Tips for Cooking Chicken

Here are some simple tips for handling, prepping, and cooking a dinnertime favorite.

What’s not to love about chicken? It’s versatile, inexpensive, and a great source of protein. But raw chicken requires some special care in the kitchen. Read on for quick tips and top recipes.

Keep It Cold

Store raw chicken in the coldest part of your refrigerator and use it within two days.

Never leave raw or frozen chicken at room temperature, which encourages the growth of bacteria like Salmonella and Listeria.

Freeze any chicken that won’t be used right away. You can freeze it in its store packaging, but if you plan on storing it for longer than two months, unwrap the chicken and rewrap it in heavy duty aluminum foil and a plastic freezer bag. Chicken can be frozen as long as one year without sacrificing quality.

Plus: 10 Chicken Recipes with a Twist

Thawing Chicken

Thaw frozen chicken slowly and safely. It will take anywhere from 24 hours to two days to thaw a whole chicken in the refrigerator, and about 2 to 9 hours for cut-up chicken parts (less for boneless pieces). You can thaw chicken more quickly in a cold water bath or by using the defrost cycle of the microwave. But never thaw frozen chicken by leaving it out at room temperature.

Keep It Clean

Rinse chicken with cold water, inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels before preparing. To prevent cross-contamination, thoroughly clean all surfaces, utensils, cutting boards, knives, and hands with hot soapy water after handling raw poultry. Keep a separate cutting board specifically for working with chicken.

Get It Done

The only way to tell if chicken is cooked properly is to use a meat thermometer–seeing if the juices run clear is not a reliable indicator of doneness. To test the internal temperature of a whole chicken, insert the thermometer into the thigh, taking care not to touch the bone. Chicken should reach 165 degrees F (75 degrees C).

Plus: Cool Cucumber Chicken

The meat will continue to cook once removed from the heat. So if the temperature is a few degrees below the target–keep the thermometer in place for a moment; the temperature might climb to a safe heat.

Safety Tips for Marinating Chicken

Marinating or brining? Always let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator, even for a short soak of 30 minutes. And never baste the cooked chicken with the same marinade that’s touched raw chicken: either make extra marinade and set aside a portion just for basting, or boil it for two to three minutes, enough time to kill any bacteria.

Handling Leftover Chicken

Cooked chicken should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Package it up in an air-tight container and store it in the fridge for up to two days.

Plus: Jalapeno Chicken Wraps

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