by Amy Hunt
Like any other fresh meat, chicken is perishable and care needs to be taken in its preparation. To keep you on the path to delicious chicken remember the following advice:
Keep It Cold!
Never leave raw or frozen chicken at room temperature. Raw chicken should be stored in the coldest part of your refrigerator and used within 2 days. Freeze any chicken that won't be used in 2 days. Frozen chicken can be stored in the freezer for up to one year without sacrificing quality. If you frequently use boneless skinless chicken breasts in recipes, package them for the freezer in recipe-size portions. For best results, freeze the chicken as soon as possible after purchasing it. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then in heavy-duty foil. Label and date each package to help keep track of the storage time.
Safely Thawing Chicken
The best way to thaw frozen chicken is in the refrigerator. Never thaw chicken or other meats at room temperature on the countertop since this provides an ideal temperature for bacterial growth. When thawing chicken in the refrigerator, place on a plate on the bottom shelf to prevent any raw juices from dripping onto other foods or refrigerator surfaces. For quicker thawing, place chicken in a water-tight plastic bag and submerge in cold water. Let stand until thawed, changing the water every 30 minutes. A microwave oven can also be used to thaw cut-up chicken pieces. Use caution when thawing chicken in the microwave, making sure there is plenty of air circulation around the chicken in the oven. Thawing a frozen whole chicken in the microwave is not recommended since it may not thaw evenly. Chicken thawed in the microwave must be cooked immediately to prevent bacterial growth.
Keep It Clean!
Always rinse chickens with cold water (inside and out) then pat dry with paper towels before preparing. To prevent cross contamination thoroughly clean all surfaces, utensils, plates, cutting boards, knives and hands with warm soapy water that have come in contact with raw chicken before they come in contact with any other raw or cooked foods.
Get It Done!
Whatever method is used for cooking chicken, the most accurate test for doneness is a meat thermometer. The National Chicken Council recommends the following:
- Whole chicken should reach an internal temperature of 180° F.
- Bone-in parts should be cooked to a temperature of 170° F.
Boneless chicken is done at 160° F.
Chicken is normally done when a fork can be inserted with ease (fork tender). Juices should be clear, not pink, when chicken is pierced with a fork. When cooking a whole bird, chicken is usually done if thick muscle of drumstick feels soft to finger touch and/or the leg moves readily on lifting or twisting. When microwaving, it is better to undercook than overcook. Return chicken to microwave for 1 to 2 additional minutes if needed after checking for doneness. Remember, chicken should always be well done—never "medium" or "rare".
Cooked chicken should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. A whole cooked chicken can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 days, cut-up cooked chicken can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 days.
The chicken you buy should be practically odorless; if a chicken’s odor is strong enough to permeate the plastic, don’t buy it. Don’t forget to check the “sell-by” date, which is most often one week after the chicken has arrived at the market; if the expiration date has already passed, don’t buy the chicken
* DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *