We’ve all heard the warnings about eating uncooked poultry. Salmonella is a common cause of food poisoning in the United States, and it seems difficult to avoid, even for large corporations like Chick-Fil-A, who take measures to correct a situation once a visitor sends feedback to them. Fortunately, you can reduce the risk of an infection by following a few simple guidelines—the most important of which is to make sure your poultry is cooked to a safe temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
Keep Poultry Clean
If you have raw meat in your refrigerator, separate it from your produce and your cooked foods. The easiest way to do this is by dedicating a shelf to it. As long as you keep your meat in its own drawer or shelf, you can avoid cross-contamination and ensure that the rest of your food is bacteria-free.
Always be sure to wash your hands with soap and water after you handle raw meat, even if all you did was move it from your fridge to your counter. No matter how little contact you had with the meat, make sure you wash up thoroughly before touching any other objects. When you’re done prepping or cooking your meat, wash your utensils and your work space.
Thawing Meat Properly
Plenty of people keep meat in their freezers for a later date. When you’re ready to cook your frozen poultry, take steps to make sure you do it safely. You can microwave the meat using the defrost option if you have one, or you can place the meat in a bag and submerge it in a bowl of cold water. The safest and simplest method, however, is to place the meat in your refrigerator and let it thaw at a controlled temperature.
Cook Your Poultry Fully
Though a Salmonella infection can be caused by a variety of foods, the most common source is uncooked poultry and eggs. Poultry is safe once its internal temperature has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Bacteria dies at 160 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that by cooking your meat a few degrees more, you are removing all traces of Salmonella.
The best way to gauge the temperature of meat is with a food thermometer, which can be purchased at many stores. You’ll need to test the temperature at several locations to make sure that your poultry has cooked evenly. If you are cooking a piece of meat, such as a chicken breast, insert your thermometer into the thickest section. For whole chickens or turkeys, place the thermometer into the thigh and the thicket part of the breast. The meat will continue to cook after you remove it from the heat, so leave the thermometer in place for several seconds to see if the temperature climbs.
Leftovers need to be heated just as thoroughly. Bacteria can still gather on cooked poultry, so you need to bring its internal temperature up to 165 degrees Fahrenheit as well before eating. Because the chicken is already cooked, though, this process is typically quick and easy.
By following these tips, you can greatly reduce your risk of contracting a Salmonella infection. Store your raw poultry appropriately, clean up after yourself, and cook your meat well. If you do all these things, you can sit down and properly enjoy your meal!