Chicken safety

How to cook your chicken to prevent illness.

Billions of chickens are consumed every day in the world.  Eating chicken, in almost every form, whether in soup, chili, stews or salads, is a healthy choice.  Chicken is low in fat and calories and high in protein.  Chicken can be purchased in many forms:  Frozen, fresh or ready-prepared.

No matter what form you prefer, safe handling is essential in avoiding contamination.  Fresh chicken should be cold to the touch when purchased.  Use the plastic bags available at the meat counters to keep chicken juices from dripping onto other foods.  When you get home, immediately put chicken in refrigerator and use within one to two days or freeze (for a whole chicken – up to 12 months, cut-up parts – up to nine months). If freezing chicken for more than two months, place the package in a freezer bag to prevent “freezer burn.”

When purchasing ready-prepared chicken, be sure it is “hot.”  Use it within two hours or cut it into smaller pieces if it is a whole chicken and then refrigerate it.  It is recommended to eat it within three to four days.  Ready prepared chicken can be frozen – for best texture and flavor use it within four months.

Michigan State University Extension suggests three safe thawing methods for chicken:  Refrigerator, cold water and in the microwave.

  1. Thawing chicken in the refrigerator requires planning ahead.  Boneless chicken breasts, chicken parts and whole chicken may take one to two days to thaw. 
  2. Thawing chicken in cold water is done by placing chicken in an airtight, leak-proof bag.  Submerge whole chicken or cut-up parts in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes.  Cook chicken immediately after thawing. 
  3. Chicken that is thawed in the microwave needs to be cooked immediately.  The microwave method begins to warm or cook chicken that can lead to bacteria growth.

It is recommended to thaw chicken first before cooking it in a slow cooker or microwave.  Chicken can be cooked from the frozen state in the oven or on top of the stove.  Chicken needs to be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. A food thermometer is the most accurate method for measuring the internal temperatures of foods.  Please refer to the MSU Extension January 2013 “How to Safely Handle Poultry and Tips on Cutting Up a Whole Bird bulletin.

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