How to Prepare Your Chicken Like a Champion

While beef reigned supreme as the protein of choice for Americans for more than a century, chicken has finally surpassed all other meats in terms of per capita consumption - a status which prompted Priceonomics to declare this the...

While beef reigned supreme as the protein of choice for Americans for more than a century, chicken has finally surpassed all other meats in terms of per capita consumption - a status which prompted Priceonomics to declare this the "age of poultry." But is your poultry preparation up to par? Let's count down five tips aimed at helping you cook, serve and enjoy delicious chicken every time.

Delicious chicken
Roast chicken: the perfect meal.

1. Thaw in the Fridge to Maximize Safety

While it may seem simple to defrost chicken on the countertop at room temperature, this method is actually a recipe for disaster. Why? Because the outside of the chicken thaws more quickly than the inside leaving it at bacteria-friendly room temperature for the extended period of time it take the rest of the chicken to catch up. The result? A breeding ground for salmonella and other nasty bugs. In other words, your future is more likely to involve food poisoning than a tasty chicken dinner.

The best technique for thawing chicken? Letting it defrost in the fridge. If you're shorter on time, however, placing the chicken in cold water in a tightly sealed bath and changing the water every half hour keeps the chicken out of the "danger zone" of 40 to 140 degrees F while trimming the thawing time down to just two or three hours.

2. Let Refrigerated Chicken Warm Up

Many people assume that chicken which has never been frozen can go straight from the fridge to the oven or grill. However, this can also result in an uneven cooking scenario in which the outside of the chicken browns quickly while the interior remains uncooked. Just 15 minutes at room temperature can help head off this issue.

One word of caution? Keep an eye on the clock as chicken left out for more than 20 minutes can quickly become bacteria-ridden.

3. Use a Meat Thermometer

While chicken can be a tricky protein to cook because of potential bacteria problems, a simple act can help prevent the problem: use a meat thermometer to confirm that the inside has reached a safe temperature of 165 degrees F.

On the flip side, overcooking poultry - while not unsafe - also has its hazards,unless you enjoy noshing on dry, rubbery chicken, that is. Once chicken reaches the magic number of 165, remove it from heat.

4. Handle with Care

Because raw chicken often harbors salmonella, failure to use caution when touching it can lead to serious health problems. Wash hands after touching raw chicken; avoid handling it in the sink; and wipe down all surfaces and utensils which have come into contact with it.

Delicious chicken
Prepare to dig into deliciousness.

5. Think Skin and Bones

Many people automatically reach for the boneless, skinless chicken. However, cooking chicken on the bone can help keep it moist and flavorful. While you're at it, leave the skin on, too. You don't have to eat it - although it sure is delicious - but cooking the chicken in its skin further holds in moisture, ensuring a plump and juicy bird.

People consume approximately eight billion chickens in the United States every year. But is all of this poultry as delicious as it can be? While many home chefs run afoul when cooking chicken, these tips will have you serving up truly crow-worthy chicken meals. Browse cookbooks at Cilantro The Cooks Shop to find amazing chicken recipes and much more today.