Safe Handling

Thawing Guidelines

Refrigeration

  • Thaw uncooked chicken overnight in a leak-proof bag or covered on a plate on the lowest shelf to prevent it from dripping down on prepared foods.
  • Allow a day or more for large items to thaw.

Microwave

  • Microwave thawing is not effective for large items.
  • Thaw only a few portions at a time on a microwaveable plate covered with plastic wrap.
  • Rotate one-quarter turn four times while defrosting; check portions before each rotation. Turn portions over and re-cover with plastic wrap halfway through the defrost cycle.
  • Cook immediately after thawing.

Cold Water

  • Defrost in cold water in its airtight packaging or in a leak-proof bag. Submerge chicken in a sink full of cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes.
  • Sanitize the sink and other utensils. Do not let water used for thawing splash onto food preparation surfaces.
  • After thawing, cook immediately or refreeze. Chicken defrosted by any method is best cooked before refreezing.

Removing the Ice Glaze

  • For best results when breading or marinating IF or individually quick frozen (IQF) chicken, the protective ice glaze should first be removed. Simply hold the individual portions under lukewarm running water for 1–2 minutes.

Fully Cooked Chicken

  • Do not thaw fully cooked frozen products.
  • Cook product from a frozen state.
  • Follow the cooking instructions accordingly.

Cooking Guidelines

Always cook chicken to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F at its thickest part as measured with a meat thermometer.

Please note the following guidelines for preparing food products for safe consumption as provided by the USDA.

Wash hands with soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and poultry. Also wash cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot, soapy water. Clean spills immediately. Keep raw meat, fish and poultry away from other food that will not be cooked. Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry and egg products and a separate one for fresh produce and cooked foods.

Color is NOT a reliable indicator that meat has been cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria. The only way to be sure the meat or poultry is cooked to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer to measure internal temperature.

  • Beef, pork, lamb & veal (steaks, roasts, chops): 145°F with a three-minute rest time
  • Ground meat: 160°F
  • Whole poultry, poultry breasts & ground poultry: 165°F
  • Fish: 145°F

Refrigerate raw meat and poultry within two hours after purchase or one hour if temperatures exceed 90°F. Refrigerate cooked meat and poultry within two hours after cooking.

Cook whole chicken to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal preference, you may choose to cook poultry to higher temperatures.

For approximate cooking times to use in meal planning, see the following chart compiled from various resources:

Type of Chicken Weight Roasting/Baking 350°F (176.7°C) Grilling
Whole broiler-fryer* 3 to 4 lbs. 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hrs. 60 to 75 min.**
Whole roasting hen* 5 to 7 lbs. 2 to 2 1/4 hrs. 18 to 25 min./lb**
Breast halves, bone-in 6 to 8 oz. 30 to 40 min. 10 to 15 min./side
Breast halves, boneless 4 oz. 20 to 30 min. 6 to 8 min./side
Legs or thighs 4 to 8 oz. 40 to 50 min. 10 to 15 min./side
Drumsticks 4 oz. 35 to 45 min. 8 to 12 min./side
Wings or wingettes 2 to 3 oz. 30 to 40 min. 8 to 12 min./side

Source: United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.

* Unstuffed. If stuffed, add additional 15 to 30 minutes.

** Indirect method using drip pan.

Safe Storage Tips

Refrigeration

  • Refrigerators should be kept at 36-40°F. Use a refrigerator and freezer thermometer.
  • Have sufficient air flow around products to maintain the right temperature.

Physical Storage

  • For extra protection, separate chicken from other foods; prevent chicken products from dripping onto other items in the refrigerator.
  • Store uncooked meat and poultry items together—separate from cooked foods.

Process and Transporting

  • Use FIFO: First In, First Out. In other words, use older product first before opening a newer package of the same product.
  • When transporting cooked food to another dining site, place it in an insulated container or ice chest until ready to eat. Keep foods below 40°F or above 140°F.
  • Clean up spills with hot, soapy water.

Fully Cooked Components

  • Do not thaw fully cooked frozen, breaded or formed products unless otherwise directed.
  • Cook product from a frozen state.
  • Follow the cooking instructions accordingly.
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