Open a package of chicken and you expect a quick, healthy dinner that is safe for your family – but is it? While raw chicken does not come packaged with a bright yellow caution label, it should. Here are tips on how to safely handle raw chicken, so what you serve your family is both safe and healthy.
How to Safely Handle Raw Chicken: The Reality of Harmful Bacteria
Consumer Reports recently reported the results of their analysis of 300 raw chicken breasts purchased at markets across the country and what they found was alarming. Potentially harmful bacteria was found in almost all of the chicken, including organic brands. In fact as they were conducting their research, a national salmonella outbreak occurred crossing 18 states and sickening 389 people with 40% being hospitalized.
Consumer Reports also stated that “more deaths were attributed to poultry than any other commodity.” So how do you protect your family from becoming another statistic? How do you prevent foodborne illness? Read on.
Because Americans will eat an estimated 85 pounds of chicken per person (2014 statistics), precautions must be taken to insure it is a healthy option. Foodborne illness, sometimes called food poisoning, happens when we consume foods contaminated with nasty bacteria, viruses or parasites. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates there are 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually. That is the equivalent of sickening one in six Americans each year.
Buy and Transport With Care
- Always check package expiration dates. Seems simple, but in a hurry we often forget.
- Get a bad package that smells terrible? Take it back with the receipt. Stores should exchange it, no question.
- Place chicken in a plastic bag at the store for transport home, preventing leakage.
- In hot weather, carry an ice chest with ice packs to transport raw chicken and other cold foods home safely from shopping
Handle With Caution
- Before (and after) handling raw chicken (or any raw protein), be sure your hands and nails are clean by washing thoroughly with hot water and soap for 20 seconds. Sing happy birthday twice.
- If a package shows fluid build-up inside, open the package carefully in a bowl or on a rimmed baking sheet to contain splashing and possible contamination.
- If you open raw chicken in the sink, being sure to wash and sanitize the sink afterwards.
- Don’t rinse raw chicken as it could spread bacteria.
- Prevent cross-contamination. Wash your hands, cutting board, knife, and anything else that has touched the raw chicken in hot soapy water right away so you do not forget and pick up a contaminated tool.
- Use a separate cutting board or flexible cutting mat specifically for raw chicken or meat.
- Use a food-safe sanitizing solution during cleanup including the sink, drain and sponges.
- Your refrigerator should be set between 35°- 40° and the freezer at 0°. Sub-Zero refrigerators have a precise digital readout at the top inside that keeps the temperature within one degree of the set point so you can depend on food being safely stored at the right temperature. However, if your refrigerator does not have a digital read-out, an inexpensive refrigerator thermometer will tell you if your refrigerator is holding food safely. Check it. You might be surprised.
- When you bring chicken home from the market, store on a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest shelf, below all other foods. If a package leaks, leakage and bacteria are safely contained.
- If chicken is frozen, thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Never thaw at room temperature.
- Store food properly. Sub-Zero units come stocked with freshness cards, which educate you on where to store fresh food to ensure it stays fresher longer. Different foods require different storage conditions, including specific areas of the refrigerator. Milk, for instance, should be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator (for this reason, Sub-Zero’s design won’t even allow you to fit a gallon of milk in the door). Refer to this Freshness Card from Sub-Zero, with tips on how to best store food.
Sub-Zero keeps food fresher, longer, assuring safe and healthy food for your family and preserving your grocery investment. It guards food’s goodness with dual refrigeration and other unique technologies. It is more than a refrigerator; it’s a food preservation system, designed to last and last. Sub-Zero is just the best. Period.
Cook, Store, Heat Safely
- Cook chicken until a digital food thermometer reads 160°F – 165°F when inserted in the thickest area of the piece. Note that the temperature will rise after removing from the oven.
- After chicken is cooked, don’t let it sit out un-refrigerated for more than one hour. When cool, package tightly and refrigerate. Cooked chicken will last safely in the refrigerator for two to four days, depending on preparation.
- To re-heat cooked chicken safely, heat until it reaches an internal temperature of 165º
- Utilize two powerful tools in your food safety arsenal: masking tape and a Sharpie pen. Label and date everything so there is no guessing how long it has been in the fridge.
Last tip: To reduce the smell of raw chicken parts in your trash in hot weather, freeze the parts in plastic bags and take out the day of trash pickup.
A handy chart of safe refrigeration times for common foods