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The chicken is a descendant of the southeast Asian red jungle fowl first domesticated in India around 2000 B.C. Most of the birds raised for meat in America today are from the Cornish (a British breed) and the White Rock (a breed developed in New England). Broiler-fryers, roasters, stewing/baking hens, capons and Rock Cornish hens are all chickens. The following are definitions for these:
Chicken eggs are also used for food. See that module for more information.
Food Borne Organisms Associated with Chicken
As on any perishable meat, fish or poultry, bacteria can be found on raw or undercooked chicken. They multiply rapidly at temperatures between 4 °C (40 °F) and 60 °C (140 °F) (out of refrigeration and before thorough cooking occurs). Freezing doesn't kill bacteria but they are destroyed by thorough cooking of any food to 71 °C (160 °F).
Most food borne illness outbreaks are a result of contamination from food handlers. Sanitary food handling and proper cooking and refrigeration should prevent food borne illnesses.
Bacteria must be consumed on food to cause illness. They cannot enter the body through a skin cut. However, raw poultry must be handled carefully to prevent cross-contamination. This can occur if raw poultry or its juices contact cooked food or foods that will be eaten raw such as salad. An example of this is chopping tomatoes on an unwashed cutting board just after cutting raw chicken on it.
Following are some bacteria associated with chicken:
How to Handle Chicken Safely
Chicken is kept cold during distribution to retail stores to prevent the growth of bacteria and to increase its shelf life. Chicken should feel cold to the touch when purchased. Select fresh chicken just before checking out at the register. Put packages of chicken in disposable plastic bags (if available) to contain any leakage which could cross-contaminate cooked foods or produce. Make the grocery your last stop before going home.
At home, immediately place chicken in a refrigerator that maintains 40 °F (4 °C), and use within 1 or 2 days, or freeze at 0 °F (-18 °C). If kept frozen continuously, it will be safe indefinitely.
Chicken may be frozen in its original packaging or repackaged. If freezing longer than two months, overwrap the porous store plastic packages with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap or freezer paper, or place the package inside a freezer bag. Use these materials or airtight freezer containers to repackage family packs into smaller amounts or freeze the chicken from opened packages.
Proper wrapping prevents "freezer burn," which appears as grayish-brown leathery spots and is caused by air reaching the surface of food. Cut freezer-burned portions away either before or after cooking the chicken. Heavily freezer-burned products may have to be discarded because they might be too dry or tasteless.
When purchasing fully cooked rotisserie or fast food chicken, be sure it is hot at time of purchase. Use it within two hours or cut it into several pieces and refrigerate in shallow, covered containers. Eat within 3 to 4 days, either cold or reheated to 165 °F (hot and steaming). It is safe to freeze ready-prepared chicken. For best quality, flavor and texture, use within 4 months.
There are three recommended ways to defrost chicken: in the refrigerator, in cold running water and in the microwave. Never defrost chicken on the counter or in other locations. It's best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator. Boneless chicken breasts will usually defrost overnight. Bone-in parts and whole chickens may take 1 to 2 days or longer. Once the raw chicken defrosts, it can be kept in the refrigerator an additional day or two before cooking. During this time, if chicken defrosted in the refrigerator is not used, it can safely be refrozen without cooking first.
Chicken may be defrosted in cold water in its airtight packaging or in a leak proof bag. Submerge the bird or cut-up parts in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes to be sure it stays cold. A whole (3 to 4 pound (1 to 2 kg)) broiler fryer or package of parts should defrost in 2 to 3 hours. A 1-pound (500 g) package of boneless breasts will defrost in an hour or less.
Chicken defrosted in the microwave should be cooked immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving. Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn't have been destroyed. Foods defrosted in the microwave or by the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing.
Do not cook frozen chicken in the microwave or in a slow cooker. However, chicken can be cooked from the frozen state in the oven or on the stove. The cooking time may be about 50% longer. Some advise against cooking frozen meat and poultry altogether; with chicken, always check the temperature with a food thermometer to ensure proper cooking.
Chicken may be marinated in the refrigerator up to 2 days. Boil used marinade before brushing on cooked chicken. Discard any uncooked leftover marinade.
These recipes feature chicken as the main ingredient:
See also Category:Chicken recipes