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Posted at 12:30 PM ET, 06/29/2012

Can underbaked chicken be re-cooked?

My twice-cooked chicken: Rescued dinner or bacterial cesspool? (Jane Touzalin/The Washington Post)
I knew I was cutting it close when I put a chicken in the oven to roast at 400 degrees yesterday morning. Later, as I rushed to get ready for work, I plunged an instant-read thermometer into the thigh and was rewarded with a reading of 180 degrees: chicken perfection!

But two slices into the breast that night, I could see a big problem. The interior meat was not just undercooked; it was absolutely raw. Clearly, my thermometer thrust had been off the mark, or maybe the chicken hadn’t defrosted as much as I thought. I ate some outer slices and refrigerated the rest while I pondered the bird’s fate.

Not just undercooked; really raw. (Jane Touzalin/The Washington Post)
A Google-fest turned up two camps of opinion. One said to reheat the meat in small portions as I was ready to eat it, either by microwaving or pan-frying. The other camp, somewhat larger, advised not to eat the chicken at all. One person offered this explanation: When the bird heated up in the oven, bacterial activity increased; because the meat never attained the proper temperature, those bacteria survived and multiplied, having a party in my refrigerator all night. Even boiling the chicken wouldn’t work, this person said, because 212 degrees isn’t hot enough to kill them.

Mine was a free-range farmers market bird (ka-ching! ouch!), but I called the folks at Perdue, figuring they knew more than anyone. “I hate to tell you this,” began the customer-service rep I reached. The bird, she said, should be tossed.

Man, I hate the thought of trashing this chicken. So I started rationalizing. Inside my pressure cooker, the temperature is 250 degrees, which seems more lethal. I cut the bird into quarters, dropped them into the pan with some liquid and cooked them under pressure for 20 minutes.

The pieces are completely cooked through, and the broth in the pan looks and smells fabulous. I was using my new go-to recipe, Garam Masala Roast Chicken (four ingredients! and it’s great), so it’s all beautifully spiced. Not that I’ve tasted it – yet.

And that’s my dilemma. Do I eat the chicken? Do I toss the chicken? Maybe I just try a little and see if I feel okay?

I’m hoping to hear from someone – anyone! – who has the definitive word on what I should do or can recount a (helpful) similar experience.

I’ll be waiting, knife and fork in hand.

By Jane Touzalin  |  12:30 PM ET, 06/29/2012

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