Chicken Cooking Basics Article -
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Chicken Cooking Basics

Simple tips for handling, prepping, and cooking a dinnertime favorite.

What's not to love about chicken? It's versatile, inexpensive, and a great source of protein. Read on for quick tips and top recipes.

Keep It Cold

Store raw chicken in the coldest part of your refrigerator and use it within two days.

Never leave raw or frozen chicken at room temperature, which encourages the growth of bacteria like Salmonella and Listeria.

Freeze any chicken that won't be used right away. You can freeze it in its store packaging, but if you plan on storing it for longer than two months, unwrap the chicken and rewrap it in heavy duty aluminum foil and a plastic freezer bag. Chicken can be frozen as long as one year without sacrificing quality.

Thawing Chicken

Thaw frozen chicken slowly and safely. It will take anywhere from 24 hours to two days to thaw a whole chicken in the refrigerator, and about 2 to 9 hours for cut-up chicken parts (less for boneless pieces). You can thaw chicken more quickly in a cold water bath or by using the defrost cycle of the microwave. But never thaw frozen chicken by leaving it out at room temperature.

Keep It Clean

Rinse chicken with cold water, inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels before preparing. To prevent cross-contamination, thoroughly clean all surfaces, utensils, cutting boards, knives, and hands with hot soapy water after handling raw poultry. Keep a separate cutting board specifically for working with chicken.

Get It Done

The only way to tell if chicken is cooked properly is to use a meat thermometer--seeing if the juices run clear is not a reliable indicator of doneness. To test the internal temperature of a whole chicken, insert the thermometer into the thigh, taking care not to touch the bone. Chicken should reach 165 degrees F (75 degrees C).

The meat will continue to cook once removed from the heat. So if the temperature is a few degrees below the target--keep the thermometer in place for a moment; the temperature might climb to a safe heat.

Safety Tips for Marinating Chicken

Marinating or brining? Always let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator, even for a short soak of 30 minutes. And never baste the cooked chicken with the same marinade that's touched raw chicken: either make extra marinade and set aside a portion just for basting, or boil it for two to three minutes, enough time to kill any bacteria.

Handling Leftover Chicken

Cooked chicken should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Package it up in an air-tight container and store it in the fridge for up to two days.

