People are braising chicken in NyQuil as a cold remedy — again

Why won't this recipe go away?

Raw chicken breasts next to a bottle of NyQuil.
TikTok Tomfoolery

As of recent, the Internet appears to be attempting to resurrect some former nonsensical trends to see if 2022 might give them another chance. On “wellness” TikTok, for example, someone has filmed themselves cooking a curséd dish called NyQuil Chicken and people are lapping it up, both literally and figuratively.

Yes, NyQuil as in the cough syrup and chicken as in, a food that should not be seasoned with cough syrup.

A pair of (hopefully) satirical cooking videos have gone viral on TikTok, and in them, user @systemofaclown69 prepares chicken by braising (gags a little) it in everyone’s favorite nighttime cold medicine. Never would I have thought I’d ever use such a fancy cooking term for an entree that looks birthed from the mind of Rob Zombie, but here we are.

In Chef @systemofaclown69’s first video, he takes a package of raw, thin sliced chicken breast, places it into a small pot, and adds a full bottle of NyQuil to it, all while a Rataboy track plays over it. This jarring combination of sights and sounds has been favorited more than 198,000 times to date, and it doesn’t stop there. His second video shows the now teal-blue poultry being stirred as the medicine reduces, and then gets shown off with a pair of tongs.

In another user’s NyQuil chicken video on YouTube, the narrator claims that the point of the dish is simply a cold remedy, but those who have been on the Internet for a while can hypothesize a true reason for the recipe: The creator wants to gross you out.

The pair of videos have been looped more than 1.6 million times, and have spawned another popular TikTok involving — and it pains me to say this — NyQuil pasta (how dare someone besmirch the tastiest starch there is). It’s as if Julia Child herself created the recipe, but there’s no joy in this cooking, babes. It should go without saying, but cooking this culinary catastrophe is not a viable cold cure nor treatment. It’s also just a bad idea.

“Taking medicine with food typically isn’t dangerous, since many people do it with their daily dosage of medicine,“ says Aaron Hartman, a Richmond-based physician and assistant clinical professor of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, noting that those people usually are prescribed the drug that they’re eating with their chicken a la normal — so don’t get any ideas. “When you cook cough medicine like NyQuil, however, you boil off the water and alcohol in it, leaving the chicken saturated with a super concentrated amount of drugs in the meat,” Hartman says. “If you ate one of those cutlets completely cooked, it’d be as if you're actually consuming a quarter to half a bottle of NyQuil.”

Fun side note: Hartman also says that if you only boil a chicken in a liquid “for five minutes” (as a narrator instructs in one of the videos), you might get food poisoning from the chicken. This might seem obvious, and even silly to be getting so serious about, but a third of TikTok users in the United States are under the age of 14, so what seems like a funny gross-out joke could lead to some innocent pre-teen soul tripping balls and then barfing their guts out with the stove on.

“If you ate one of those cutlets completely cooked, it’d be as if you're actually consuming a quarter to half a bottle of NyQuil.”

The biggest medical reason to not make these Smurf-hued dishes, however, is something I didn’t even think of: In addition to cooking a more potent NyQuil reduction sauce, you’re breathing the medicine in as you cook it. “By cooking a medicine with multiple drugs in it on a stove top, you’ve aerosolized it and are most likely inhaling it,” Hartman says, adding that in one video, they can be viewed admitting exactly that.

He also notes that heating up a drug can change its chemical composition. “Inhaled, these medicines also enter your bloodstream really quickly and are not going past your liver for detoxification,” he adds. “The effects can be quite bad depending on how much you inhale.”

As for what cough syrup cooks may inhale when making this mealtime massacre, NyQuil contains acetaminophen, antihistamines, a decongestant, alcohol, and dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant that affects part of the brain, reducing the urge to cough. None of these drugs are suggested for use as a steam facial, and that last drug, DXM, is what people use not-as-directed to robotrip, a recreational drug where users experience a range of trippy psychological and physical effects (and possibly liver failure.)

As new as this potentially dangerous, protein-rich decongestant stew might seem, it wasn’t invented on TikTok. Its history as a meme as well as a mini-trend on YouTube dates back to as early as 2017, when Twitter user @trjstn tweeted an image of a few NyQuil bottles next to azure-colored chicken with the joke caption, “If she makes you nyquil [sic] chicken.... do NOT let her go.” I, personally, would let her go like Rose let Jack go in Titanic.

With COVID, the flu, and Novak Djokovic running rampant around the earth, getting sick is at the forefront of everyone’s worries. This doesn't mean you should abandon all sense and make a flurona chicken casserole with a bottle of viscous, syrupy medicine. “It's a terrible way to cook, basically,” Hartman added. “Who would want to eat blue chicken anyway?”