Chicken breast has to be one of the most popular and versatile cuts of poultry there is.
This delicious and succulent cut of meat is incorporated into many popular recipes all around the world, thanks to its delicious, succulent flavor.
But what is the vein in chicken breast? All chicken breasts have veins, but they are more noticeable in some than others. It is more common to see veins in chicken meat that is cooked on the bone. The veins in chicken meat do not need to be removed, but you can do so if you like.
If you want to get the very best out of your fresh succulent chicken breasts, keep reading to find out more!
What Is the Vein in Chicken Breast?
Whether you’re looking at raw or cooked chicken, it can be alarming to see a red, pink, or even dark purple strand running through the meat.
After years of being warned about the risks of eating undercooked or pink poultry meat, do we need to panic when we see something that looks like a vein in our chicken breast?
Veins in poultry meat are completely normal, and generally, they are nothing to worry about. We all have veins that run through our muscular tissue – this is how our hardworking muscles get their essential blood supply!
The veins in muscle tend to run close to the bone, or in between segments of muscle. So, you may see one vein more prominently than others in chicken breast, which runs in the inner section of the breast, close to the bone.
This part of a chicken breast is what is commonly served as chicken tenders, as it is the most succulent and juicy part of the breast.
When you are carving a chicken breast, you will commonly see a line two-thirds of the way down the slice of meat, separating the tenderloin section from the upper breast meat.
At the end of the chicken tender is a tendon, which runs in a thin line through the meat. We barely notice this once it is cooked, as it becomes soft and blends in with the meat.
It is around the location of this tendon where you will commonly see a vein in your chicken breast.
On the vast majority of occasions, we will not notice this vein once the meat is cooked. It can tint the color of the meat, but it will have very little noticeable effect on the flavor.
Do All Chicken Breasts Have Veins?
You may have been cooking chicken breasts for years and never noticed a vein in the meat.
Then, one day, you find a dark red vein running through the chicken breast you are preparing. So why do we see them in some chicken breasts and not others?
It all depends on how prominent the vein is, and how the meat has been butchered. All chickens have this vein, but on some, it will be barely visible.
And on some occasions, we will not see the vein at all until the chicken is cooked! This is because of a reaction that can occur when the hemoglobin in the veins is exposed to heat.
The result is a change in color to purple, making it much more obvious in contrast to the white cooked breast meat.
Veins in meat are more prominent in hard-working muscles, such as the legs and wings. They are less common in breast meat, but they do still occur.
You are also much more likely to see veins in your chicken meat if you have cooked it on the bone. This is a result of changes that occur between the hemoglobin in blood vessels and the bone marrow.
Most butchers can skillfully take a chicken breast off the bone, leaving the veins behind.
Can You Eat the Vein in a Chicken Breast?
Although they might look a bit unsightly, the veins in chicken breasts are perfectly safe to eat.
Whenever we eat meat, the muscular tissue is full of minuscule veins, called capillaries. We’ve been eating these for years without any problems at all!
So, this vein that we’re all panicking about is just a larger version of these capillaries.
And because the blood is all drained from the chicken when it is butchered, we don’t need to worry about blood inside the vein contaminating our meat.
We do have one word of caution for you here – as always, make sure your chicken is completely cooked.
The presence of a vein in a chicken breast can lead to a color change in the meat, tainting it pink, red, or even purple.
Pink meat is normally a sign of undercooked chicken, so you need to find other ways to confirm that your chicken is cooked.
If you have a meat thermometer, use this to check the internal temperature of the meat. Food safety advisors recommend that chicken and all other types of poultry should be cooked to 165°F.
The safe cooking temperature for chicken is 180°F for a whole bird, and 165°F for chicken pieces.
Without a meat thermometer, the only other way to tell if a chicken is cooked is to assess the color of the juices that come out of the meat. Pierce the meat at the thickest point and look for the color of the juices as they emerge.
If the juices are clear, the chicken is cooked. If you see a pinky-reddish tinge, the meat needs cooking for longer.
How to Avoid the Vein in Chicken Breast
Some people find the idea of a vein in a chicken breast really unappealing and will want to try and avoid it.
There is no 100% failsafe way to get chicken breasts that do not have a noticeable vein, but you can reduce the chances significantly.
Your best option is to purchase chicken breasts from a butchery counter, where they can be prepared to your specifications.
A reputable butcher will not mind if you ask for the vein to be removed from your chicken breasts. This also saves you the hassle of trimming and preparing the chicken breasts when you get home.
If you really dislike the idea of veins in chicken meat, opt for cooking boneless chicken wherever possible. Chicken cooked on the bone is much more likely to have veins than boneless chicken.
How to Cut Out the Vein in Chicken Breast
If you have a fresh, uncooked chicken breast, some careful trimming can remove the vein and connective tissue that leads to unsightly staining of the white breast meat.
This technique may take some time to master at first, but it is worth the effort in the long run.
- Find the thick, larger end of the breast, where you will find some whiter tissue – this is the cartilage that attaches the muscle to the breastbone.
- Hold this cartilage tightly, then slide a sharp knife (such as this one from Amazon) underneath it. It will not cut easily, and you will feel some resistance. Cut the cartilage away from the meat, pulling it away as you do so.
- You may find a strip of gristle connected to this cartilage – cut this away as well. When you do this technique for the first time, you might end up cutting away more meat than you would like.
- Underneath the site where you have removed the cartilage, you may find some bloody tissue underneath. This is where most of the veins are concentrated, and this area should also be cut away.
- Once you have finished trimming your raw chicken breasts, they should be rinsed under cold running water and gently dried with a paper towel.
- If your chicken breast is already cooked, the vein may become more prominent and obvious. Unfortunately, at this point, it becomes harder to remove the vein without pulling the meat apart.
- The best method to use is to cut the whole breast away from the bone. Then, using your fingers, gently separate the tender inner section from the outer breast meat. The outer section will not normally have any veins and can be carved into slices as normal.
- With some careful dissection, you may be able to remove the vein from the inner tenderloin of the chicken breast. It is difficult to do this without it falling apart, so take care!
- Run a sharp knife gently under the vein, easing it upwards as you go. Work your way along the vein, making sure it is released from the meat for its entire length. You should then be able to simply lift the vein away and discard it.
And if your chicken tenderloin falls apart, all is not lost! This is one of the most succulent and delicious parts of the chicken and tastes incredibly diced into a salad or chilled sandwich.