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Don't wing it with chicken cooking tips

Posted Thursday, August 4, 2005

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Like all fresh meats, chicken is perishable and should be handled with care. Proper handling and cooking of chicken completely eliminates the risk of bacterial infection.

Before You Cook

* Refrigerate raw chicken promptly. Never leave it on countertop at room temperature.

* Packaged fresh chicken may be refrigerated in original wrappings in the coldest part of the refrigerator.

* Freeze uncooked chicken if it is not to be used within 2 days.

* If properly packaged, frozen chicken will maintain top quality in a home freezer for up to 1 year.

* Thaw chicken in the refrigerator — not on the countertop — or in cold water. It takes about 24 hours to thaw a 4-pound chicken in the refrigerator. Cut-up parts, 3 to 9 hours.

* Chicken may be safely thawed in cold water. Place chicken in its original wrap or water-tight plastic bag in cold water. Change water often. It takes about 2 hours to thaw a whole chicken.

* For quick thawing of raw or cooked chicken use the microwave. Thawing time will vary.

* Always wash hands, countertops, cutting boards, knives and other utensils used in preparing raw chicken with soapy water before they come in contact with other raw or cooked foods.

* When shopping, buy groceries last. Never leave chicken in a hot car. Refrigerate immediately on reaching home.

While You're Cooking

* If chicken is stuffed, remove stuffing to a separate container before refrigerating.

* When barbecuing chicken outdoors, keep refrigerated until ready to cook. Do not place cooked chicken on same plate used to transport raw chicken to grill.

* Always cook chicken well done, not medium or rare. If using a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should reach 180°F for whole chicken, 170°F for bone-in parts and 160°F for boneless parts.

* To check visually for doneness, pierce chicken with fork; juices should run clear — not pink — when fork is inserted with ease.

* Never leave cooked chicken at room temperature for more than 2 hours. If not eaten immediately, cooked chicken should be kept either hot or refrigerated.

* Marinade in which raw chicken has been soaking should never be used on cooked chicken.

After You Cook

* Cooked, cut-up chicken is at its best refrigerated for no longer than 2 days — whole cooked chicken, an additional day.

* If leftovers are to be reheated, cover to retain moisture and to ensure that chicken is heated all the way through. Bring gravies to a rolling boil before serving.

* If you're transporting cooked chicken, put it in an insulated container or ice chest until ready to eat. Keep below 40°F or above 140°F.

Chicken is a real convenience food, available in dozens of different forms.

Breast Halves of Split Breast
White meat. Available bone-in or boneless and skin-on or skinless.

Cut-up Chicken
Whole broiler cut into pieces — 2 breast halves, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks and 2 wings. Usually sold without giblets.

First section of wing. Ideal for hors d'oeuvres.

Lower portion of leg. Two usually make an adult serving.

The edible heart, liver and gizzard.

Ground Chicken
A low-fat, low-calorie substitute for hamburger. Made from coarsely ground thigh meat.

Halves or Splits
Broiler cut into 2 pieces of approximately equal weight. Ideal for outdoor grilling.

The whole leg with unseparated drumstick and thigh, no back portion. All dark meat.

Leg quarters and breast quarters usually packaged separately. Leg quarter includes drumstick, thigh and back portion. All dark meat. Breast quarter includes the wing, breast and back portion. All white meat.

Portion of leg above the knee joint. Favorite of dark meat lovers. Also available boneless and skinless.

Whole Broiler-fryer
An inexpensive way to buy chicken. Birds usually weigh 3 to 4 1/2 pounds, and are packaged with and without neck and giblets.

Whole wing with 3 sections attached. All white meat.

Young Roaster
Large, meaty bird from 5 to 8 pounds. Includes neck and giblets.

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