Oct. 24, 2009 6:51 am
It would be so nice to find a list of basic oven cooking temperatures for a variety of meats.
Nov. 18, 2009 12:12 pm
i agree with DEBIVEE!!
Nov. 22, 2009 3:07 pm
Yup, I am wondering why every roasted chicken recipe has a different cooking temp!!!!
Nov. 30, 2009 5:03 am
I always cook raw meat to 180 degrees.It's the already cooked stuff that only gets reheated to 165.And that is by the food saftey guidlines I go by at work!
Dec. 1, 2009 6:48 pm
The USDA says to cook chicken to 165 degrees and keep cooked leftovers only 3-4 days. I keep properly handled cooked chicken 1 or even 2 weeks! Never had a problem. Raw chicken goes bad fast, but cooked chicken keeps pretty good.
Apr. 10, 2010 4:23 pm
Depending on what you attemtping cooking time varies. You should always check the meat. One way to do this is "On the bottom side of the meat selected, Slice it open at the thickes part and see if done as you desire" Doing this on this on the bottom hides the cut mark, and only you ever knows. Once you done this a few times you get a feel time and temperature. Cutting is not needed anymore. Meat Internal Temp. Centigrade Fresh ground beef, veal, lamb, pork 160°F 71°C Beef, veal, lamb roasts, steaks, chops: medium rare 145°F 63°C Beef, veal, lamb roasts, steaks, chops: medium 160°F 71°C Beef, veal, lamb roasts, steaks, chops: well done 170°F 77°C Fresh pork roasts, steaks, chops: medium 160°F 71°C Fresh pork roasts, steaks, chops: well done 170°F 77°C Ham: cooked before eating 160°F 71°C Ham: fully cooked, to reheat 140°F 60°C Ground chicken/turkey
Apr. 14, 2010 7:56 pm
I've read recently that it is not necessary to rinse chicken or any other kind of meat; that also causes possible splatters of raw juices outside of the sink, which would need to be disinfected, as would the drain and sink.
Apr. 15, 2010 1:18 am
Very interesting and informative. Thank you.
Apr. 15, 2010 1:20 am
I wonder where is the checkbox for sending this recipe to friends through email. Please help.
Apr. 15, 2010 6:28 am
I think that because this is not an actual recipe and only an article, it won't have the forward link. But you can do this yourself by going to your browser window toolbar, click on "file", then "send", then "link by email".
Sep. 14, 2010 11:30 am
Questions about flattening/pounding chicken breasts before marinating. Why is this necessary? Is it to promote even baking? Any tricks to do this correctly? Thanks.
Sep. 24, 2010 11:15 pm
CK, re: flattening/pounding boneless/skinless chicken breasts! YES.. this is to achieve an even thickness for consistent cooking... In the process, it also breaks the muscle tissues which tenderizes and helps with marinating. When BBQ'ing breasts I always coat both sides with mayonnaise which helps retain juices, and prevents shrinking during the cooking.
Sep. 24, 2010 11:29 pm
CK Part II: Tips> I take a piece of wax paper about 8" wide and fold it in half with a chicken breast in-between. Using a kitchen hammer, lightly pound the breast until it flattens to about 3/16" thickness. Spend most of your time pounding on the thickest portion of the breast. Be sure to pound both sides. You do not need to pound the life out of it... it can be done with reasonably light taps of the hammer. The wax paper prevents raw meat and juices from flying all over your kitchen. Use a new piece of wax paper for each piece, as the process above will pretty much trash the wax paper.
Joan Crum 
Nov. 6, 2010 5:03 pm
How to prepare drumsticks without having the dark blood on the outside of the meat while cooking.
Nov. 29, 2010 1:55 pm
sigh. i just want to bake chicken breasts. no recipe, no frills. plain chicken breast, and i don't have a thermometer. what temperature... how long... covered or uncovered? is there help for us simpletons?
Jan. 17, 2011 8:59 am
Pick up a copy of Sunset's "Good Cook's Handbook; A Ready Reference and Time-Saver". EBay currently has a couple copies under $10, and I'm sure Amazon has a few copies. My well-used copy was printed in 1986, and has descriptions of kitchen appliances and equipment, staple foods and storage, a wine pairing guide, nutritional values of every food imaginable, beef, lamb, and pork cuts, temperature and cooking times for roasting, BBQ, microwaving, and broiling beef, pork, lamb, poultry, as well as cooking guidelines for seafood, pasta and grains, vegetables, on and on. Enjoy -Dave
Feb. 4, 2011 6:08 pm
If I buy a 10 lb bag of chicken leg/thigh quarters, what is the weight of the chicken after it is boned?
Mar. 7, 2011 11:43 am
Not every meat needs to be heated to 180°, but all poultry does. As stated before, 165° is only for re-heating pre-cooked food.
Mar. 7, 2011 11:44 am
brokn50s: are you buying frozen, boneless, skinless chicken breasts? If so, the package should say somewhere how to cook in the oven.
Mar. 8, 2011 2:18 pm
Thank you for the great tips!
Mar. 12, 2011 3:59 pm
Referencing pounding, flatting, chicken. To keep from splattering or tearing the wax paper, save the liners of your cereal boxes when empty. They do not tear like wax paper. Keeps everything nice and neat.
Mar. 13, 2011 4:25 pm
If you marinate the chicken you can keep it in the fridge for up to a week. I marinate mine in plain yoghurt, lemon, salt, pepper and crushed garlic and it has never gone bad. I think it's the garlic that does the magic. When it comes to baking, boneless chicken breasts should be cooked for a shorter period of time (and temperature) compare to chicken with bones like drums, wings etc. otherwise they will come out dry. You don't need a thermometer to check the doneness of the chicken (it's not really necessary). It always takes trial and error and in my experience the time and temperature vary with different ovens. So I suggest reading various recipes and taking an average time and temperature as a starter and then from there experiment and adjust to your preferences. For chickrn pounding, I suggest putting the chicken in a clean plastic bag. Make sure you wash the chicken before pounding and NOT after. Also, season your chicken before pounding if you wish.
Apr. 8, 2011 5:59 pm
can I get a video on how to pound and flatten the chicken breast........ how do you cut it before you pound???
Apr. 14, 2011 8:47 am
I just cut up 2 eleven pound capons, not completely thawed, so that I can cook the breasts and thighs tomorrow. I have the bony pieces cooking down for gravy and chicken salad, etc.. BUT.. I have 4 each, of wings and legs in the fridg, partially thawed, that I don't need till next week. Would it be ok to re-freeze them, before they thaw completely.. or should I cook them, then freeze.. or marinade them and store them in the fridg?
Jun. 3, 2011 7:30 pm
This is a little too late for you, dilynn, but if anyone is reading, yes, there is no harm in refreezing uncooked chicken that's been thawed in the refrigerator.
Aug. 8, 2011 3:42 pm
Ok a question and I hope someone out there answers! Q: Can I bread my chicken (various pieces after I have cut one up) and then FREEZE it?? I have already done this and am wondering if this was smart due to the raw egg I used (the step before the actual breading)...and knowledge of this would be appreciated! THX!
May 3, 2012 11:22 am
I thawed boneless skinless chicken breasts in the fridge and I thought I was going to use it right away. Now it's been 4-5 days thawed and I'm wondering if I can still safely use it? Anyone have any thoughts? I was storing it in a ziploc bag after having separated it into smaller packages. Thanks for your help.
May 5, 2012 11:44 am
I have not had any problems in the past you will know if your chicken is bad if it has a slime on the meat. The best way to tell is smell and go from there. If kept at the proper temp and a ziploc bag it should still be good.
Sam Oneal 
Sep. 1, 2012 9:48 am
If you want to take a comfortable flat you may use extreme q vaporizer . Its vaporizes the vapor into the air-tight balloon and has the analog functions of temperature control.
Azeus Food Machinery 
Mar. 1, 2013 10:11 pm
Yummy!!! It looks so tasty! Using pressure chicken fryer will make it more delicious! Why not have a try?
Mar. 5, 2013 2:22 am
Some recipes say rub seasoning under the skin. How is this done? Do you detache the skin somehow?
Jan. 11, 2014 9:50 am
I have trouble keeping chicken breast tender when cooking. Help!
Jan. 8, 2015 1:56 pm
I use Reynolds baking bags for every meat I cook. Everything is ALWAYS tender. My meats fall apart or off the bone when I serve them.
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