6 Safety Mistakes Never to Make When Cooking Chicken
How to serve up a delicious meal without contaminating your kitchen or feeding your family salmonella
Many people are so scared of salmonella that they treat the kitchen like a nuclear waste zone after cooking poultry. But there’s no need to be chicken. Just avoid these common mistakes.
Mistake 1: Thawing frozen chicken on the counter. Thaw it in the fridge, in cold water or in the microwave. The USDA has tips on how to properly thaw chicken. If you opt for the fridge, remember that it can take up to two days for the chicken to fully thaw, depending on its size. Chicken that’s been thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen up to two days after it returns to its thawed state.
Mistake 2: Leaving dishes in your sink. Washing the cutting board you sliced the chicken on or the bowl you used to bread it can spread bacteria to other dishes lying around in your sink. So clean the sink before you start prepping dinner. Also, move clean dishes away from the sink. If the water splashes as you wash, bacteria could cover your freshly washed plates and bowls. Gross!
Mistake 3: Rinsing your chicken. The Food Safety and Inspection Service branch of the USDA recommends against washing poultry (or beef, pork, lamb or veal) before cooking it. Rinsing just spreads bacteria. You might be wondering, “How am I going to get rid of the bacteria without rinsing my chicken?” Simple: by cooking it.
Mistake 4: Using the same cutting board and utensils for other foods. The knife, fork or cutting board that touched the raw chicken could have bacteria on it. Toss these in the sink and use clean ones for other foods. Some people like to designate certain cutting boards for meats and others for other foods. Replace cutting boards that have developed hard-to-clean grooves.
Mistake 5: Not using a thermometer. Chicken and turkey should be cooked to 165 degrees F — and you won’t know you’re there unless you use a meat thermometer. (Don’t judge doneness by color; a chicken can look nearly done but still contain live bacteria. A thermometer can also help you avoid overcooking your chicken.) To get an accurate read, insert it at a slight angle into the thickest part of the meat and allow the temperature to register over the course of 10 seconds. Don’t leave the thermometer in your chicken while it’s cooking. Instead, insert it about five minutes before the meat is supposed to be done.
Mistake 6: Wiping the counters with a sponge. If the counter has bacteria from the chicken on it, now your sponge will, too — and when you use it again later, you’ll spread that bacteria around. Experts recommend using paper towels or clean cloths, along with hot, soapy water, to wash the counter. Wash the cloth in the hot cycle of the washing machine.