Handling Raw Chicken Safely

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Chicken is a versatile and affordable source of lean protein, making it very popular among both beginner and advanced cooks alike. It’s important, however, to know and mitigate the risks associated with handling raw chicken and make sure your kitchen is staying clean and safe!

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that about a million people get sick from contaminated raw poultry each year. While chicken is a common and nutritious protein source for Americans, it is commonly associated with campylobacter (found on close to half of commercially available chicken), salmonella, and clostridium perfringens bacteria. Infections from these bacteria can cause a wealth of gastrointestinal problems (diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps), especially for those with compromised immune systems, including young, elderly, and pregnant people. While there is risk involved with handling raw poultry in the kitchen, there are several precautions you can take to significantly reduce that risk and give you a better chance of protecting yourself and your family from food-borne illness.

If chicken is on your menu, use these tips to reduce the risk of foodborne illness in your home:

  • Place chicken in a disposable plastic bag before placing it in your cart or refrigerator to prevent raw juices from contaminating other foods.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure poultry reaches a proper internal cooking temperature of 165°F. This is the only way to ensure the chicken has reached a safe doneness. The color of the juices can’t tell you this!
  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds after handling raw poultry and use a one-use towel to dry.
  • Use a separate cutting board for raw chicken.
  • Sanitize cutting boards, utensils, dishes, and countertops after preparing raw chicken.
  • Store raw poultry in the bottom of your refrigerator to prevent raw juices from dripping onto other foods.
  • Don’t wash your chicken! Washing your chicken prior to cooking is more likely to spread harmful germs around the kitchen than get rid of them, which may, in turn, increase the risk for foodborne illness.

Person cutting raw chicken