Chicken, With A Little Extra



I don’t normally sound the alarm over here at mattbites. I want this to
be a nice, warm, feelgood joint free from alarmist scenarios. But I
just read on Consumer Reports that an "analysis of fresh, whole
broilers bought nationwide revealed that 83 percent harbored
campylobacter or salmonella, the leading bacterial causes of foodborne

Those numbers get even more dire when they looked at organic, natural, free-range and air-chilled birds that cost a bit more.

Eighty-three percent? Even with those so-called cleaner chickens? People, we’re talking dirty birdies here.

Ok, let’s understand one thing. This bacterium gets into our
little chickies because they root around and eat stuff. All kinds of
stuff. It’s normal. In fact, a lot of these bacteria are are always
present. It’s our duty to make sure we prepare our poultry correctly so
that the harmful bits and pieces go away, leaving us with a juicy,
delicious bird that won’t cause gastrointestinal distress.

And what happens when you don’t cook it properly? Well, you
serve it to someone like me, who then feels ill about 8 hours later but
figures it will run its course, which it doesn’t. And then you spend 1
1/2 days in the hospital with a severe case of campylobacteriosis and
an IV drip, wondering what you did to make the universe hate you so
damn much.

(And this, gentle readers, was in my 20’s when I was a
healthy, strapping young Latin stud. Imagine if I was elderly?

Since we all love food and share a basic
knowledge of proper preparation I’m not going to harp on the steps
necessary for a safe, clean kitchen, but it bears posting:

• Store chicken at 40° F or below. If you won’t use it for a couple of days put that bird in the damn freezer.

Separate raw chicken from other foods.
Immediately after preparing it,
wash your dirty grubby chicken-juiced hands properly with soap and
water and clean anything raw or touched. Adam is a freak about this
one, and when cooking we set out poultry cutting boards, poultry dish
towels, poultry knives and poultry cookware that remain separate from
everything else.

USE A MEAT THERMOMETER! No, seriously. I wouldn’t dream of going
without it now. How else am I going to know that my bird has reached
165 degrees? This is the number required to kill bacteria. Learn it,
live it, love it.

Read more here.

I guess this means I won’t be posting my recipe for Chicken Tartare or Poultry Sashimi any time soon. Damn.


  1. says

    Sadly, this is SUCH a needed post. There is so much confusion about proper cooking and handling of poultry.

    In the last few months I’ve heard contradictory info about washing uncooked chicken vs. not washing. I learned recently (via David) that The US Food Safety and Inspection Service no longer recommends washing your birds prior to cooking! As David said, apparently people were splattering the water around and spreading the yucko stuff (and then must have been licking their sponges or something). I have always, and will continue to, thoroughly clean and dry my birdies before setting fire to them.

    Also, there are some chefs who now actually prefer to serve chicken just slightly underdone. They claim it’s safe. I want to know how they are so sure, especially after hearing the statistics you quoted above. I agree that most people overcook chicken, but I’m really squeamish about serving it at all pinkish in the depths of the meat. Besides the health issue, the texture of undercooked chicken really makes my toes curl (not in the good way).

    And don’t worry Matt, your site will always be a warm, feel-good joint. No alarmist environment will ever settle in here.

  2. says

    “…in my 20’s when I was a healthy, strapping young Latin stud.”

    I’ve been clicking around on your site, Matt.
    But I can’t find where those photos are for sale?

    Will search the net…

  3. says

    In the whiney words of Alton Brown: “Wash those chicken-y hands!”

    I’ll admit that I am obsessive about storage, but less so about prep and immediate cleanup. 83% is a number to reckon with… I resolve to do better.

  4. says

    I thought that I was the only one that obsessed over poultry;) It’s like the Anal Retentive Chef (Phil Hartman) on SNL back in the 90’s that triple bagged the scraps after prep.

    BTW, Happy Holiday’s to you and yours.


  5. says

    Matt – some medical info – if anything that 83% figure is a DROP – it used to be over 90% I believe (for salmonella anyway). Plus in chickie poos salmonela is a sexually transmitted disease – I kid you not – so it is not going away any time soon – not with that rate of exposure. This is also why you really shouldn’t eat raw egg anymore. It also explains why an organic chicken has it at the same rate.

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