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Food Safety: Cooking With Chicken
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We love chicken. But chicken is a potentially hazardous food if handled improperly. Chicken and the juices found inside the package are potential mediums for the growth of salmonella and other bacteria.
Additionally, chicken and chicken dishes can become hazardous if not handled properly. The purpose of this article is to provide guidelines for safely using chickenbefore and after it is cooked. These same guidelines are applicable to other foods as well.
Assume that bacteria already exist in the chicken package that you brought home from the store. There are enough bacteria and mold spores in the air to contaminate any open food, especially chicken coming from a packing plant. Is it dangerous? It shouldnt be. If the meat is handled properly, the bacteria should not have multiplied appreciably and contamination should be within acceptable levels. But if conditions are not right, the bacteria in your package will multiply until the meat becomes unsafe.
The primary condition required for bacteria to thrive is a temperature between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Any time any portion of the meat falls in this range, bacteria can grow. So, to be safe, keep the temperature of your uncooked chicken below 40 degrees and, once cooked but not refrigerated, above 140 degrees. (Some high sugar content foods, like properly formulated pies, will not support bacteria growth even at room temperatures.)
Cross contaminationthe contamination of other foods with the chickenis always a threat. Be sure and wash all utensils and all surfaces that might have come in contact with the chicken or the juices with hot, soapy water. After washing, we strongly recommend spraying the stovetop, countertops, and the sinks with a chlorine-based cleanser that will kill bacteria on contact.
Youve cooked your chicken. Its setting on the table. How long can it be left out of the refrigerator? That depends. The longer that the food is left out, the more bacteria the dish will contain. The warmer the environment up to 140 degrees, the faster the bacteria
So what is the answer? Keep the food hotabove 140 degreesuntil serving time and refrigerate the food soon after the meal. Dont leave hot foods on the counter or stove to cool. Modern refrigerators have enough cooling power to cool hot foods without raising the ambient temperature too much. Transfer hot foods into shallow glass or plastic containersno more than three inches deepand place them in the refrigerator with enough room around each container so that air can circulate. Proper refrigeration will not only keep foods safer but protect the quality and nutritional value as well.
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