Like other raw foods, poultry should be handled
with care to minimize the risk of food borne
illnesses. Most food borne illnesses are caused by
storing foods at room temperature, cooking or
reheating at too low of a temperature, or for too
short of a time, keeping cooked foods at room
temperature, washing hands improperly, using poor
personal hygiene, and using the same utensils and
serving dishes for raw and cooked foods.
Proper washing of hands and utensils is a crucial
step in the prevention of food-related illnesses.
Wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least
20 seconds immediately before you start cooking
and in between cooking tasks, dry them on clean
towel. Use separate cutting boards for raw meats,
cooked meats, vegetables and fruit.
Wash utensils with hot, soapy water after each use
and allow drying completely. In addition, cutting
boards should be rinsed with a dilute, freshly
made chlorine bleach solution (1-tablespoon
household bleach per 1-quart water).
Poultry should be kept refrigerated until
preparation time. Defrost frozen chicken in the
refrigerator, allowing up to 9 hours to defrost
parts and about 24 hours to defrost a whole
4-pound chicken. Do not let raw poultry juices
drip onto other foods in your refrigerator. If
time is short, place poultry in an airtight bag in
cold water for at least 2 hours (change water
every 30 minutes to keep it cold) or defrost in
the microwave and then cook immediately.
Individually wrapped parts can be cooked straight
from the freezer; be sure to allow about 50
percent more time for cooking.
Rinsing chicken before cooking is a matter of
personal choice. If you rinse your chicken, scrub
the sink with hot soapy water afterwards.
Because bacteria in raw foods can contaminate
cooked foods, it's important to keep the two
apart. Wash anything or surface thoroughly with
soap and water that came in contact with raw
chicken before using them for other items. Discard
raw poultry marinades or boil them for at least 1
minute before serving them with cooked chicken or
An important food safety rule to remember is to
keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Most
disease-causing bacteria are killed at
temperatures above 140°F. To ensure all
disease-causing bacteria are killed throughout
unevenly shaped poultry pieces; internal
temperature recommendations are slightly
higher-165°-180° F., depending on the part.
Bacteria are not killed at temperatures below
40°F., but low temperatures slow their growth. You
should adjust your refrigerator to keep the
temperature no higher than 40°F.
Cook foods completely in one step. Partial cooking
may allow surviving bacteria to grow. Chicken
should always be cooked well done. However,
thorough cooking cannot make up for improper food
handling. Some harmful bacteria release toxins
that cannot be destroyed by heat.
Most foods can safely remain at temperatures
between 40°F. and 140°F. for no more than 2 hours,
including serving time and time cooling in the
refrigerator. Foods kept in a chafing dish that is
hotter than 140°F. can be held for about 4 hours.
To chill cooked foods as quickly as possible,
place them in a covered shallow pan or container
in the refrigerator or freezer immediately after
the meal is finished. Use the leftovers within 2
to 4 days. Reheat leftovers to at least 165°F.
Proper wrapping and storage help keep raw and cooked chicken at
1. Refrigerate fresh chicken in its original
package in a low, cold part of the refrigerator
for up to 2 days. Freeze uncooked chicken if it
will not be used within that time.
2. For extra protection, place chicken in a
plastic bag to separate it from other foods. Store
it on a low shelf of the refrigerator so it does
not drip onto other items in the refrigerator.
3. When freezing, wrap parts separately in foil or
other freezer wrap. This makes it easy to defrost
only the amount you need. Proper wrapping prevents
"freezer burn," which results from contact with
4. Wrap cooked chicken well before storing in the
refrigerator or freezer. The following guidelines
show how long you can safely store raw and cooked
chicken. To ensure it is at highest quality,
storage longer than these times is not