How to Handle Uncooked Poultry
Poultry can be grilled, baked, boiled, broiled, barbecued, fried, or sauteed. It's no wonder that it's such a staple in our daily diet. However, poultry can easily pass on bacteria and germs that may cause illness and extreme discomfort. Poultry must be handled properly prior to cooking to avoid bacteria and contamination. All poultry, from chicken to duck, requires similar safety precautions.
Transporting and Storing Poultry
Keep uncooked poultry cold prior to cooking it.If you plan on purchasing poultry, make sure the grocery store is your last stop of the day before heading home.
- If it's warm outside, carry an insulated bag or cooler to place the poultry in on your way home from the store.
Prevent cross-contamination by storing poultry separately.While waiting for your groceries to be bagged (or when bagging them yourself), ask that your poultry be wrapped in a plastic bag to prevent leakage that could cross-contaminate other vegetables, fruit, or meat you've purchased.
- This also applies when you put the poultry in your refrigerator when you get home.
Store poultry on the lowest shelf in the fridge.Poultry naturally contains lots of moisture. When you put it in the fridge there's a strong chance some of that moisture will run off the poultry and onto other items in the fridge, contaminating them with harmful bacteria. To prevent this, place the chicken on the lowest shelf in the fridge.
- Alternatively, if you have separate containers in your fridge, store the poultry separately from the other refrigerated items.
Refrigerate poultry for 3 days maximum.Poultry is generally meant to be eaten as soon as possible. If you store poultry in the fridge for longer than 3 days, not only will it not taste as good when it's cooked, but it will become a safety hazard.If you plan to store your poultry for longer than 3 days, consider freezing it instead.
Remember not to wash poultry during preparation.If you feel the temptation to wash poultry with cold water, remember that water will transfer the harmful bacteria on the outside of the poultry to other surfaces. No poultry should need to be washed. If you need to remove something from the outside of a poultry, dab it gently with some paper towels then dispose of them right away.
Use a separate cutting board for poultry.When you're preparing a meal it's a good idea to have several different cutting boards. Designate 1 cutting board just for preparing poultry. Use different cutting boards for ready-to-eat foods such as fruits, vegetables, bread products, etc. This way, you don't risk contaminating other foods with harmful bacteria.
Cook your poultry to an internal temperature of at least 165 °F (74 °C).If you have a meat thermometer, insert it into the thickest cut of the meat and measure the temperature. If the temperature does not exceed 165 °F (74 °C), keep cooking the poultry until it reaches this temperature.
Wash your hands and tools with an antibacterial soap after preparing poultry.Touching other food items, or using utensils that touched the poultry on other food items, may transfer bacteria that can cause food-borne illnesses.Wash anything that was touched with raw poultry with piping hot water and antibacterial soap to kill all harmful bacteria.
Freezing and Defrosting Poultry
Freeze poultry if you don't plan on cooking it within 3 days.You can freeze the poultry in its original packaging or put it into an airtight, leak-proof container. If you plan on freezing it for 2 months or more, wrap the package with a freezer bag, freezer paper, tin foil, or plastic wrap to help prevent the poultry from getting freezer burned. All poultry should be frozen at 0 °F (−18 °C).
Defrost the poultry in the fridge for the best results.Defrosting poultry that has been frozen in the fridge is the slowest way of defrosting it, but it's also the safest and easiest. Take your poultry out of the freezer and put it in the bottom drawer of your fridge, preferably on a plate in case any juices run off it.
- You will need to plan ahead for this strategy as 1 pound (450 g) of poultry will take 5 hours to defrost completely.
Submerge the poultry in cold water to defrost it faster.If you've forgotten to bring your frozen poultry out of the freezer and you need to defrost it fast, the submerging method can defrost 1 pound (450 g) of poultry in around 3 hours. Put the poultry in an airtight bag, then submerge it in a bowl of cold water. You will need to change the water every 30 minutes to keep the process safe.
- Never use hot water for this as it can stimulate the production of airborne illnesses. Keeping your poultry cold is the safest way to defrost it.
Cook the poultry from frozen if you're in a pinch.If you've completely forgotten to defrost your poultry before you need to cook it, you can still cook it from frozen. However, the poultry won't taste as good due to the excess moisture build up. Cook it low and slow, making sure that the inside is completely cooked by slicing the poultry in half and feeling the center of the thickest cut of the meat. If it's cooked, it should be piping hot and white.
- This method works best for poultry that will be slow cooked. Consider this method for stews and soups.
Microwave the poultry if there's no other option.Using the microwave is a viable way to defrost poultry, although generally, it affects the overall flavor, and is poor for food safety.Microwave the poultry on a low heat for 5-10 minutes, then cut it in half. If the interior is warm, immediately start to cook it.
- The microwaving process will begin to cook the poultry. Once it is defrosted you need to start cooking it immediately. Not cooking immediately risks keeping the poultry in the danger zone of heat where illnesses can spread.
QuestionShould I rinse and dry my chicken before I cook it?KateKatey GirlCommunity AnswerIt's a very good idea to thoroughly rinse chicken before cooking it. If you're breading the chicken to fry, you will want to pat it down with a paper towel after rinsing.Thanks!
QuestionShould I wear gloves to prep chicken?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt wouldn't hurt to wear gloves but it's perfectly fine to prep the chicken without them. Just be sure to wash your hands thoroughly when you are finished.Thanks!
Video: How to Work with Raw Chicken
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