All foods, including meat, fruits, and vegetables have the potential to cause foodborne illnesses. Illness-causing bacteria can also survive and thrive on hands, utensils, cutting boards and countertops. Best practices are to follow the examples outlined in these four simple areas: clean, separate, cook and chill.
First off, wash your hands before eating or handling food and after handling raw meat or uncooked eggs. If you stop to pet the cat, take out the garbage, go to the bathroom or blow your nose, wash your hands again. Use soap and lather for at least 20 seconds.
- Wash your hands before eating or handling food and after handling raw meat or uncooked eggs.
- Sanitize countertops, utensils, dishes and cutting boards before and after preparing food.
- Use one board for produce and another for raw meat.
- Wash the food thermometer.
- Wash reusable grocery bags frequently.
- It is safer not to wash meats and poultry because this process can easily spread bacteria to your sink and onto countertops.
Cross-contamination is when bacteria from one food are transferred to another. An example would be juices from raw poultry or meats coming in contact with already cooked poultry or meat or cutting raw poultry on a cutting board and then cutting vegetables on the same cutting board. Avoid cross-contamination with these techniques:
- Separate your cutting boards. Use one board for produce and another for raw meat.
- If your cutting board is well used with lots of grooves, replace it.
- Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separate during shopping.
- When barbecuing, use a clean plate for the cooked poultry.
- Also, don’t use marinade from raw poultry or other meats as a sauce for cooked poultry.
Bacteria multiply quickly in the danger zone between temperatures of 4 °C to 60 °C (40 °F to 140 °F). Cooking food properly is the best way to kill bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella and listeria. Check out these handy charts from chicken.ca
- Use a clean food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods to make sure they are completely cooked.
- Cook ground chicken and chicken pieces to 74C (165 F).
- Cook whole chicken to 82C (180 F).
- How to Use a Meat Thermometer: Insert food thermometer in the thickest part of the meat. Make sure the thermometer is not touching bone or fat. On a whole chicken or turkey, the best spot to place the food thermometer is into the thigh meat between the drumstick and breast. For a burger, slide the food thermometer into the side of the patty rather than through the top. Check each piece separately if you have more than one piece. Use a digital thermometer for more accurate readings. Clean your food thermometer in warm, soapy water before each use.
- Make sure that cooked foods don’t come into contact with any food that hasn’t been cooked.
- If you are holding food before serving, make sure to keep it at 60 °C (140 °F). This also applies to transporting food to a potluck or event. Keep it warm using an insulated container. Bacteria can grow quickly in the danger zone between 4°C to 60°C (40°F to 140°F).
- When reheating leftovers, make sure to warm them to 74 C (165 F) and it is usually best to only reheat them once.
Just as it is important to keep hot foods hot, it is equally important to keep cold foods cold. Avoid the temperature danger zone between temperatures of 4 °C to 60 °C (40 °F to 140 °F) because this is where bacteria and food poisoning grows. Remember you can’t tell just by looking or smelling whether food has gone bad or if it is full of harmful bacteria.
Here are things to remember for keeping foods chilled:
- Once cooked or served, leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator within two hours, preferably sooner.
- The safest way to thaw food, especially raw poultry, meat fish or seafood, is in the refrigerator. Always defrost food in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave–never at room temperature.
- Raw poultry, meat and seafood must be cooked within two to three days after purchase.
- To ensure proper cold air circulation, don’t overcrowd your refrigerator.
- Once cooked or served, leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator within two hours, preferably sooner. In warmer weather, refrigerate within one hour. Use refrigerated leftovers within four days or preferably sooner.
- Remove the bones from cooked whole poultry and other cooked birds before refrigerating.
- If you are not sure how long something has been in the refrigerator or how long it was left out on the counter after a meal, follow this simple rule: when in doubt throw it out.
- The safest way to thaw food, especially raw poultry, meat fish or seafood, is in the refrigerator. Always defrost food in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave-never at room temperature. Food defrosted in the microwave should be cooked as soon as possible after thawing.
- Do not re-freeze thawed food. Wash your hands and clean and sanitize the sink, utensils, surfaces and dishes used when thawing the food.
- If you are transporting perishable food to a potluck supper or picnic, keep cold food below 4 °C (40 °F) using an insulated container packed with ice or frozen freezer packs. Keep the insulated containers out of the sun. Pack raw poultry or meats at the bottom in extra plastic or spill-proof containers to avoid raw meat juices dripping.
- If you are sending perishable food such as leftovers, cheese, poultry, meats and yogurt in a lunch, use an insulated lunch bag and a freezer pack.
Dry chicken? Try this
- Marinades: marinades provide moisture and added flavour to reach deep within the cut.
- Brine: soak the chicken in brine to add moisture and tenderness.
- Size: make sure the chicken pieces are evenly sized. Cut chicken breasts in half and use a meat mallet to pound the halves to an even thickness.
- Poach: submerge and boil chicken in water (poach) over a low temperature until cooked. This ensures the chicken will be moist and tender.
Want to learn more about chicken and improve your cooking skills? Check out these cook along videos>