Handling raw meat is a kitchen skill that requires a due level of care and attention. As the debate about whether to wash raw chicken goes global, our food editor Barney Desmazery talks us through how to safely handle raw chicken by putting hygiene and safety first.
Just as the summer 2014 barbecue season kicks in, the not-so-attractive subject of raw chicken has been hitting the headlines. As part of Food Safety Week, the Food Standards Agency of the UK has launched a campaign urging people to stop washing raw chicken in a bid to cosh cases of food poisoning, namely the nasty-sounding campylobacter strain. Always ones to cluck over food news and kitchen debates, here in the bbcgoodfood.com editorial team we're firmly in the no-wash camp - in fact, it had never even crossed our minds to give poultry a quick spritz before cooking. However, the FSA estimate that around 44% do in fact give their chicken a ritual shower, citing the elimination of dirt or germs as one of the main reasons. We called on our food editor Barney to talk us through the do's and don't's of handling raw chicken...
Barney's seven-point guide to handling raw chicken:
Having spent three years at catering college the importance of food hygiene was drummed into me military style - but it really is something every cook should be aware of. Raw chicken needs to be handled with care as it can contain lots of harmful bacteria that can make you very ill. Here are my seven pointers for ensuring optimum kitchen safety and hygiene.
1. Never wash chicken
Droplets of water or spray-back from a fierce tap is one of the easiest ways of spreading the bacteria. Even if you are extra careful and fill your sink full of water, you still run the risk of spreading the bacteria through anything else the water comes into contact with. If your chicken has juices from the packaging that you want to remove before cooking, the easiest way is to dab it with kitchen paper then dispose of the kitchen paper straight away.
2. Avoid cross-contamination
This means never use anything that has come into contact with raw chicken on cooked foods without washing them thoroughly first. This includes your hands, chopping boards, knives, kitchen cloths, dishes and plates, barbecue tongs, basting brush.
3. Be careful when using marinades
Never use a marinade that has been used on raw chicken to baste the chicken with as it cooks - this is just another form of cross-contamination.
4. Storage rules
Cover raw chicken well and store it on the bottom shelf of the fridge to lower the risk of any raw juices potentially dripping on other items in your fridge.
5. Spray it
Use an antibacterial sanitiser on any kitchen surface or fridge space that happens to come into contact with raw chicken.
6. Check your cooked chicken thoroughly
Other than cutting into cooked chicken the only way to tell if it is cooked all the way through is by using a meat thermometer or digital food probe. Stick it into the thickest part of the piece of chicken - on a whole bird that’s the thigh. You want a reading of 75C or over.
Read the BBC Good Food review of meat thermometers
7. If in doubt...
... chuck it out! No one likes food waste but better to waste food than make yourself and others extremely ill. Trust your senses and if the raw chicken is giving off any unpleasant odours, opt for a vegetarian meal on that occasion.
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