The chicken is a
descendant of the Southeast Asian red jungle fowl first
domesticated in India around 2000 B.C. Most of the birds
raised for meat in America today are from the Cornish (a
British breed) and the White Rock (a breed developed in
New England). Broiler-fryers, roasters, stewing/baking
hens, capons and Rock Cornish hens are all chickens. The
following are definitions for these:
- Broiler-fryer -
a young, tender chicken about 7 weeks old which weighs
2-1/2 to 4-1/2 pounds when eviscerated.
Cook by any method.
- Rock Cornish Game
Hen- a small broiler-fryer weighing between 1 and
2 pounds. Usually stuffed and roasted
- Roaster - an
older chicken about 3 to 5 months old which weighs 5
to 7 pounds. It yields more meat per
pound than a broiler-fryer. Usually roasted whole.
- Capon - Male
chickens about 16 weeks to 8 months old which are
surgically unsexed. They weigh about 4 to 7 pounds and have generous quantities of
tender, light meat. Usually roasted.
- Stewing/Baking Hen
a mature laying hen 10 months to 1-1/2 years old.
Since the meat is less tender than young chickens,
it's best used in moist cooking such as stewing.
- Cock or rooster
- a mature male chicken with coarse skin and tough,
dark meat. Requires long, moist cooking.
are also used for food. See that module for more
Associated with Chicken
As on any perishable
meat, fish or poultry, bacteria can be found on raw or
undercooked chicken. They multiply rapidly at temperatures
between 40 �F and 140 �F (out of
refrigeration and before thorough cooking occurs).
Freezing doesn't kill bacteria but they are destroyed by
thorough cooking of any food to 160 �F.
Most foodborne illness
outbreaks are a result of contamination from food
handlers. Sanitary food handling and proper cooking and
refrigeration should prevent foodborne illnesses.
Bacteria must be consumed
on food to cause illness. They cannot enter the body
through a skin cut. However, raw poultry must be handled
carefully to prevent cross-contamination. This can occur
if raw poultry or its juices contact cooked food or foods
that will be eaten raw such as salad. An example of this
is chopping tomatoes on an unwashed cutting board just
after cutting raw chicken on it.
Following are some
bacteria associated with chicken:
Enteriditis may be found in the intestinal tracts
of livestock, poultry, dogs, cats and other
warm-blooded animals. This strain is only one of about
2,000 kinds of Salmonella bacteria; it is often
associated with poultry and shell eggs.
aureus can be carried on human hands, in nasal
passages, or in throats. The bacteria are found in
foods made by hand and improperly refrigerated, such
as chicken salad.
jejuni is one of the most common causes of diarrhea
illness in humans. Preventing cross-contamination and
using proper cooking methods reduces infection by this
monocytogenes was recognized as causing human food borne
illness in 1981. It is destroyed by cooking, but a
cooked product can be contaminated by poor personal
hygiene. Observe "keep refrigerated" and
"use-by" dates on labels.
How to Handle Chicken
Chicken is kept cold
during distribution to retail stores to prevent the growth
of bacteria and to increase its shelf life. Chicken should
feel cold to the touch when purchased. Select fresh
chicken just before checking out at the register. Put
packages of chicken in disposable plastic bags (if
available) to contain any leakage which could
cross-contaminate cooked foods or produce. Make the
grocery your last stop before going home.
At home, immediately
place chicken in a refrigerator that maintains 40 �F, and use within 1 or 2 days, or freeze at 0 �F. If kept frozen continuously, it will be safe
Chicken may be frozen in
its original packaging or repackaged. If freezing longer
than two months, over wrap the porous store plastic
packages with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap or
freezer paper, or place the package inside a freezer bag.
Use these materials or airtight freezer containers to
repackage family packs into smaller amounts or freeze the
chicken from opened packages.
Proper wrapping prevents
"freezer burn," which appears as grayish-brown
leathery spots and is caused by air reaching the surface
of food. Cut freezer-burned portions away either before or
after cooking the chicken. Heavily freezer-burned products
may have to be discarded because they might be too dry or
When purchasing fully
cooked rotisserie or fast food chicken, be sure it is hot
at time of purchase. Use it within two hours or cut it
into several pieces and refrigerate in shallow, covered
containers. Eat within 3 to 4 days, either cold or
reheated to 165° F (hot and steaming). It is safe to
freeze ready-prepared chicken. For best quality, flavor
and texture, use within 4 months.
There are three recommended
ways to defrost chicken: in the refrigerator, in cold
water and in the microwave. Never defrost chicken on the
counter or in other locations. It's best to plan ahead for
slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator. Boneless chicken
breasts will usually defrost overnight. Bone-in parts and
whole chickens may take 1 to 2 days or longer. Once the
raw chicken defrosts, it can be kept in the refrigerator
an additional day or two before cooking. During this time,
if chicken defrosted in the refrigerator is not used, it
can safely be refrozen without cooking first.
Chicken may be defrosted
in cold water in its airtight packaging or in a leakproof
bag. Submerge the bird or cut-up parts in cold water,
changing the water every 30 minutes to be sure it stays
cold. A whole (3 to 4 pound) broiler fryer or
package of parts should defrost in 2 to 3 hours. A 1-pound
package of boneless breasts will defrost in an
hour or less.
Chicken defrosted in the
microwave should be cooked immediately after thawing
because some areas of the food may become warm and begin
to cook during microwaving. Holding partially cooked food
is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn't
have been destroyed. Foods defrosted in the microwave or
by the cold water method should be cooked before
Do not cook frozen
chicken in the microwave or in a slow cooker. However,
chicken can be cooked from the frozen state in the oven or
on the stove. The cooking time may be about 50% longer.
Chicken may be marinated
in the refrigerator up to 2 days. Boil used marinade
before brushing on cooked chicken. Discard any uncooked