Cooking Tips

Click on the question below to see the corresponding answer.

How should I defrost individually frozen chicken?

Chicken can be thawed safely in the refrigerator (not on the countertop) or in cold water. It takes approximately 24 hours to thaw a 4 pound chicken in the refrigerator, and 3 to 9 hours for cut-up parts. If chicken is to be thawed in cold water, place the chicken in its original wrap or in a watertight plastic bag and immerse in cold water; the water should be changed often. It takes at least 2 hours to thaw a whole chicken.

How long can I keep chicken?

The Storage Time and Temperature Chart shows how long you can safely store raw and cooked chicken. To ensure it is at highest quality, storage longer than these times is not recommended.

When freezing chicken, wrap parts separately in foil or freezer wrap. This makes it easy to defrost only the amount you need. Proper wrapping prevents "freezer burn," which results from contact with air.

 : Refrigerator (40°F) Freezer (0°F)
Raw chicken parts 1-2 days 9 months
Raw chicken giblets, ground chicken 1-2 days 3-4 months
Raw whole chicken 1-2 days 1 year
Cooked chicken parts, not in broth or gravy 3-4 days 4 months
Cooked whole chicken 3-4 days 4 months
Cooked ground chicken 1-2 days 1-3 months


Do you have any safe handling tips?

Like other raw foods, chicken should be handled with care to minimize the risk of foodborne illness. Most foodborne illness in the home is caused by:

  • Storing foods at room temperature
  • Cooking or reheating at too low a temperature or for too short a time
  • Keeping cooked foods at room temperature for too long
  • Improper hand washing
  • Using the same utensils and serving dishes for raw foods

Proper washing of hands and utensils is a crucial step in the prevention of food-related illness. Wash hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds immediately before starting to cook, as well as between cooking tasks, particularly those steps that involve the handling of raw meat and poultry. Always use a clean towel to dry hands.

Use separate cutting boards for raw meats and cooked meats or vegetables and fruits. Wash utensils with hot, soapy water after each use and allow to dry completely. Cutting boards should be rinsed often with a diluted chlorine bleach solution (1 tablespoon household bleach per 1 quart water).

Poultry should be kept refrigerated until cooking time, or until serving time if using a precooked product. Defrost frozen chicken in the refrigerator, allowing up to 9 hours to defrost parts and about 24 hours to defrost a whole 4-pound chicken. Do not let raw poultry juices drip onto other foods in the refrigerator. If time is short, place poultry in an airtight bag in cold water for at least 2 hours changing water every 30 minutes to keep it cold), or defrost in a microwave oven and cook immediately. Individually wrapped parts can be cooked straight from the freezer; be sure to allow about 50 percent more time for cooking. Rinsing chicken before cooking is a matter of personal choice, but if chicken is rinsed, scrub the sink with hot soapy water afterwards.

Because bacteria in raw foods can contaminate cooked foods, it is important to keep the two separated. Wash thoroughly with soap and water any bowls or platters that held raw chicken before using them for other items. Discard raw poultry marinades or boil them for at least one minute before serving with cooked chicken or vegetables. Or, make a double batch of marinade and reserve some for serving.

Cooking, Serving, & Storing
A basic food safety rule: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Most disease-causing bacteria are killed at temperatures above 140° F. Recommended cooking temperatures are high to allow for proper doneness.

Bacteria are not killed at temperatures below 40° F, but low temperatures slow their growth. Refrigerator temperature should never be set higher than 40° F. Cook foods completely in one session. Partial cooking may allow surviving bacteria to grow. Chicken should always be cooked to "well done." Two tests for doneness: pierce the chicken with a fork; the juices should run clear. And check the color of the meat -- it should be opaque throughout.

Most foods, including most chicken dishes, should not be held at temperatures between 40° F and 140° F for more than 2 hours, including serving time and time cooling in the refrigerator. Foods kept in a chafing dish that is hotter than 140° F can be held for about 4 hours. To chill cooked foods as quickly as possible, place them in a covered shallow pan or container in the refrigerator or freezer immediately after the meal is finished. Use leftovers within 2 - 4 days. Reheat leftovers to at least 165° F throughout.

To cut fat and calories, should chicken should be cooked without the skin?

A thin membrane between the skin and the flesh holds moisture in the meat while keeping the fat out. So, remove the skin from the chicken after cooking instead of before cooking to get juicy flavor with less fat.

Is white meat chicken is healthier than leg meat?

White meat is lower in fat and calories than leg meat, but skinless leg meat is still lower in fat than some cuts of red meat. Also, leg meat supplies more iron than white meat and often provides more flavor.

