Cooking basics for beginners - How to cook chicken safely with these 6tips


Roast chicken with vegetables and lemon
On Sunday we did a cooking experience with my friend. I don't want to call it a cooking class exactly as I would be a ridiculously unqualified teacher, but we just cooked some foods together and I tried to give my culinarily challenged friend some tips. It's also all about confidence, so practising together is a great way to build her morale that has been crushed by collapsing Swiss rolls and baked cod disasters. Having been considerably clueless myself only a few years ago I can still relate.

One of her questions leading up to our Cooking Experience was How to cook chicken safely. Up to three quarters of our supermarket chicken is contaminated with campylobacter. And I’m sure there’s a bit of salmonella thrown in here and there for good measure even though that situation seems to have improved in recent years.

An infection like this can in the worst case be lethal and if it's not at some point you probably wish that it was. I had campylobacteriosis once (from a restaurant - not self-inflicted) and there aren’t many people in the world I would wish it upon. There are some, I can immediately think about a few actually, a list is suddenly forming in my head, hmm.

My friend has been so concerned about this that she actually never has cooked chicken at home. So I thought why don't I put some tips down as I have managed to cook chicken loads of times without killing anyone. If you follow these simple safeguards, you should have no concerns at all.

So here are my top tips
1. Don’t lick the raw chicken
2. Don’t massage your vegetables and work surfaces with the raw chicken

No seriously here we go:

How to cook chicken safely - 6 tips to avoid the risk of food poisoning

1. Be paranoid all the way from the supermarket

Sometimes bacteria can reside in the outer surfaces of the packaging as well, so my tip is to pack your chicken in a separate plastic bag at the supermarket so you don’t cross-contaminate your other food. I like to segregate the poor chicken even in the shopping cart so it doesn’t touch my other foods.

Keep your chicken in this bag when you put it in your fridge so none of the potential bacteria in the packaging is transferred to any surfaces or other foods in your fridge.

2. Don’t wash your chicken

By washing the chicken you are not likely to get rid of the bacteria on the chicken, but actually just spread it around your work surfaces and wherever the water ends up splashing on. Probably everywhere.

3. Protect and wash your cutting board and utensils 

If you need to cut the chicken, don’t use your wooden or plastic cutting board uncovered. I often use scissors to cut the chicken into pieces keeping the chicken in the container it came in. Afterwards I just put the container in the bin and scissors in the dishwasher, no contaminated surfaces or cutting boards to worry about.

If you use a board, protect it with parchment paper and/or plastic bags that you then discard and make sure you wash the cutting board very thoroughly as well as any other utensils you use.

4. Marinate, don't cross-contaminate

If you marinate your chicken, make sure the container you marinate it in is clean outside and completely covered so you don't contaminate the contents of your fridge. I usually use a metal bowl which I wrap completely in a clean plastic bag. Once I'm ready to cook I just chuck the bag in the bin and put the bowl in the dishwasher. Also discard any extra marinade, don't use it as salad dressing. Duh!

5. Keep washing your hands obsessive compulsively

After handling the chicken before you touch anything make sure you always wash your hands carefully with water and soap so you don't spread the bacteria with your hands to door handles etc.

6. Make sure your chicken is cooked through

Test from the thickest part of the chicken cutting into the meat. Juices should run clear and meat should not be pink or opaque. Leg meat is a bit darker, so it may look a bit coloured even when it’s cooked. If in doubt use a meat thermometer, the temperature should be 165 for cooked chicken.

Herby baked chicken with feta and lemon

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  1. :D I think you should of done pictures illustrating the first tip! Haa! I want a rip off go-pro for my birthday so I can do a few how-to videos for the likes of pastry, etc...but with a bit of a different spin, hee!
    I am also a scissor cutter with my chicken, and never cut it on a board at all, it makes such a bloody mess too!