The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a warning against the common practice of washing raw chicken or turkey, citing a study that revealed the potential risks associated with this action. Rinsing raw poultry can lead to the spread of harmful germs, causing foodborne illnesses. Here are the best practices for safely handling raw poultry:
1. Do Not Wash Raw Chicken or Turkey:
- The USDA advises against washing raw chicken or turkey, as it can cause bacteria on the poultry to splash and cling to clean surfaces, including hands, leading to cross-contamination.
- Eliminate the step of washing chicken or turkey from your recipe entirely.
- Cooking poultry thoroughly is sufficient to eliminate harmful bacteria and pathogens.
2. Prevent Cross-Contamination:
- Ensure that raw poultry and its juices do not come into contact with other foods, especially fruits and vegetables.
- Wash your hands, surfaces, knives, tools, and cutting boards thoroughly with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw poultry.
3. Proper Storage:
- Store raw chicken or turkey in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf to prevent any leakage from contaminating other foods.
- If poultry is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight rather than on the kitchen counter to avoid bacterial growth.
- Use thawed poultry within 48 hours and avoid refreezing it after defrosting.
- Prepare all ingredients, including chopping and pre-heating pans, before handling raw poultry.
- Consider using two separate cutting boards—one for meat and one for produce.
- Use tongs to handle raw poultry and ensure that tools used for cooked meat are clean.
5. Hand Hygiene:
- Wash your hands before and after handling chicken or turkey.
- Limit contact with raw food as much as possible during preparation and cooking.
6. Safe Cooking Techniques:
- To ensure even cooking, pound chicken breasts to achieve uniform thickness.
- Pat chicken dry before cooking to achieve a better sear and preserve juiciness.
- Use a reliable thermometer to check the thickest part of the poultry, aiming for a temperature of 155 degrees Fahrenheit, as carry-over heat will take it to a safe 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Marinate chicken breasts overnight for added flavor and sauté them in a skillet.
- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts benefit from marinating beforehand or additional seasoning to enhance flavor.
By following these guidelines, individuals can ensure safe handling, storage, and cooking of raw chicken or turkey, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses while preparing delicious and safe meals.