Is darkening around the bones is a sign of spoilage in cooked chicken?

Darkening is from natural pigment that seeps through the bones during cooking. It contains iron and is safe to eat.

What is the best way to store chicken?

Proper wrapping and storage help keep raw cooked chicken at top quality.

  • Refrigerate fresh chicken in its original package on a low shelf, in a cold part of the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Freeze uncooked chicken if it will not be used within that time. Use a refrigerator and freezer thermometer.
  • For extra protection, place chicken in a plastic bag to separate it from other foods and to prevent it from dripping onto other items in the refrigerator.
  • When freezing, wrap parts separately in foil or other freezer wrap. This makes it easy to defrost only the amount you need. Proper wrapping prevents "freezer burn," which results from contact with air.
  • Wrap cooked chicken well before storing in the refrigerator or freezer.


Do you have any good cooking tips?

From the National Chicken Council:

  • Boneless, skinless breasts or thighs work well with quick, low-fat cooking methods like stir-frying and grilling. Boneless, skinless thighs are also suitable for dishes with long cooking times, as leg meat does not dry out as quickly as white meat.
  • Use a nonstick pan or cooking spray instead of adding fat to prevent sticking.
  • To add flavor, rub chicken parts with ground spices and herbs or marinate before cooking. Another option is to use the new premarinated chicken products. Either way, be sure to discard the marinade or boil for at least one minute before serving with the cooked chicken.
  • Chicken parts can be roasted, baked, oven-fried, or grilled, preferably on a rack to allow fat to drip off the chicken during cooking.
  • Use skinless parts in casseroles for added flavor with little fat.
  • A flavorful broiler-fryer or stewing chicken is best for soup; allow enough time to chill the soup and remove the surface fat before reheating and serving. When grilling chicken, think leg meat. These pieces contain a little more fat than the white meat, making them better able to withstand the intense heat of the grill. When grilling chicken parts, the various pieces will vary in the amount of time needed to be fully cooked, because part size and thickness affects time needed to thoroughly cook the meat. Check for doneness with a meat thermometer.
  • Microwave cooking can be used in conjunction with grilling. Raise the temperature of chicken in the microwave until juices are flowing from the meat, and then transfer to the grill to complete the cooking process.

Cooking times for chicken will also vary depending on the appliance and method of cooking used. However, an approximate cooking time for a whole chicken can be calculated as follows. If the whole chicken is unfrozen without the neck and giblets in the body cavity, not stuffed, and placed in a preheated oven at 350° F, the cooking time will be 20 minutes per pound of chicken plus 10 minutes for chickens weighing between one pound and six pounds.

For chickens over six pounds, the extra 10 minutes is usually not required. As an example, a 3 1/2 pound chicken would take (3 1/2 pounds times 20 minutes = 70 minutes plus ten minutes) one hour and 20 minutes. For parts, especially thin parts such as boneless, skinless breasts, the cooking time will be less than for a whole carcass chicken of the same weight. Check chicken for doneness before serving. Insert a meat thermometer into a thick section of the thigh without touching the bone. The internal temperature should reach 180° F for whole chickens or leg meat parts; 170° F for bone-in breast; and 160° F for skinless, boneless breast. Coarsely and finely ground chicken should reach at least 165° F. Stuffing inside a whole chicken should reach a temperature of at least 165° F; stuffing a 4-pound chicken with traditional bread-based ingredients will add an additional 30 minutes or so to the total cooking time. If you do not have a meat thermometer, cook the stuffing separately. To check for doneness without a thermometer, pierce the thickest part of the chicken with a fork. It should feel tender and juices should run clear.

What are some tips for packing chicken for a picnic?

Chicken - particularly fried or grilled, or slices of precooked rotisserie-style, is delicious at a picnic. Here are some tips for safe travel:

  • Pack raw poultry in a sealed container or bag in a cooler with ice or cold packs, ensuring that the temperature stays below 40ยบ F. Keep the poultry at the bottom of the cooler so that the juices do not leak onto other foods.
  • Keep uncooked chicken and meats in a cooler until ready to cook.
  • On days when the temperature is above 80°, cooked foods should be kept out for no longer than one hour.
  • When bringing a bag lunch, wrap foods well and keep them either cold with a freezer pack or frozen juice carton, or hot in an insulated container.
  • Keep coolers and lunch bags in the shade, out of direct sunlight. Pack coolers in the car, not in the trunk.


-- Includes excerpts from the National Chicken Council's Cooking Tips/Food Safety at