There are many ways you can keep raw chicken safe from Salmonella. But many people aren’t sure how to deal with this issue.
You might think that freezing can kill Salmonella, but that’s not entirely true. It’s one of the most common threats to raw chicken meat and can cause real health issues.
Read on to learn more about safe ways to prepare chicken to prevent salmonella poisoning and other complications.
Does freezing chicken kill Salmonella?
Unfortunately, freezing chicken will not kill Salmonella. That’s because Salmonella is a bacteria and not a parasite. But, this type of bacteria will go into hibernation when you freeze raw chicken.
Keep in mind that Salmonella isn’t exclusive to chicken or poultry. It can be found in beef, pork, eggshells, fruits and vegetables, and even in processed foods such as frozen nut butter and frozen dinners.
Does freezing chicken kill any bacteria?
Raw or undercooked chicken carries certain bacteria. And while freezing doesn’t kill those bacteria, it makes them cold and inactive. The only way to kill foodborne bacteria is by thoroughly cooking the food.
So yes, if you’re not careful with your raw chicken meat, you could end up with a nasty case of food poisoning.
Luckily, being careful isn’t all that hard. Learn these five simple habits for storing and preparing your chicken safely.
Keep Your Chicken Frozen
Fresh chicken should be kept cold to extend its shelf life and to prevent the growth of bacteria. That’s because the temperature is one of the main factors that contribute to the growth of bacteria that trigger food poisoning.
Packages of chicken you buy at the store must feel cold to the touch and must be among the last items you pick before checking out. You can use a spare plastic bag to prevent leakage onto other grocery items in your cart.
Once you’re back home, you should place your chicken in a refrigerator that maintains a temperature of 39 F or colder. The official recommendation is that you use freshly-bought chicken within two days, but it’s best to use it immediately or freeze it to ensure maximum freshness.
If your fridge displays temperatures, you can use a fridge thermometer to help confirm that the temperature your fridge displays is correct.
Thawing Frozen Chicken – The Right Way
Avoid defrosting chicken meat on the counter or the microwave. It’s not uncommon to see some sources suggesting that it’s acceptable to thaw frozen chicken meat or poultry in the microwave. But it’s not safe, even if your microwave features a defrost setting on it.
The reason behind this is simple: microwaves generate heat and raise temperatures, promoting the growth of bacteria. This is an awful way to defrost a chicken because it doesn’t kill Salmonella and also exposes the chicken to hazardous temperatures.
The right way to thaw frozen poultry requires planning ahead and leaving some time to thaw it in the refrigerator. Whole chickens take up to two days to fully thaw in this way, while boneless breasts can thaw overnight.
Once the chicken meat thaws, it should be kept in the refrigerator no more than a few hours before cooking it. Once the chicken is thawed, use it within a day, or don’t freeze it again.
Prevent the Growth of Salmonella and Other Bacteria
Raw or undercooked chicken carries certain bacteria, including Salmonella. These bacteria can make you feel sick if you’re given the opportunity to stay active or multiply.
To avoid food poisoning and other illnesses, you need to slow down their reproductive cycle by refrigerating or freezing the chicken. Alternatively, you can kill them altogether by cooking the chicken.
Another concern related to working with uncooked chicken is cross-contamination, which is a term to describe what can happen when raw chicken or just its juices come into contact with any other food products, such as salad, vegetables, or greens.
Store your foods tightly sealed and keep chicken on the highest shelf of the fridge so that nothing can leak on top of it.
And keep it toward the end of the fridge, where it stays coldest and is least affected by temperature fluctuations from the door opening.
Cook Your Chicken Thoroughly To Kill Salmonella
Making sure chicken is cooked thoroughly is a major part of preventing salmonella poisoning.
Why Is Cooking Chicken Meat to the Proper Internal Temperature Important?
It’s important to cook the chicken to an internal temperature of 165ºF. That’s because it’s an issue of food safety, as undercooked chicken can cause salmonella poisoning. So, ensuring that chicken reaches the proper internal temperature helps avoid foodborne illness.
Cooking Times Chart for Cooking Healthy Chicken
Cooking time is basically the length of time it takes for raw chicken meat to cook through. The cooking time depends on the temperature and thickness of chicken meat going in. In general, cooking time will be longer if the temperature is lower.
Keep in mind that cooking temperatures and cooking time are directly related. Cooking chicken at a lower temperature means you’ll have to cook it for longer. Whatever cooking time and cooking temperature you choose, always ensure the internal temperature of your chicken reaches 165ºF. Otherwise, it will be potentially unsafe to eat.
According to the USDA, these are the cooking times for different cuts of chicken:
Breast halves, bone-in
- Weight: 6-8oz
- Simmering Time: 35-40 min
- Roasting Time (at 350ºF): 50-60 min
- Grilling Time: 45-55 min/side
Breast halves, boneless
- Weight: 4oz
- Simmering Time: 25-30 min
- Roasting Time (at 350ºF): 30-30 min
- Grilling Time: 6-8 min/side
Legs or thighs
- Weight: 4-8oz
- Simmering Time: 40-50 min
- Roasting Time (at 350ºF): 40-50 min
- Grilling Time: 10-15 min/side
- Weight: 4oz
- Simmering Time: 40-50 min
- Roasting Time (at 350ºF): 35-45 min
- Grilling Time: 8-12 min/side
- Weight: 2-3oz
- Simmering Time: 35-45 min
- Roasting Time (at 350ºF): 30-40 min
- Grilling Time: 8-12 min/side
Temperature and time are merely guidelines. The more experienced you become in the kitchen, the better equipped you’ll be to adjust your approach to get the best results.
Here’s a quick table for proper temperatures for poultry and game birds:
|Ground chicken and turkey||165°F|
|Whole chicken, turkey, duck, and goose||165°F|
|Poultry breasts and roasts; thighs and wings||165°F|
|Casseroles, all stuffing, and reheated leftovers||165°F|
|Fully-cooked poultry||165°F or safe to eat cold if properly cooled and stored|
Is Salmonella killed or made inactive in the freezer?
Salmonella and other bacteria can’t be killed by freezing. Some of the cells present will become inactive, but quantities sufficient to cause food poisoning will remain.
How long can Salmonella last in the freezer?
Salmonella is highly sensitive to freezing, regardless of the freezing method, and shows a survival rate of 1% or less after 48 hr.
How long is chicken OKAY if frozen?
Individual bits of raw chicken stay fresh in the freezer for nine months, and whole chickens are good for up to a year when frozen. If you’re freezing cooked chicken meat, you can expect that to last for 3-6 months. Freezing cooked chicken is a nice way to reduce food waste.
Can you cook chicken meat straight from the freezer?
According to the USDA, you can safely cook your frozen chicken as long as you follow general guidelines. To skip the thawing step and turn your frozen chicken meat into a fully-cooked, safe-to-eat dinner, use your stovetop and simply increase your cooking time by at least 45%.