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Chicken basics

Chicken basics

Chicken is far and away the nation's favourite bird. Learn how to handle, store, freeze and prepare chicken so that you and your family can safely enjoy this supper staple.

Keep it cold

Never leave raw or frozen chicken at room temperature. Raw chicken should be stored in the coldest part of your fridge and used within two days. Freeze any chicken that won't be used within a couple of days. You can freeze it in its packaging from the supermarket, but if you plan on storing it for longer than two months in the freezer, unwrap the chicken and rewrap it in aluminium foil and place in a plastic freezer bag for best results.

Frozen chicken can be stored in the freezer for up to one year without sacrificing quality.

When thawing frozen chicken, do so slowly and safely. It will take from 24 hours up to two days to thaw a whole chicken in the fridge, and about 2 to 9 hours for smaller chicken cuts (less time for boneless pieces).

Other safe defrosting methods are thawing in a cold water bath or by simply using the defrost setting of the microwave.

Keep it clean

Rinse chicken with cold water, inside and out, and pat dry with kitchen paper before preparing. To prevent cross-contamination, thoroughly clean all surfaces, utensils, cutting boards, knives and hands with hot soapy water after handling raw poultry.

Get it done

The only fail-safe way to tell if a chicken is cooked properly is to use a meat thermometer - seeing if the juices run clear is not always a reliable indicator of doneness.

To test the internal temperature of a whole chicken, insert the thermometer into the thigh, taking care not to touch the bone. Chicken should reach 74 degrees C. Remember that the meat will continue to cook once it's removed from the heat source, so you may pull it out of the oven a few degrees below the target temperature - just keep the thermometer in place and check to be sure the temperature climbs to a safe heat.

More chicken safety tips

Marinating or brining? Always let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator, even for a short soak of 30 minutes.

Do not baste the cooked chicken with the same marinade: either make extra marinade and set aside a portion for basting only, or boil it for two to three minutes to kill any bacteria that might be present.

Cooked chicken should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours.Properly handled cooked chicken can be stored in the fridge for two days.

See our Chicken recipe collection for over a thousand delicious chicken recipes.

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