Breasts, legs, thighs -- just about every part of the chicken is available to consumers who love their poultry. Whole chickens are usually sold with the bones in, skin on and a bag of giblets stuffed inside the bird. The giblet bag is a treat if you appreciate the flavor of every consumable part of a chicken, or something to discard as quickly as possible if you're squeamish. Just don't make the mistake of cooking the chicken with the giblet bag still inside.
What’s in the Bag?
A bag of giblets contains the gizzard -- the chicken's mechanical stomach -- and the heart and liver. Although it is not a giblet, the neck is often part of the bag's contents. After slaughter, the giblets are removed from the chicken, chilled at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and inspected for quality. Interestingly, the bag of giblets stuffed inside the chicken that you purchase at the store, is not from the original chicken, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The giblets stuffed inside a chicken are in either paper or plastic. According to David W. Brooks, a Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, giblets accidentally cooked inside the chicken are safe to eat if they are wrapped in paper and the chicken cooked at the recommended temperature, which is between 375 and 425 degrees F. If the giblets are inside a plastic bag and the bag melts or shows any signs of physical alteration, do not eat the chicken or the giblets. Chemicals from the plastic could leach into the chicken meat and giblets.
Removing the Bag
Proper cleaning of the chicken ensures removal of the giblet bag prior to cooking. Take the chicken out of the packaging and lift the neck skin that overlaps the chest cavity. Pull the giblet bag out of the cavity using your fingers and immediately refrigerate for future use. According to the American Meat Institute, refrigerated giblets will keep for 1 to 2 days. After removal of the giblet bag, check the cavity for leftover organs, which also require removal -- just pull them out with your fingers. Rinse the chicken and the cavity with cold water to remove bacteria.
Removing the giblet bag from a frozen chicken is nearly impossible. In order to remove it, you have to thaw the chicken first. The USDA recommends planning ahead and thawing a frozen chicken in your refrigerator. Thawing may take 24 hours or more, depending on the size of the chicken. An alternative method is submerging the packaged chicken in a bowl of cold water; changing the water every 30 minutes until thawed. Microwave thawing is also OK, but keep in mind that all microwaves are different so thawing times may vary. If you opt for the cold water or microwave thawing method, you will need to cook the chicken immediately afterward to limit bacteria growth.
- David W. Brooks Teaching and Research Website: Safety of Giblets
- Le Cordon Bleu: How to Prepare a Whole Chicken
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Giblets and Food Safety
- American Meat Institute: Safe Handling: Chicken
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: The Big Thaw -- Safe Defrosting Methods -- for Consumers