All about chicken provides you basic information on how to buy, store and cook chicken.
When buying, storing or cooking chicken, it’s important to follow certain safe food handling practices to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination.
All About Chicken Buying, Storing and Cooking:
Here are some simple tips for buying, storing and preparing chicken safely:
Buying tips about chicken:
- At the grocery store, chicken packages should be among the last items you pick up before checking out.
- The frozen chicken packages you buy should feel rock solid to the touch.
- To buy chicken as fresh as possible, check the sell by/or use by date that appears on all packs purchased in Supermarkets. Most butchers will also advise customers on the use by date.
- Read the label, and ensure the packaging is clean, cold and tightly sealed without any tears or leaks.
- Overwrap the chicken in a store-provided plastic bag to prevent leakage.
- Separate the chicken packages from other food items in your grocery cart to avoid cross-contamination.
- When heading home, preferably carry chicken and other perishable items in cooler bags or a cooler to keep them fresh and safe.
Storing tips about chicken:
- After reaching home, promptly refrigerate or freeze fresh or frozen chicken within thirty minutes of purchasing in its original package.
- Raw chicken should not sit at room temperature for over 15 minutes.
- If freezing chicken, do so right away after getting home to extend its shelf life as well as to avoid bacterial growth.
- Mark the date of purchase on the packaging if freezing chicken.
- Freeze chicken safely in its original packaging for up to 2 months; if you plan on freezing it longer, double-wrap or rewrap with aluminium foil, freezer paper or plastic wrap. Airtight packaging is very important in freezing chicken successfully. Most raw chicken stays good for 9-12 months in the freezer.
- If you intend to use the chicken within 1-2 days, store it in the coldest part of your refrigerator.
- Tightly wrap or store raw chicken in a clean sealed container before placing it in the fridge to keep it from drying out and becoming tough.
- Set the refrigerator temperature to 40 °F or below.
- Keep the freezer temperature at 0°F
- Preferably keep the chicken container on the lowest shelf and towards the rear of your fridge.
- Place the chicken container away from other foods to avoid touching or dripping juices onto them.
- Keep chicken wrapped until you’re all set to prepare.
Cooking Tips About Chicken:
- Thoroughly wash your hands before and after touching raw chicken, and also during the chicken preparation process when you reach out for something – like a cooking utensil or an ingredient.
- Wash cutting boards, utensils and kitchen work areas thoroughly with hot sudsy water immediately after using them in handling raw chicken.
- Rinse raw chicken with cold water and pat dry with paper towels (which you then discard) before you cook it.
- It’s always safe to use one chopping board for fruits and vegetables and a different one for raw meat.
- Always try to cook chicken fresh – avoid freezing as far as possible to prevent additional moisture loss while thawing, which leaves you with less tender meat.
- To eliminate added fat, season chicken with low-fat or fat-free marinades such as low-fat yogurt, wine, juices, herbs, and spices
- Cook chicken to the right temperature, because undercooked chicken will be tough and overcooked chicken will be dry due to loss moisture.
- Use a non-stick pan to fry or brown chicken as you will require less added fat.
- Leave space between chicken pieces when cooking to allow them to evenly brown.
- To avoid overcooking, remove those chicken pieces that get done first while finishing other pieces when grilling, frying, sautéing or broiling chicken.
- Never reuse the same marinade for basting which was used to marinate raw chicken. Set aside some marinade for basting before placing raw chicken in the prepared marinade.
- If chicken skin is left on, it helps retain juices and increases tenderness when cooking the chicken.
- To avoid drying out of chicken breast area during roasting, cover the area with a piece of foil. Remove the foil in the last thirty minutes of chicken roasting time to allow proper browning of the skin.
- When roasting chicken, a trussed chicken takes longer to cook than an untrussed chicken which cooks quickly and more evenly.
- Before carving roasted chicken, allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes to let juices seep throughout the meat. Place the chicken with bottom end up to allow more juices ooze into the drier chicken breast area.
