Chicken is one of America’s favorite protein foods. From traditional Southern fried chicken to chicken chasseur, chicken feeds most of us several times a week.
But chicken is also susceptible to food-borne pathogens. Some of the bacteria that can turn up on your chicken:
- Escherichia coli (E. coli)
- Staphylococcus aureus
- Listeria monocytogenes
- Campylobacter jejuni
Handle chicken safely in your kitchen to keep your family healthy while you enjoy your chicken dinners.
Defrost chicken safely
Never leave frozen chicken out on the counter to defrost. It will be at room temperature too long, giving bacteria an opportunity to grow. The safest way to defrost chicken is to leave it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
If you need to defrost your chicken faster than that, you can put it into cold water. Fill a bowl with cold watering make sure your chicken is in a water-tight package. If it’s in butcher paper, you can put it into a zip closure plastic bag. Change the water every 30 minutes to make sure it stays cold enough to discourage the growth of bacteria.
Defrosting chicken in the microwave is possible, but you should defrost only the amount you need, and cook it immediately upon defrosting. Use the defrost setting and avoid partially cooking the chicken. Cook it right away and do not refreeze it.
You can cook chicken when it is frozen or partially frozen. In fact, it’s easier to cut chicken onto small pieces for stir fry and casseroles if it’s still partly frozen.
Prepare chicken safely
Don’t wash chicken before you cook it.
Chicken should have its own cutting board — don’t cut vegetables on the same board you’re using for chicken. Cross-contamination is a real danger.
Wash your hands before and after cooking or handling chicken.
Cook chicken to 165 degrees. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature and make sure your chicken is fully cooked. This is the only way to kill the bacteria that lead to food-borne illnesses.
When you grill chicken, use one plate to carry raw chicken to the grill and a clean plate to carry the cooked chicken away from the grill. Don’t use a marinade as a sauce — toss it when you’re through marinating your chicken. Throw it away carefully, though, because it can also spread bacteria if it splashes around your sink or countertops.
Chicken clean up
Make sure to clean and then sanitize surfaces touched by chicken while cooking. Cleaning with hot, soapy water clears away the dirt and some of the bacteria, and removes things from the surfaces.
Sanitizing the surfaces comes next, once the surfaces are cleaned off and ready. Use your dishwasher to sanitize cutting boards and utensils, or soak them briefly in your sanitizing solution.
With care, you can serve delicious chicken without worrying about food safety.