8 Mistakes You Might Be Making with Raw Chicken (and How to Avoid Them)
Learn the safe (and proper) way to handle raw chicken by avoiding these common mistakes.
There’s a reason “tastes like chicken” is such a popular phrase. Most home cooks reach for boneless, skinless chicken breast for just about any meal. (We know because you’ve sent in thousands of recipes, like these, for it!) Chicken is cheap, plentiful and pairs with nearly anything. But it’s important to remember to take heed when preparing this bird. Raw chicken can be harmful if it’s not handled with care. Cook your next chicken dinner safely by avoiding these common mistakes.
Leaving chicken out too long
Many cooks will put chicken out on the counter to thaw, then promptly forget about it. But it’s important to treat chicken as an item with a time stamp. At room temperature, meat can begin to develop harmful bacteria, which if consumed may result in various foodborne illnesses—aka food poisoning.
What to do instead: Place chicken in the fridge immediately after you’ve finished shopping. Only take it out when you are prepared to cook. If the chicken is frozen, thaw it in the fridge up to two days before cooking.
Storing it improperly
Think your meat can stay on any shelf in the fridge? Think again. Chicken juice has a tendency to leak and drip outside of its container. This can be bad news (contamination) if it comes into contact with your produce.
What to do instead: Place chicken on a plate, then cover and store on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. Surprised? See what else you may be storing wrong.
Rinsing chicken before you cook
Contrary to popular opinion, raw chicken doesn’t need to be (and shouldn’t be) rinsed in any way. Rinsing can cause bacteria on the chicken to splash and cling to surrounding surfaces, rather than eliminating them from the chicken. Find out more food safety mistakes you might be making.
What to do instead: Skip the wash. Send your chicken straight to the frying pan….or oven…or slow cooker.
Marinating it improperly
Chicken tastes delicious with a zesty marinade. In fact, it’s one of the easiest ways to tenderize the meat. However, leaving chicken on the counter to marinate can take your dinner from delicious to dangerous, as bacteria can grow better when it’s warm. And though it may seem thrifty, never reuse marinade after it’s come into contact with raw meat.
What to do instead: Marinate your chicken in a plastic bag (or other closed container) in the refrigerator. Toss the juices in the container when you are done. Looking for marinade ideas? Here are a bunch to try.
Reusing tools that have touched raw chicken
If you’re a savvy cook, you probably know a thing or two about multitasking. It’s a time-saver to bounce around the kitchen, stirring a skillet one moment and slicing vegetables the next. When it comes to handling chicken, however, cross-contamination can put you at risk for salmonella. Avoid using utensils, cookware, cutting boards and anything else after they’ve been exposed to raw chicken.
What to do instead: Thoroughly wash items after they come into contact with the chicken.
Letting raw chicken touch other foods
For those who work in tiny kitchens, the cutting board can be priceless space. It may seem easy to chop the romaine lettuce for your salad on the same surface where you’ve cut your raw chicken into slices. Unfortunately, this is an easy way for chicken juice to seep into, and yes, contaminate your food.
What to do instead: Avoid placing raw chicken near ingredients that aren’t being cooked. Gain back some kitchen workspace with these genius organizing ideas.
Forgetting to wash your hands
Your hands are often the best tool when it comes to breading and seasoning your protein. But be careful; once they come in contact with chicken juice, they can quickly cross-contaminate anything you touch. Drawer knobs, countertops, seasoning bottles and much more may be covered in harmful bacteria. Find out where germs are lurking in your home.
What to do instead: Take extra care not to touch any surfaces after handling raw chicken. And if you do, be sure to wipe them down afterwards. A technique that can help is to practice handling chicken using only one hand. That way, the other hand is free to grab the saltshaker or turn on the water when needed. Finally, wash your hands with plenty of soap.
Keeping the same sponge in rotation for months
You might be careful to wash your tools after they come into contact with raw chicken—but have you thought about the sponge you use to clean those tools? Generally, we think of sponges, dishrags and other tools as clean items, but they’re home to dangerous pathogens and bacteria—especially if you’ve been using them to clean tools that touched raw chicken.
What to do instead: Wash your dishtowels regularly and sanitize your sponges every other day. (One way is to put a wet sponge in the microwave on high for 2 minutes.) How often you replace your sponge depends on what you’re using it for. If it’s a sponge that cleaned up after poultry, sanitize once, then toss after another day or two.