It’s one of those “Oops” moments. You’ve invited guests for a roasted chicken dinner and just as you’re about to carve the succulent bird, you’re aghast to discover you’ve left the giblet bag inside the chicken. Quickly, you divert the guests’ attention to a piece of wall art as you grab the steaming bag and stash it under the nearest object. Or if you're with good friends, merely congratulate them on discovering your culinary secret. However you handle the situation, rest assured that cooking the giblets inside the chicken isn’t harmful -- as long as they’re paper-wrapped.
What are Giblets?
Giblets are the organs that a chicken just can’t live without. Known as the “vital” organs, giblets commonly consist of the heart, gizzard and liver. The neck is not an actual giblet, but it is usually included in the giblet bag. Giblets are not often found in prepackaged whole chickens at the grocery store, but many butcher shops sell birds with a bag of giblets neatly tucked inside the abdominal cavity.
Paper Giblet Bag
If the giblet bag used by the butcher is made of paper and the chicken is cooked to a proper 165 degrees Fahrenheit, the giblets -- and the chicken -- are safe to eat. If your guests discover your culinary faux pas, offer the giblets as a side dish. There’s usually one person in every crowd who salivates at the sight of a well-cooked gizzard.
Plastic Giblet Bag
The notion of cooking the giblet bag inside the chicken ceases to be humorous when a meal is ruined. Paper is safe; plastic is not. It doesn’t happen often, but if you encounter a plastic giblet bag inside your roasted chicken, discard the giblets and the chicken if the bag is melted or in any way altered. Plastic contains harmful chemicals that are neither desirable nor safe for human consumption, and a melted bag indicates those chemicals may have contaminated the meat. Although grabbing a precooked chicken from a local restaurant or deli may be a dim substitute for the meal you had envisioned, it's a far better option than making your guests sick.
While the thought of eating a chicken’s vital organs may make some people queasy, experienced cooks know that giblets are the base of a hearty, homemade chicken stock. If you remember to remove the bag before cooking, cover the giblets with water and simmer them for about 45 minutes. Remove them from the broth, chop them and combine the giblets with the pan drippings to create giblet gravy.