Chicken is the most eaten meat in the United States, but many people are a bit squeamish about cooking poultry. Keeping a few safety tips in mind when handling chicken is important, but there is no need to shy away. Care in preparing it properly will ensure your family is safe when eating poultry.
Chicken Cooking Safety
Keep in mind, undercooked chicken may make your family very sick, and raw chicken can carry diseases, which can contaminate your kitchen, if it isn’t handled correctly. The following tips will help you to cook and eat chicken safely.
Chicken Shopping & Storage Tips:
Remember these safety tips when shopping for raw chicken.
- Packages should feel cold to the touch.
- Place chicken in your cart last or close to last (and no pit stops on the way home).
- Packages should be wrapped in plastic.
- The “use by date” does not pertain to chicken that you have frozen at home.
- The “sell by date” is what the store must go by to keep the chicken fresh. You can still safely purchase and freeze chicken that is close to its “sell by” date.
- Immediately place your chicken in a refrigerator one you have it home.
- It is best to use chicken within 2 days or freeze it.
Thawing frozen chicken:
- The safest way to thaw chicken is to place in the refrigerator and let it slowly thaw. This may take planning, but it is the best way to thaw frozen chicken.
- Thawed chicken should be used within 24 hours. It should never be refrozen!
- Thawing chicken in the microwave is not recommended. It generally results in tough spots & must be cooked immediately.
- Do not leave chicken at room temperature for more than an hour.
- After you handle raw chicken, immediately wash your hands with soap and water before touching anything else- even other foods to avoid cross-contamination.
- Wash down counter surfaces immediately after poultry prep is complete, and if you used the sink, don’t forget to wash that out too.
Chicken Cooking tips:
Chicken should be cooked thoroughly for it to be safe to eat. The best way to ensure a chicken is done is to cook it per weight, and check for an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
The following information should help to determine how long to cook the chicken:
- Whole chickens that are 3-4 pounds should be roasted, boiled, fried, or broiled for an hour and a half. Add an extra half hour per pound over 4 pounds. (When checking internal temperature, insert probe into inner thigh area until you hit bone.)
- Chicken breasts, bone-in, should be cooked for 40 minutes in any way, except for grilling. That can be 12 minutes per side. This pertains to breasts that are 6-8 ounces.
- Chicken breasts, boneless, roughly 4 ounces, should be cooked for 25 minutes, except with grilling. That should be 8 minutes per side.
- Legs or thighs, 8 or 4 oz., should be cooked for 45 minutes in any method besides grilling, which should be 12 minutes per side.
- Drumsticks and wings should be cooked for 40 minutes, or 8-12 minutes per side when grilling.
A Final Note on Cooking chicken:
Now while taking all these precautions is important, there is no need for dry overcooked chicken for the sake of safety. Check out this juicy roast chicken tip, when roasting whole chickens, and pay attention when cooking boneless, so you can get a bit of a feel for when it is done. Also remember when cooking boneless, that smaller or thinner pieces cook quickly and are easier to monitor doneness effectively.