To keep your family safe and healthy, it is important to use good judgment and sound food safety procedures for storing and handling chicken at home.
Fresh, raw chicken can be stored in its original wrap for up to two days in the coldest part of the refrigerator. However, freeze chicken immediately if you do not plan to use it within two days after purchasing. You can freeze most chicken in its original packaging safely for up to two months; if you plan to freeze it longer, consider double-wrapping or rewrapping with freezer paper, aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
Stocking the freezer with boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs can be a real timesaver. Divide the chicken into efficient, meal-size portions and package for freezing. These convenient packages defrost and cook quickly into chicken recipes that can eliminate leftovers.
Airtight packaging is the key to freezing chicken successfully. When freezing whole chickens, remove and rinse giblets (if any) and pat dry with paper towels. Trim away any excess fat from the chicken. Tightly wrap, label, date, and freeze both chicken and giblets in separate freezer-strength plastic, paper, or foil wraps.
Thaw frozen chicken, wrapped, in the refrigerator for best results. Thawing times for frozen chicken can vary depending on how thoroughly frozen the chicken is and whether the chicken is whole or cut up. A general guideline is to allow 24 hours thawing time for a 5-pound whole chicken; allow about 5 hours per pound for thawing chicken pieces. Never thaw chicken on the kitchen counter; this promotes bacterial growth.
When handling raw chicken, you must keep everything that comes into contact with it clean. Raw chicken should be rinsed and patted dry with paper towels before cooking; cutting boards and knives must be washed in hot sudsy water after using and hands must be scrubbed thoroughly before and after handling.
Why? Raw chicken can harbor harmful salmonella bacteria. If bacteria are transferred to work surfaces, utensils or hands, they could contaminate other foods, as well as the cooked chicken, and cause food poisoning. With careful handling and proper cooking, this is easily prevented.
Chicken should always be cooked completely before eating. You should never cook chicken partially and then store it to be finished later, since this promotes bacterial growth as well. Learn more about cooking chicken in our articles how to cook chicken and how to cook poultry.
Now that you know what kind of chicken to buy, you'll be able to create all kinds of delectable new chicken dishes as well as your family's favorite chicken recipes.