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Eating Raw Chicken: Risks and Safety Tips

Short answer - do not eat raw chicken.

With temperatures rising, outdoor grills across the country will begin to ignite in preparation of the summer barbequing season. Alongside classic mainstays like hamburgers and hotdogs, chicken—be it cutlets, breasts, thighs or wings—is also likely to find its way onto many household menus. Chicken’s versatility makes it a popular option but handling it raw can lead to serious illness in the form of Salmonella or Campylobacter infection. So, whether you’re gearing up for a Memorial Day gathering or a July 4th cookout, it never hurts to have a refresher on how to ensure you and all your guests stay safe and illness-free.

Purchase and Refrigeration

When purchasing raw chicken, be sure to keep it separate from other foods in your shopping cart. Most grocery stores provide plastic bags in the meat sections which can be used to prevent juices from the meats coming into contact with other items in your cart.

Once home, refrigerate raw chicken immediately on the lowest shelf in your refrigerator, and keep it separate from any cooked or ready-to-eat foods (such as fruits and vegetables). Storing chicken in this manner will prevent any juices from dripping onto other foods and will make clean up easier in the event the packaging does leak during refrigeration. The USDA also recommends storing raw chicken in sealed containers or sealable plastic bags all the time, not just when marinating. Chicken should be refrigerated at a temperature no higher than 40° F (4° C).

Pre-Cooking Preparation

First and foremost: be sure to always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water before AND immediately after handling any raw meat. Making this a habit will prevent you from inadvertently contaminating other utensils, food items, or surfaces.

If you keep chicken frozen, be sure to defrost it thoroughly before cooking. Chicken that is partially frozen may not cook through completely, thereby heightening the risk of food poisoning.

Never wash raw chicken as washing will spread any bacteria on the surface of the chicken to other parts of your kitchen or to nearby foods.

Always use different chopping boards for raw meat and ready-to-eat foods like fruits, veggies, cheese, bread, etc. If two cutting boards aren’t available, prepare fruits and vegetables first and put them safely out of the way. Then, thoroughly wash the cutting board with soap and hot water before preparing the raw chicken. Be sure to also use separate utensils, plates, and other tools for raw and cooked foods to prevent cross contamination.

Cooking Advice

Purchase a meat thermometer! Not only will this tool ensure that you cook your meat to a safe temperature, it will also help you avoid complaints from your guests about overcooking! The FDA recommends all poultry should reach an internal temperature of 165° F (74° C). The thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the chicken to ensure it is fully cooked. If the internal temperature has not yet reached 165° F, be sure to thoroughly wash the thermometer with soap and hot water before taking another temperature.

If raw chicken is being prepared using a grill, do not place or prepare raw meat on the grill immediately adjacent to cooked or partly cooked meat or other ready-to-eat foods. Do not place fully cooked chicken on the same plate/tray used to transport the meat chicken to the grill, as that will simply re-contaminate the cooked chicken. Always use a clean plate for fully cooked or grilled foods.

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