Tips for Safely Cooking Chicken
When I was three years old, I got salmonella poisoning. My mom took me to the doctor and he asked her if she had chickens running in the house. (She said she was very insulted…) I’m guessing the pediatrician put me on antibiotics, because obviously, I survived. However, while I don’t remember being sick from it, I’ve been “weird” about chicken ever since I heard the story as a teen. For example, I won’t eat chicken with bones or any sort of snappy stuff in it, and I definitely won’t eat chicken thighs. I won’t eat chicken when anyone else prepares it, either. For no reason other than it grosses me out. When you’re that picky, you learn a lot about food safety. Here’s the lowdown on safely cooking chicken.
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Never thaw frozen chicken at room temperature.
I’m guessing this is how I got salmonella. My mom is famous for leaving chicken on a plate on the counter, even to this day. Only this allows harmful bacteria to grow, and then curious little girls come up and stick their fingers in it. Instead, you should always thaw chicken in the refrigerator in a glass or disposable container. Plastics can absorb bacteria.
Allow a full 24 hours for a whole chicken to thaw in your refrigerator.
If you’re just thawing parts, it will take at least 12.
Don’t use the same cutting board you use for your vegetables and other food items to prepare chicken.
This is good advice for any meat. Also, glass cutting boards are best because they don’t absorb anything.
Always cook chicken according to temperature, not time.
Because your refrigerator isn’t the same temperature as someone else’s, the starting temperature of the chicken is different too. Cooking times will vary. Do yourself a favor and use a meat thermometer Every. Single. Time.
Boneless chicken breasts should be cooked until they are at least 165 degrees in the thickest part.
Bone-in breasts should reach an internal temperature of 170, and thighs and drumsticks need to hit 175 degrees. Unless I’m cooking it for myself. In which case safely cooking chicken refers to turning it to ash before eating it.
Cook fresh or previously frozen chicken within 2 days of buying it.
Additionally, get that chicken back into the refrigerator within 2 hours of cooking it.
Don’t rinse your chicken.
When you rinse, the water splashes around in the cavity and can spread bacteria all over your kitchen. Gross.
Clean up well.
This is super important. Make sure that after preparing your chicken, you clean all of your utensils in hot soapy water (a dishwasher is best) and wipe your counters down with a disinfectant. I use bleach.
Despite all my weirdness about chicken, it’s still one of my favorite foods. I love it in casseroles, boneless wings, sandwiches, and on salads. I probably eat more chicken than any other meat. I never get bored with it because it can be prepared in so many different ways. One thing remains the same, though. Whether I've got a plate of cordon bleu or buffalo wings, safely cooking chicken is always something I think about.
Here are some of my favorite chicken recipes:
Instant Pot Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup Recipe - The Moody Blonde
Rachel's Deviled Chicken - Rachael Ray
Chicken Marsala - Tyler Florence
My mom was just telling me about not rinsing my chicken, which in all honesty I never did anyway. I follow these tips you mention but rarely check the temp of my chicken and rather look for it to have clear juices.
That's also a good way to check!
We eat a fair amount of chicken, mostly boneless breasts. I hate overcooked chicken, but there certainly is a fine line between under cooked and dried out...It takes experience to know when to take it off the heat. I'm gonna use a thermometer next time to see how close I am to perfection!
Im scared to cook chicken because of all the cooking rules that can kill the bacteria!
I had always rinsed chicken really well, then cleaned my sink. Maybe I was wrong, but now I'm nervous to make it without rinsing.
I didn't know about not washing the chicken, we always do that. Very good information because I love to be safe and clean in the kitchen.
Thanks for the tip reminders- I remembered most but not all & thanks for the recipes!
I’m overly careful (almost obsessive) when it comes to cooking chicken. I’ve heard so many salmonella horror stories...
Thanks for the reminder. We cook chicken a lot so this is very helpful.
Sometimes it's very difficult to work out whether the meat on a barbecue grill is correctly cooked, especially if it's a large joint of meat or a large bird such as a chicken or turkey. Over-cooked meat will disappoint your barbecue guests, and undercooked meat can be a health risk.
I've never rinsed chicken. I have always cleaned up well after preparing it though.