Handling raw poultry safely

Knowing how to handle raw meat is an extremely important component of food safety.

For most Americans, chicken is a staple food in their diet. Chicken is an important component of the protein group, supplying essential nutrients and low in fat. Chicken can be prepared in a variety of ways to fit many different cuisines. Because of the popularity of chicken in the American diet, it is important that we practice excellent food safety at all times, starting in the grocery store and ending with storing leftovers.

Michigan State University Extension recommends when purchasing raw chicken at the store to use the plastic bags provided in the meat section. This will help avoid juices from the raw chicken contaminating other foods.

When purchasing raw chicken it is recommended to use within one to two days or to freeze. According to the Food Marketing Institute “Food Keeper” A Consumer Guide to Food Quality and Safe Handling, whole chicken can be frozen up to 12 months and chicken parts up to nine months. Washing raw poultry before cooking is not recommended. The raw meat juices that may contain bacteria can spread to other foods or utensils and surfaces causing cross-contamination.

Hand washing after handling raw poultry or its packaging is a necessity because anything you touch could become contaminated. Wash hands in warm water with soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. Cooking, baking, broiling, boiling or grilling to the right temperature kills the bacteria, so washing raw chicken is not necessary.

Using a food thermometer is the only sure way of knowing if your food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy foodborne bacteria. The recommended internal temperature for properly cooked chicken is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Any leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours of preparation. Leftovers can be refrigerated up to three days or frozen, for use within two to three months.

For more information on safe food preparation and storage of foods, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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