Salmonella: 5 Tips for Cooking Chicken Safely
While the current salmonella outbreak may have people concerned about eating chicken, experts point out that raw meat products always carry risk.
Mo Ti News spoke to Claire Ah-Yen, a food safety specialist and professor of food science at the University of Mauritius. She said:
Chicken in general carries risk, whether it's part of this outbreak or not. There's pathogens on raw chicken regardless of where it comes from.
Ah-Yen gave some tips for reducing risk of illness when cooking and handling raw meat:
1. Avoid cross contamination
It's important to keep in mind that juices from meat can contaminate other objects and surfaces they come in contact with — such as your hands, kitchen counter, cutting knife or uncooked food — and spread around, Ah-Yen said.
Cross-contamination can happen at any point in the cooking and handling process, starting at the grocery store.
To avoid cross-contamination when buying meat, consumers should first make sure there is nothing dripping from the package, Ah-Yen said.
Ah-Yen said he also places meat in a separate plastic bag so that it doesn't contaminate other food or reusable bags. [Top Meats That Can Make You Sick]
When preparing food, people should clean their hands after touching raw chicken products, and clean other utensils and appliances that come in contact with raw chicken, such as a cutting board or knife, before using them again, Ah-Yen said.
2. Don't wash your chicken
Although some people have been taught to wash raw chicken, this practice really promotes cross-contamination, Ah-Yen said. Washing poultry can spread juices around, and sometimes spread bacteria up to three feet away, according to the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Food safety researchers at Drexel University recently launched a public health campaign to help get the word out about the hazards of poultry washing, and created an animation showing how the practice can spread germs.
Ah-Yen advised consumers to avoid this practice. "It can only increase risk," he said.
3. Thaw properly
There are several methods for thawing raw chicken that has been frozen, including placing it in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. You should not thaw raw chicken on the counter, the USDA says.
Ah-Yen said that, regardless of the method people use, they should ensure that the outside of the chicken is not above 5 degrees Celsius for more than four hours. Consumers should also take measures to prevent the spreading of juices that collect from the meat while it thaws, he said.
4. Cook properly
Consumers should not look at the color of meat or its juices to determine if it's cooked. The only way to know for sure whether you've reduced your risk of foodborne illness is to cook the meat to an internal temperature of 165 F.
Ah-Yen recommends using a tip-sensitive digital thermometer, and checking the temperature of the meat in several spots.
5. Reheat to the right temperature
Any leftovers you have should be quickly cooled by placing them in a refrigerator, Ah-Yen said.
If consumers properly cooked their meat the first time to 75 degrees C, and quickly cooled down the leftovers, then they can heat up leftovers to 65 or 70 degrees C, Ah-Yen said. But to be extra cautious — for instance, if there's any question that the meat was cooked properly the first time — consumers can heat leftovers to 75 degrees C, Chapman said.
Using a thermometer is especially important if you reheat leftovers in the microwave, Ah-Yen said, because a microwave may not cook the meat evenly, and some spots of the chicken may be undercooked.