chicken tips

If you live in the United States, chicken is probably a staple in your diet.  This is especially true if you have implemented a healthy eating plan.  Chicken is full of essential nutrients that your body needs, while carrying fewer of the unhealthy qualities that other meats have.  It is part of the meat and beans group of the Food Guide Pyramid as a source of protein.  A boneless, skinless chicken breast is an excellent low-fat food that can be prepared in a variety of ways and that fits into many different styles of food.

Chicken tips

When you are preparing fresh meat products such as chicken, beef, and fish you need to take special precautions to ensure that you do not transfer bacteria that could make you sick.  Pay attention to these instructions to avoid spreading possible bacteria in your kitchen.

  • Raw chicken can harbor harmful salmonella bacteria. If bacteria are transferred to work surfaces, utensils, or hands, they could contaminate other foods, as well as the cooked chicken, and cause food poisoning. With careful handling and proper cooking, this is easily prevented.
  • Wash hands and kitchen work areas such as cutting boards and utensils thoroughly with hot soapy water IMMEDIATELY after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry.  This includes ALL fresh or frozen products.  Your hands should be washed before handling food and between handling different food items. 
  • Think as soon as you touch the raw meat, “I have bacteria on my hands,”  Whatever you touch, you spread it.  If you touch the faucet to turn on the water, then the next person can touch it and continue spreading it.  If you drip it on the floor, it can be tracked somewhere else. Whatever comes in contact with raw meat you should wash immediately.
  • Even if you use several types of meat for a recipe, wash cutting boards and knives thoroughly to prevent cross contamination.
  • To avoid cross-contaminating other foods, separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, bags, and in your refrigerator.
  • Use separate cutting boards for raw meats, poultry, seafood, and your vegetables.
  • Do not rinse your poultry in your sink; it does not remove bacteria.  It only spreads raw juices around your sink and onto your countertops.  Bacteria in raw meat and poultry can only be killed when cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Cook poultry thoroughly.  Use a thermometer and cook it to at least 165 degrees internally.  Pierce the poultry in multiple places.  Be sure to pierce through the thickest part, making sure you don’t pierce all the way through the meat.  Go to about the middle to test the temperature.  This is a fairly inexpensive tool to use, but I recommend it highly for new cooks.  Leftovers should be refrigerated no more than 2 hours after cooking.  Do not leave food out as bacteria will start to form.
  • The color of cooked poultry is not a sign of its safety. Only by using a food thermometer can you accurately determine that it has reached its safe internal temperature.
  • When purchasing poultry products be careful when touching the packaging.  It could have been handled improperly.  Keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your purse, and use it after touching the package. Place underneath your shopping cart or in the provided plastic bags. 
  • Keep a cooler in your vehicle for warmer weather to ensure products stay cold.  Immediately put in the refrigerator or freezer when you return home.
  • You can store leftovers in the refrigerator safely for up to 3 days.
  • Thaw poultry in the refrigerator not on the countertop or in cold water.  Plan ahead and do this overnight.
  • If you barbeque  poultry,  place cooked poultry on a separate plate when finished. DO NOT place it on the same one that transported the raw meat to the grill.
  • If you marinate your chicken in sauces such as Italian dressing—which makes for a tender, delicious tasting chicken—throw away the marinade.  Do not reuse for a later time. 

Which cuts of chicken do I use?

Cuts of chicken

Whole chickens

Are  exactly what it says—the WHOLE chicken. You can buy these either fresh or frozen.  This makes for a nice meal  when roasted or baked in the oven. You can cut it apart and serve everyone’s favorite parts.  After you can boil down the carcass to make homemade chicken stock.

 Breast

This is the white meat part of the chicken.  It is used in most recipes as it is the easiest, because it contains no bones.  Sometimes it contains part of the veins of the chicken. They are white, and you can easily cut those off before serving.  It might contain some extra fat pieces as well that can be removed.  Sometimes you can find skinless tenderloins. This part is usually more expensive, but is a perfected part of the breast.  It does not contain any veins or fat that need to be cut out. The easiest thing to buy would be boneless, skinless chicken breast.   I know this is the gross section, but you need to be aware of what you are eating.

 Chicken wings

This is also a white meat portion and contains 3 sections the drummettes, wing mid section and wing tip.  This is sometimes made into hot wings.

Chicken leg

This is the drumstick- thigh portion of the chicken.  You can also buy this part separated into drumsticks and thigh portions.  These both usually contain bones.  This is good for baked or fried chicken.

 Chicken thigh

This is above the drumstick and contains the dark meat.  It contains bones and is good for baked or fried chicken.