- Use a sharp knife to neatly cut or carve chicken.
- Cut chicken across the grain to get slices with shorter fibres, yielding more tender pieces.
- If you remove the skin before eating cooked chicken, you eliminate about 2/3rds of the fat content.
- Uncovered chicken takes less time to cook in the oven than covered chicken.
- If cooking a whole bird, test thickest part of the chicken leg for doneness, as this takes the longest to cook.
- When barbecuing chicken outdoors, keep it in the fridge until ready to cook. Never place cooked chicken on the same plate as raw chicken.
- It’s safe to eat leftover chicken for 2-3 days – but if it smells off, discard it.
- Cooked chicken usually stays good for about 3-4 days in the refrigerator and about four months in the freezer.
- If reheating cooked chicken, ensure the chicken is steaming hot throughout, especially if you’re reheating it in the microwave.
- For safe cooking, cook the chicken to a temperature of 74°C.
Thawing Frozen Chicken:
- For best results, defrost wrapped, frozen chicken in the refrigerator by letting it thaw overnight
- Never thaw chicken on the kitchen counter or even in a microwave.
- In cold water by submerging the packaged chicken and changing the water every thirty minutes
- If you’re in a hurry, thaw frozen chicken in cold water, by submerging the wrapped chicken, but keep changing the water every thirty minutes or so.
- Once the chicken thaws, don’t refreeze it.
- Prepare frozen chicken the day it thaws.
About Chicken Marinade Tips:
For the perfect chicken marinade pay attention to these key tips:
- To enhance the flavour of marinade, keep in check the amount of oil added. For the perfect marinade, use half oil and half acid like vinegar, lemon juice or yogurt.
- Always try to use fresh herbs. If using dried herbs in your marinade, crush them between the fingers to release the fragrant oils before mixing them in the marinade.
- Instead of a liquid marinade, you can always try a dry marinade using a mixture of salt, sugar, pepper, herbs and spices and rubbing it directly on the chicken. Then refrigerate the chicken for a couple of hours to allow it to absorb the flavours.
- Marinade mixing is much easier in a zipper food bag than mixing in a bowl or other dish. You just add the chicken along with the marinade, close the bag, squish lightly to mix the ingredients together and then place the bag on a plate or bowl in a refrigerator till required. It also saves you from cleaning up because you just trash the bag once you’re done marinating. Don’t reuse a storage bag that has held raw chicken.
About Chicken Marinating Times:
- Always marinate your chicken as per the time mentioned in the recipe. Otherwise, a chicken marinating time of two hours is good enough, although you can always marinate chicken for a shorter or longer time than that, depending on the intensity of flavours in the chicken marinade.
- If the marinating time is less than 1 hour, you can keep the chicken on the kitchen countertop rather than placing it in the refrigerator. However, if your kitchen is a little warm, it’s better to keep the marinated chicken in the refrigerator.
- You can keep marinated chicken in your refrigerator upto 2 days and any unused marinade should be discarded after that.
About Cooking Marinated Chicken:
- Lift the chicken out of the marinade and onto a grill or pan to cook it.
- Add any leftover marinade to the chicken while it cooks. However, do not add raw marinade 3-5 minutes before the end of cooking time due to food safety reasons. Any marinade should cook for a few minutes before serving the chicken.
- Use a food thermometer to test if the chicken is cooked – it is safe to eat if the internal temperature of cooked chicken is at least 165°F (73.9 °C).
- After cooking, refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours. You should never leave cooked chicken out at room temperature beyond 2 hours.
- Discard any unused marinade. Uncooked or undercooked chicken marinade should never be served because it’s been in direct contact with raw chicken.
- Place any remaining marinade in a saucepan and boil for a couple of minutes and then serve the cooked marinade as a sauce for your chicken dish.
Stay safe and healthy by following the above food safety measures for storing and handling raw or frozen chicken at your home.