Cooking chicken this summer: do it safely!

Many American households fire up the grill as summertime arrives. Whether cooking chicken on the grill or stove, a new study revealed that it’s important to do so safely. A study published in April 2020 by European scientists in the journal PLOS One suggests that consumers routinely fail to accurately judge doneness of chicken. Cooking meat and poultry to proper temperatures is an important step in preventing foodborne illness.

Tips for Safe Handling from the Grocery to the Grill

  • Safe handling of fresh or frozen chicken. Chicken is sold refrigerated or frozen at the grocery store to slow or prevent the growth of bacteria and to increase its shelf life. Chicken should feel cold to the touch when purchased. Select fresh chicken just before checking out at the register. Put packages of chicken in disposable plastic bags (if available) to contain any leakage that could cross-contaminate cooked foods or produce in the grocery cart or shopping bags. Make the grocery store your last stop before going home.
    Once home, immediately place chicken in a refrigerator that maintains a temperature of 40°F or below. Use it within 1 or 2 days, or freeze it at 0°F. If kept frozen continuously, it will be safe indefinitely. The quality of the poultry may diminish the longer it is frozen.Chicken may be frozen in its original packaging or repackaged. If you plan to freeze chicken longer than 2 months, overwrap the porous store plastic packages with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap, or freezer paper, or place the package inside a freezer bag. Use these materials or airtight freezer containers to freeze the chicken from opened packages or repackage family packs of chicken into smaller amounts. Proper wrapping prevents “freezer burn,” which appears as grayish-brown leathery spots and is caused by air reaching the surface of food. Cut freezer-burned portions away either before or after cooking the chicken. Heavily freezer-burned products may have to be discarded because they may be too dry or tasteless.
  • Marinate chicken safely.  If you wish to marinade chicken before cooking, do so in the refrigerator. A plastic food storage bag works well for marinading meat and poultry, and the bag can be discarded after use. Do not wash chicken or other poultry prior to cooking or preparing.
  • Cook chicken to a safe internal temperature. Cook chicken to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Poultry should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) as measured with a food thermometer. Never partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later. Place cooked chicken on a clean plate and consume, or refrigerate, within 2 hours of grilling.

The USDA has several fact sheets to help make your summer grilling season food-safe.

Stay well and food-safe. Barb