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Cook Your Next Chicken Safely By Avoiding These 7 Mistakes

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Raw chicken can be harmful if it’s not handled with care. Here are eight common mistakes you should be avoiding.

#1 Storing chicken improperly

Think your meat can stay on any shelf in the fridge? Think again. Chicken juice has a tendency to leak and drip outside of its container. This can mean bad news (contamination) if it comes into contact with your produce.

What to do instead: Place chicken on a plate, then cover and store on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. 


#2 Not washing your hands  

Your hands are often the best tool when it comes to breading and seasoning your protein. But be careful; once they come in contact with chicken juice, they can quickly cross-contaminate anything you touch. Drawer knobs, countertops, seasoning bottles and much more may be covered in harmful bacteria. 

What to do instead: Take extra care not to touch any surfaces after handling raw chicken. And if you do, be sure to wipe them down afterwards. A technique that can help is to practice handling chicken using only one hand. That way, the other hand is free to grab the saltshaker or turn on the water when needed. 

#3 Leaving chicken out

Many cooks will put chicken out on the counter to thaw, then promptly forget about it. But it’s important to treat chicken as an item with a time stamp. At room temperature, meat can begin to develop harmful bacteria, which if consumed may result in various foodborne illnessess—aka food poisoning.

What to do instead: Place chicken in the fridge immediately after you’ve finished shopping. Only take it out when you are prepared to cook. If the chicken is frozen, thaw it in the fridge up to two days before cooking.

#4 Rinsing chicken

Contrary to popular opinion, raw chicken doesn’t need to be (and shouldn’t be) rinsed in any way. Rinsing can cause bacteria on the chicken to splash and cling to surrounding surfaces, rather than eliminating them from the chicken. Learn more about why you should never wash raw chicken.

What to do instead: Skip the wash. Send your chicken straight to the frying pan…or oven…or slow cooker.

#5 Marinating chicken improperly 

Chicken tastes delicious with a zesty marinade. In fact, it’s one of the easiest ways to tenderize the meat. However, leaving chicken on the counter to marinate can take your dinner from delicious to dangerous, as bacteria can grow better when it’s warm. And though it may seem thrifty, never reuse marinade after it’s come into contact with raw meat.

What to do instead: Marinate your chicken in a plastic bag (or other closed container) in the refrigerator. Toss the juices in the container when you are done. 

#6 Mixing raw chicken and other raw ingredients

For those who work in tiny kitchens, the cutting board can be priceless space. It may seem easy to chop the romaine lettuce for your salad on the same surface where you’ve cut your raw chicken into slices. Unfortunately, this is an easy way for chicken juice to seep into, and yes, contaminate your food.

What to do instead: Avoid placing raw chicken near ingredients that aren’t being cooked.  

#7 Reusing tools that are used in raw chicken 

If you’re a savvy cook, you probably know a thing or two about multitasking. It’s a time-saver to bounce around the kitchen, stirring a skillet one moment and slicing vegetables the next. When it comes to handling chicken, however, cross-contamination can put you at risk for salmonella. Avoid using utensils, cookware, cutting boards and anything else after they’ve been exposed to raw chicken.

What to do instead: Thoroughly wash items after they come into contact with the chicken.

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