Handle Raw Chicken Safely to Prevent Illness

Saffron Chicken
Image by rexipe via Flickr

I read in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that there’s been a seven-fold increase, over the last twenty years, in the number of children hospitalized with intestinal ailments caused by campylobacter, a bacterium commonly found in raw poultry. More than half the children admitted to the hospital for intestinal problems tested positive for the bacterium.

The newspaper (print, Hebrew version) reviewed safe methods for handling raw chicken:

  1. Buy fresh, refrigerated chicken.
  2. If you do buy frozen, be sure it has been handled properly. Patches of ice on the sign indicate chicken that may have been defrosted and refrozen.
  3. Defrost on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator, to prevent contamination of other foods.  [Placing the tray on newspaper or a plate will contain drips.]
  4. Use utensils that set aside for raw meat.
  5. Before cooking, wash the utensils and your hands.  If you have open cuts, wear gloves.
  6. Raw chicken breast can remain in the refrigerator for two days before cooking.
  7. After cooking, chicken can be stored for two to three days.
  8. For cleaning surfaces in the kitchen, a paper towel is recommended.

I’ll have to think about that last one, as I use rags. Even if I don’t wash the rag in hot water, I doubt the bacterium would survive until the next use.

According to this article, the number of cases of campylobacter infection has decreased in the U.S. The article blamed the high number of Israeli cases on shnitzel, the fried chicken breasts that are a lunch staple.

Related posts:

Nine Tips to Help Food Last Longer

Is This Food Safe to Eat?


  1. I use rags too. I think paper towels are a waste – expensive and not really durable for scrubbing. I use them for the rare times that I have to pick up substantial messy garbage items from the floor into the garbage can.
    But the rag I use to wipe down a surface after making chicken I throw in the the washing machine. (My washing machine is in the corner of my kitchen with the lid up so I can throw in dirty rags as I use them (with abandon) and then they get washed with the next load.) The bacteria can and does grow over time.
    I have a friend who was hospitalized with food poisoning, probably from raw chicken that contaminated something, and ever since she pours boiling water over every counter and sink surface after preparing raw chicken.

    • Adina, my mom would save partially used napkins for those messes. Sorry about your friend! I do not do rags every day, as I am afraid of the grease and dirt getting onto my regular clothes. I usually wash on the most delicate and coldest setting possible, and not all of my rags would get clean that way. Bu

  2. If you do use rags to wipe the surfaces, you should absolutely wash them immediately after use. Cold water should get them clean as long as you use detergent.
    I would use soapy water to clean the surface. I usually put chicken on my cutting board and then wash it with soap and then with vinegar before I cut veggies on it.

  3. I remember reading that the FDA no longer recommends washing chicken before cooking, as the cooking (as long as it’s cooked properly) will kill all bacteria, but washing it will spray the bacteria all over the sink.

    I switched to a glass cutting board for chicken and meat awhile ago because I felt like it was the only cutting surfact I could REALLY clean. I’d pour boiling water and soap on it.

    I should be more careful with the scrubbie I use to wash the counter though. Thanks for posting these tips.

  4. Interesting article. But do we actually eat more chicken here in Israel than in the US? We may have schnitzel, but they have other fried chicken dishes.
    As for cleaning up chicken messes…..there’s a great product out there in the supermarkets. It’s a ‘rav pa’ami’ kitchen rag/paper towel (by Nikol I think), in a black and yellow plastic package. It’s got some cleaning agents in already. There’s many (50?) or so per pack, so you can use a few a day if necessary, and chuck them out after wiping up poulty juices. No more stinky rags in the kitchen, no need to wash them with your clothes, etc. Voila. I love those rags.

    • Shira, I think that the claim may be that making fried shnitzel is particularly problematic. There was also a hint that there is some unregulated slaughter going on in some places.

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