As you may have noticed by now I love sharing recipes. Of course I love sharing everything else too but I love to cook and share what I make. In addition to cooking I’m also really passionate about the principles of cooking, the methods and ‘why’ if you will.
I thought I would start a mini series of kitchen tips and how to’s. To make them seem approachable to all levels of experience I’m going to call them tips rather than principles of cooking. I will post things periodically that can help the new and maybe not so new to the kitchen.
I don’t consider myself a master chef by any means but these tips have really helped me improve my cooking abilities and my confidence in the kitchen. It is the same in any subject, sport, activity, etc. When you know the ‘rules’ or the ‘why’ it is easier to play the game. The same goes for cooking.
Today I’m going to start with a basic sanitation principle. Dealing with raw chicken. If you are new to cooking or consider yourself very unfamiliar with the kitchen check out these few easy tips to keep you and your family safe.
When I taught cooking classes in the high school I loved sharing these principles and tips with students. So I’ll be sharing some of the very same things I shared with them. If you are new to cooking this is a place you will want to check out. Easy beginner lessons that can improve your confidence in the kitchen.
I’m starting today with chicken because in the classroom this was one of the things I was quick to address. Contamination in the kitchen is something that can easily be avoided with following these few easy principles. No one wants to end up with food poisoning or Salmonella. Keep you and your family safe by following these few easy tips.
TIP #1: Storing Chicken
- Store chicken in a air tight bag or container in the refrigerator up to 3-4 days or until the printed expiration date on the package.
- When marinating meat always refrigerate meat instead of leaving it out on the counter.
- If you can’t use your chicken within the 3-4 day refrigeration window freeze your chicken for best storage.
- I like to purchase chicken in bulk packages. They usually are 4-5lbs. After I get home from the store I open the package and prepare my chicken for upcoming meals. I cut all of the fat off the chicken and freeze the chicken breasts. I place roughly 1lb in each freezer ziplock bag and lay them flat in the freezer. This makes each meal easy, just grab the bag, thaw and cook. I don’t have to worry about trimming or anything like that.
TIP #2: Thawing Chicken
Never defrost frozen foods at room temperature.
- You can thaw chicken in the refrigerator for 2 days. This takes a little planning ahead but it is the safest method.
- If you choose to freeze a marinade or a freezer meal this is the method I like to thaw them. I’ve found the microwave didn’t work as well because the marinade heats before the meat.
- You can thaw chicken in a ziplock bag in a sink of cold, running water. Or a sink full of cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Use the chicken immediately. This method too takes a little planning ahead and be sure to clean your sink afterwards!
- You can also use the microwave to defrost the chicken, if using the food immediately.
- Never refreeze chicken that has be thawed. Either cook the meat or discard it once you have thawed it.
TIP #3: Avoiding Cross-Contamination
Ways to avoid spreading bacteria and food borne illness in your kitchen:
- Don’t mix cooked food with raw surfaces. Never place cooked food on a plate which has previously held raw meat.
- Do not use the same utensil to stir or serve your dish that you used to handle raw chicken. I’ve seen this one a lot in kitchens where a fork or spatula is used to stir the raw chicken and then serve the meal once it is cooked. This is a no-no. Just grab another serving utensil once the meat has cooked.
- Always wash hands, cutting boards, knifes, forks, etc. with hot soapy water after they come in contact with raw meat.
- I take this one step further in my kitchen and have seperate cutting boards. I have a plastic disposable cutting board for my meats that I can throw away after a few uses. I then have a seperate cutting board I use for my vegetables / fruits and other cutting. This way I know that they will never come in contact with the raw chicken.
- Disinfect counters, sinks, and anything that comes in contact with the cutting boards, knifes, forks, etc that you use while handling raw meats.
TIP #4: Cooking Chicken
Cook your chicken to the proper temperature to avoid risk of food borne illness.
- Use a meat thermometer and insert it into the center thickest part of your meat. All poultry (yes that means chicken as well as your Thanks Giving turkey) should have an internal food temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit before eating.It gets a little tricky because of carry over cooking. Carry over cooking happens when the internal temperatures of your meat continue to rise even after you remove them from the heat source, such as a grill, oven or stove. So the recommendation is to cook your meat until it has an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees before removing it from the heat. Then hopefully by the time you cut into the center has reached 180 degrees. It sounds a bit scientific I know, cooking chicken still scares me and I often overcook mine for this reason.
- If you choose to cut into your meat as your method of checking for doneness ensure that the juices of the chicken are clear and have no pinkness left.
I hope this helps you feel a little more comfortable in the kitchen. Have a great weekend!