Cooking Chicken

By the end of 2018, the US will produce over 19 million tons of chicken. That weighs three times more than the biggest pyramid in Egypt. It is fair to say that America likes its chicken. This bird’s ancestor, the red junglefowl, was discovered long ago in Asia. Since then, chicken has become popular all over the world. Poultry can prepared in many different ways. It is important to keep safety in mind when making dishes with this famous bird. Bacteria from poorly cooked chicken infect about 3.4 million Americans every year. This can be prevented by following food safety guidelines.

Clean everything that raw chicken touches. Surfaces, utensils, and hands must be cleaned after touching raw chicken. This prevents the spread of bacteria to other places in the kitchen. There is no need to wash raw chicken. In fact, washing raw chicken can spread bacteria around the kitchen sink. The best way to fight bacteria in the chicken is through proper cooking.

Separate raw chicken form other foods. Bacteria in the juices from the chicken can spread to other foods. This is called cross contamination. To prevent cross contamination, use separate cutting boards, knives and utensils. Remember to wash your hands

Cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. The best way to find the internal temperature is by using a meat thermometer. The USDA prefers the thermometer method rather than cooking until there is no visible pink flesh. Kitchen thermometers can be found for less than $10; they are worth the investment. If there isn’t a thermometer in your home, refer to the table from the USDA’s Food Safety Information to find appropriate roasting, simmering and grilling instructions.

Chill chicken correctly. Food-borne bacteria do not replicate very quickly at temperatures below 40 degrees. It is vital to refrigerate chicken soon after purchasing it. Raw chicken should be placed in the bottom of the fridge. This prevents cross-contamination if the package leaks. Plan to use chicken within two days of purchasing. Frozen chicken can last up to 9 months in a freezer below 0 degrees. Once chicken is cooked, it should only be stored in the fridge for 3 to four days.

As long as the safety guidelines are followed, baked chicken is a great lean protein. Protein is an essential macronutrient that can help the stomach feel fuller after a meal. Practice the safety guidelines while trying some new recipes, such as Spinach & Chicken Italian or Chicken Cabbage Stir fry.

Joshua Knutz is a Family & Community Health Education Program Assistant for the Oregon State University Extension Service.

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