Poultry is responsible for more illness and death from food poisoning than any other food, but if you know what you're doing, you can avoid a bad time.
Fox News reports that a study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that there were 5,760 food-poisoning outbreaks in the USA during the six years from 2009 to 2015. Over 100,000 people got sick from what they ate. Of all of those reported cases, about 12 percent were caused by chicken.
One reason this happens is that we eat so much chicken and turkey — especially around Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. The other reason is the way these animals are raised and their exposure to many types of bacteria and viruses in the process.
Here are some tips to help avoid this problem:
Be Careful in Preparation
It is very easy to transfer bacteria from poultry to other foods, countertops, utensils, and things used in the kitchen. Everything used in the preparation needs to be kept separate from the rest of the kitchen and thoroughly washed before being used for anything else.
For example, using a knife to cut up a chicken and then using the same knife to prepare a salad is guaranteed to transfer potentially harmful bacteria from the chicken meat to the vegetables. This may happen easily because the deadly toxic bacteria are invisible.
Do not wash poultry before cooking it. The only way to kill bacteria on chicken or turkey meat is to heat it properly for a long enough time to a temperature that destroys it. Washing the chicken in the sink, before cooking it, spreads the bacteria around to anywhere the water splashes. It also gets on the hands and the clothes of the person preparing the meal.
Clean Up Before Doing Other Things
After finishing the preparation work, place all packaging materials in a trash container being careful not to spill any liquid from the packaging on anything else. Treat this packaging like the biohazard that it is. Wash everything used for the preparation carefully, including your hands. Then, continue with the other steps to make the meal.
Cook Poultry Thoroughly
Undercooked chicken is the most common cause of food poisoning. If the meat is pink when cutting into the chicken, it is not cooked. That is a basic warning sign, but is not foolproof. The only way to know for sure that poultry is cooked properly is to use a thermometer.
Foodsafety.gov says that poultry needs to reach an inside temperature of 165ºF to cook thoroughly. Use a thermometer to measure the inside temperature of the thickest part of the meat. Make sure the thermometer does not touch any bone.
There are thermometers that can be inserted and stay in place during cooking. There are also thermometer probes that are used for testing and are not kept in the meat while cooking it. Some turkeys come with a thermometer button that pops out automatically when the turkey is properly cooked.
Put Leftovers in the Refrigerator Right Away
Any leftovers need to be covered when left out in the open and then put in the refrigerator, within the first two hours after cooking, in order to keep them fresh.
It is becoming more important to handle the cooking of poultry properly because of the risk of it being contaminated with deadly bacteria and viruses. By following these rules, it is possible to eat poultry with far less risk for happy holidays.