Cooking Tips

FARM FRESH
EVERY STEP OF THE WAY


Safe handling tips, from store to plate.

Sanderson Farms chicken has long been a house-hold staple and a go-to dish in both homes and restaurants alike. It’s both easy to prepare and is extremely safe to eat when handled properly. Studies show that improper handling of proteins is a main contributor to foodborne illnesses. Keeping a few simple storage and preparation rules in mind will ensure that the chicken you prepare is a nutritious and healthy part of your meal.

Explore our tips below to make sure your chicken stays farm fresh all the way from the store to your family’s plates.

STEP 1: PURCHASING

CHECK THE LABEL

usdarawpoultryBefore you buy, be sure to check the package for the USDA inspection shield or seal shown here. Survey the package for any tears or holes and check the “sell by” date (which indicates the last day the chicken can be sold) or the “use by” date (which indicates the day by which the product should be used or frozen).

CHECK THE PRODUCT

Inspect the chicken’s appearance. It should have a pink or deep yellow, fleshy color, depending on the chicken’s diet. A strong smell could mean it’s spoiled.

BUY PERISHABLES LAST

Make sure your perishables, including chicken, are the last thing you place into your cart before checkout.

KEEP SEPARATE

Keep raw chicken separate from other items in your grocery cart to prevent cross contamination.

REFRIGERATE PROMPTLY

Chicken items should be taken home immediately from the grocery store, then placed promptly in your home refrigerator. Don’t leave chicken on the countertop or allow it to reach room temperature. Fresh chicken can be refrigerated in its original packaging and should be placed in the coldest part of the fridge. If you have a meat drawer, that’s perfect!

USE QUICKLY

We recommend you keep fresh, uncooked poultry in the refrigerator for no more than two days to ensure maximum freshness. If you’re planning to freeze your chicken, you should do it immediately upon returning from your shopping trip. See the chicken storage chart under our Storing tab for more details.

STEP 2: HANDLING

DEFROST PROPERLY

When possible, thaw your frozen chicken in the refrigerator, never on the countertop. This generally takes about five hours per pound, so it’s good to plan ahead. If you’re in a hurry, you can immerse wrapped poultry in cold water. Be sure to change the water every half hour or so for effective thawing. You can also use the microwave, but watch the chicken carefully since the thinner portions tend to cook while the thicker sections are still thawing. Follow the microwave manufacturer’s recommendations regarding defrosting cycles for poultry.

WASH YOUR HANDS

While preparing your meals be mindful of keeping your hands washed with warm soapy water after touching raw chicken, as well as other raw meats, fish and unwashed vegetables. Be sure to replace any dish towels or cloths after using them around raw proteins.

DON’T WASH YOUR CHICKEN

It is often assumed that washing raw chicken will remove any bacteria, making it safer to eat. However, this is not the case. Some bacteria found in chicken is so tightly attached that it can’t be removed, no matter how much it is washed. What’s more, surface bacteria can easily wash off, splashing and cross-contaminating nearby foods, utensils and surfaces. Failing to thoroughly clean all contaminated surfaces can lead to foodborne illness. And cooking raw meats and chicken to the appropriate temperature will kill all bacteria, making washing unnecessary in the first place.

CUT CAREFULLY

Always use separate cutting boards when cutting or trimming poultry to prevent cross contamination. Never use a wooden cutting board for raw poultry.

CLEANUP IS KEY

Keeping a clean work area as well as separating raw chicken from food items is essential to preparing a safe and healthy meal. Always wash your hands, countertops, cutting boards, knives and utensils with hot, soapy water before you touch any other foods. And remember to keep fresh, clean dishtowels in your kitchen, replacing those that are used around raw proteins.

STEP 3: COOKING

KEEP CHICKEN CHILLED

Make sure to keep your chicken in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook it.

TAKE SPECIAL CARE WHEN GRILLING

Make sure to keep your chicken in the refrigerator until you’re ready to grill. Once you put your chicken on the grill, use a new plate for the cooked chicken. And never place skewers, spatulas or tongs on a plate that held raw chicken. Cross contamination can easily result.

DON’T REUSE MARINADES

If you’ve used a marinade on your raw chicken, don’t use it to coat or baste the chicken while cooking. Sauces and marinades used on raw products should never touch cooked products.

DON’T REUSE PLATES

Once you transfer your raw chicken to a grill, pot or pan, be sure to use a new plate for the cooked chicken. Also, be careful to never place skewers, spatulas or tongs on a plate that held raw chicken. Cross contamination can easily result.

COOK CHICKEN THOROUGHLY

Chicken should always be cooked thoroughly. To ensure your chicken is fully cooked, follow the recommended cooking times, and make sure your chicken reaches the proper recommended internal temperatures listed below by using a calibrated meat thermometer. The USDA recommends that all chicken, regardless of cut, should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165° F.

RECOMMENDED GUIDE TO SAFE INTERNAL TEMPERATURES
FOR BONE-IN, SKIN-ON CHICKEN

Chicken, whole: 180° F

Chicken thighs, wings: 180° F

Chicken breasts, roast: 170° F

Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird): 165° F

How to Cut Up a Chicken

How to Carve a Chicken
Watch Video

STEP 4: STORING

DON’T LEAVE COOKED CHICKEN UNREFRIGERATED

Never leave cooked chicken at room temperature for more than two hours. It should be kept either hot or refrigerated.That goes for picnics and backyard barbeques too. It may seem tempting to dig into chicken that’s been sitting out for a while, but it’s safer to resist the urge.

KEEP COOKED CHICKEN ON ICE, EVEN WHILE TRANSPORTING

When it comes to keeping cooked chicken fresh, temperature is important. Cooked chicken should stay below 40°F or above 140°F. That means if you’re transporting it from one place to another, say for a picnic or a potluck, you should keep it in an insulated container so it stays warm, or in an ice chest so it stays cool until you’re ready to eat.

STORE STUFFING SEPARATELY

When refrigerating leftovers, remove any stuffing and store it in a separate container.

REHEAT LEFTOVERS PROPERLY

If you’re reheating leftovers, cover the container to retain moisture and ensure that the chicken is heated all the way through.

DISCARD LEFTOVERS BEFORE THEY SPOIL

Consult our chicken storage chart below to see how long your chicken will stay fresh when properly stored.

Chicken Storage Chart
Chicken Parts & Whole In the Fridge (40° F) In the 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 3 Months