Thursday, October 10, 2013

How to handle raw chicken safely

With all the news about Salmonella in chicken in the news in recent days it prompts the question - how should you safely handle raw chicken in the kitchen?

Although the Foster Farms outbreak has come to the publics attention, raw chicken can often carry the salmonella bacteria, which is responsible for more cases of food poisoning than any other pathogen.

Fresh chicken is kept cold during distribution in order to extend its shelf life as well as to prevent bacterial growth. Packages of chicken should feel cold to the touch when you select them, and should be among the last items you put in your cart before checking out.

Packages of chicken should be wrapped in plastic bags to prevent leakage onto other items in your grocery cart. Most grocery stores have plastic bags near the poultry sections for you to use.
Once you're home, you should immediately place your chicken in your refrigerator  and use it within 2 days. Otherwise, it should be frozen.

Thawing Frozen Chicken & Poultry Safely

NEVER defrost chicken on the counter or the microwave!
The correct way to thaw frozen poultry is in the refrigerator. This will take planning ahead of time. Whole chickens may take up to 2 days to fully thaw in this way, while boneless breasts should thaw overnight. Once the product thaws, it should be kept in the refrigerator no more than a day before cooking it.

Safe Handling of Chicken & Poultry

Just like meat, fish or any animal-based food product, raw or undercooked chicken carry certain bacteria. These bacteria can cause illness in large numbers.
Therefore, to avoid illness we need to limit bacteria's ability to multiply, or kill them altogether. Limiting their ability to multiply requires making sure that food products are not left at room temperature for more than an hour. The only way to kill food-borne pathogens is by thoroughly cooking the food.

Another concern is cross contamination between raw product and other foods, especially ones that are already cooked or ones that will be eaten raw, such as salad vegetables or greens.
An example of how this can happen is if a cook were to cut raw chicken on a cutting board and then later slice fresh tomatoes on the same board without washing it first. Different cutting boards and knives should be used for raw poultry and other products. All utensils should be adequately cleaned with hot water and detergent.

Chicken Cooking Times

A rule of thumb is 20 minutes per lb plus an additional 20 minutes.

Although raw chicken and under cooked chicken is the most common cause of food poisoning, many cases could be avoided by more diligent handling in the kitchen.

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