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Safety Tips for Handling and Cooking Raw Chicken

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I have a love-hate relationship with chicken. I love eating different dishes made with chicken like quesadillas, fried chicken, roasted chicken, and spicy baked chicken. I love basically anything that has chicken in it. But I absolutely hate cleaning and cutting chicken. The feel of the chicken fat underneath the skin absolutely makes me gag. I am pretty sure most people do not like the idea of handling raw chicken.

According to USDA recommendations you do not have to wash or rinse chicken since most of the bacteria that is on the meat doesn't wash away. It only spreads and contaminates the counter tops, knives, boards and your hands. (www.ehow.com) I never knew we could cook chicken without washing or rinsing it.

There are several precautions for handling the chicken from the store to dinner to the storage of the leftovers. The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends getting your chicken in the grocery store just before you walk to the counter for checkout. Keep it separate from other foods, as the bacteria spreads fast to other foods. Keep the chicken in a grocery bag so it won't leak onto other foods. Make sure fresh chicken is stored under 26 degrees Fahrenheit in the meat section. If you are buying frozen chicken it should be labeled as such. Most of the chicken packages give us the "use by" or "sell by" expiration dates. As per U.S. food safety and inspection guidelines, frozen chicken can be eaten even after the expiration date.(www.eHow.com) Do not buy the chicken if it smells or is yellowish in color.

Once you get the fresh chicken home, try to cook it within two days. Or else freeze it at 0 degrees Fahrenheit in the freezer. Defrost chicken in cold water, in the microwave, or place it in the refrigerator a day before to thaw. If you defrost it in cold water or the microwave cook it immediately. Never leave chicken outside on the counter or sink as the bacteria could contaminate the surfaces. Hydrogen sulphide or H2S is a process of proteins breaking down due to microbes in action, which spread rapidly, contaminating the chicken. This in turn could cause severe illness in people.

Clean all kitchen surfaces after handling and cutting the chicken. Disinfect the counters and sinks. Wash cutting boards, knives and other utensils thoroughly. Wash hands carefully to prevent any bacteria from spreading.

Chicken must be cooked with an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. (Food Safety and Inspection Service of USDA). For each pound of chicken, it must be cooked a minimum of 20 minutes. For frying, baking, or grilling higher temperatures with shorter cooking times can be used. For steaming or slow cooking, longer cooking times with lower heating temperatures are recommended. The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection recommendation for cooking the whole chicken is to check the thickest part of the bird to see if it is fully cooked. Make sure it is not pink inside.

Store the cooked chicken leftovers in a foil or freezer wrap to keep the food from being oxidized. Cooked chicken must be stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the refrigerator or 0 degrees in the freezer.

A quick tip from eHow.com: Soak chicken in salt water (3:1 ratio of salt and water) for an hour to keep it tender and juicy. Or coat chicken with cooking oil and seal it to keep it from drying.

Chicken is the most tasty meat if cooked right. Cooking it at the right temperature, using a good recipe is a treat for meat lovers. And keeping ourselves from getting sick while enjoying the chicken is a recipe for happy and healthy living because, OUR LIFE MATTERS.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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