) so I’m not concerned with microbial safety, it’s the heterocyclic amines that bug me.
A Michelin star chef in the UK is upset that health inspectors questioned his cooking of chicken livers for pate resulting in a poor restaurant health rating.
Jane de Graaff reports
Earlier this week we clocked a story at 9Honey Kitchen that involved internationally acclaimed restaurant Rocksalt in the UK’s Folkestone losing its 5-star health rating over its treatment of chicken. The story goes that the time and temperatures for cooking the chicken livers used in a pâté dish allowed them to retain a blushing pink colour along with a silky texture. When questioned by health and safety inspectors, some of the technique specified was a little confused, and despite the restaurants stellar reputation, resulted in their 5-star health rating being dropped down to 2-star. The restaurant was—not unexpectedly—a little perturbed as the misunderstanding could have been cleared up and the restaurant’s health practices have otherwise been exemplary.
Chef Mark Sargeant—who trained under Gordon Ramsay, has a Michelin star and runs several restaurants—knows full well the implications of dishes being served in a less that regulatory way. Sargent was clearly unimpressed and requested a reassessment of the restaurant’s standards sooner than the usual 3-month period, as the chef feels it’s a misrepresentation of what his team delivers.
“[It’s] the skill of a very good kitchen, you get a beautiful set chicken liver pâté with a beautiful flush going through it which obviously comes about from cooking it at a certain temperature. But it’s cooked, it’s completely safe,” the Telegraph UK reports Sargeant commenting.
He went on to note that it was such overly strict guidelines in the UK that lead to medium-rare burgers being off the menu, as well as the classic dish of steak tartare (raw beef) required to be seared on the outside before scraping out the centre to use in the dish.
As that debate rages on, we thought it might be time to check in with our friends at the CSIRO to find out what the recommendations on chicken actually are. Having seen recent (and reoccurring) stories about chicken sashimi, we wanted to set the record straight, because there seems to be some confusing trends on the rise.
So, can you ever eat chicken raw? Cathy Moir, Senior Food Microbiologist at the CSIRO, say unequivocally no.
“Chicken should not be eaten raw because it may carry harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter that can result in foodborne infection and gastroenteritis,” she says, adding that chicken livers are no different.
“There have been outbreaks of Campylobacter food poisoning linked to dishes such as pâté, where poultry liver has been undercooked. Like other poultry meat, livers need to be cooked all the way through to kill bacteria that may be present. Lightly frying the surface is not enough. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) recommends that cooked whole livers may still be slightly pink in the centre, but they should never be bloody or look raw.”
Why Moir advises that long, slow, low temperature cooking can be used to cook chicken and still retain a nice blush, but it’s a method best left to professionals of have the training and means to know when they are getting this just right. For Moir the best way to know with certainty that a food like chicken is cooked through is to use an internal thermometer and make sure that the interior temperature is 75°C for chicken.
“Different meats require different cooking temperatures to destroy harmful bacteria. Not only should we cook chicken right through until it reaches an internal temperature of 75°C, the same goes for minced or boned meats, hamburger, stuffed meats, mechanically tenderised meat and sausages. This is because food poisoning bacteria can be present all the way through these types of meat products as well as on the surface and only thorough cooking will kill them. Use a meat thermometer to check temperatures in the thickest part of the meat and always follow cooking instructions on packaged foods.”
Simply put, there is no such thing as chicken sashimi, rare chicken or translucent chicken. These should be avoided at all costs.
So perhaps the health and safety officers in the UK were right to judge harshly on the pink pâté issue after all.