Roasted chicken, a kitchen staple, a blank canvas for flavor building, the perfect winter comfort food… Roasted chicken didn’t make its way to my kitchen table for years. Why not? I’m paranoid about foodborne illness, and chickens can be wickedly dirty birds. I worried about cross contamination, undercooking, and getting raw chicken juice everywhere. Chicken is notorious for high micro counts- trouble that can lead to foodborne illness and precious time spent scrubbing up hands and surfaces. It wasn’t until I found myself hopelessly inspired by a Saveur magazine recipe, that I dug out my meat thermometer, grabbed a canister of antibacterial kitchen wipes, and started cooking.
In fairness, there’s no need to be chicken over roasting whole birds. With proper food handling, roasted chicken is one of the easiest recipes to add to your weeknight repertoire.
1) Limit the time your chicken stays at room temperature. Chicken should be stored in refrigeration prior to use, or thawed properly.
2) Clean utensils, surfaces, and hands often before and during cooking.
3) Avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards and utensils for raw chicken and other ingredients. Don’t allow raw chicken (or its juice) to contact other ingredients.
4) Cook chicken to the proper internal temperature, 165F.
Food Science Tid-Bite: To rinse or not to rinse? In my mom’s kitchen, whole poultry is always rinsed before prep. (She cringes when I avoid this step.) A more recent recommendation from the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service is not to rinse, wash, or soak poultry before preparing your recipe. The rinsing won’t rid your bird of bacteria, and it may increase the risk of cross contamination of utensils and surfaces.
For more detail on foodborne illness in chicken, visit the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service website: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/fact_sheets/Chicken_Food_Safety_Focus/index.asp