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Choosing and Handling Chicken

Martha Stewart Living, September 1997

We recommend buying free-range, organic, or kosher chickens.

Definition of Terms
Free-Range: The chickens are allowed to move about freely; they are often fed a special vegetarian diet that is free of hormones and antibiotics.

Organic: The chickens are fed certified organic feed and are not treated with antibiotics.

Kosher: In accordance with Jewish religious laws, these chickens are washed in a saltwater bath to remove impurities and blood, imparting  a slightly salty taste to the meat.

Judging Freshness
The chicken you buy should be practically odorless; if a chicken's odor is strong enough to permeate the plastic, don't buy it. Don't forget to check the "sell-by" date, which is most often one week after the chicken has arrived at the market; if the expiration date has already passed, don't buy the chicken.

We recommend buying free-range, organic, or kosher chickens. Whenever possible, buy your chicken from a butcher shop, which will be more likely to carry free-range, organic, and kosher brands.

Safety Tips
Cross-contamination can occur when you are handling raw chicken alongside food that will be eaten raw, like crudites or salads. If raw chicken comes in contact with other ingredients that will eventually be cooked, there is no cause for concern; the cooking process will kill any bacteria that has been transferred.

The following guidelines will help prevent bacterial contamination:

1. Keep poultry refrigerated until ready to use.

2. After cutting raw chicken, use hot, soapy water to wash your hands and all cutting boards, knives, and countertops that have come in contact with it.

3. Cut or trim the chicken on top of the Styrofoam package it comes in; this will minimize the chance of juices leaking onto other surfaces, and the whole package, trimmings and all, can be discarded together.

4. When cooking chicken, make sure it is cooked to 180 degrees and that no pink meat remains.

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