Preparing a chicken dish? Here's what you absolutely shouldn't do.

Queensland Health
Thanks to our brand partner, Queensland Health

Chicken is an incredibly popular meal choice among Australian families. Not only is it packed with nutritious protein to support healthy development and immunity, it’s a versatile and tasty crowd pleaser.

Whether it’s a delicious chicken casserole, a healthy pizza topping or simply shredded and enjoyed in a wholegrain wrap with some homemade hummus, it generally goes down a treat with all ages and even fussier eaters (who aren’t vegetarian of course). It can unfortunately also be one of the biggest food poisoning hazards in the home kitchen, so it’s incredibly important to prepare (and cook) it carefully.

In my book Wholesome Child: A Complete Nutrition Guide and Cookbook, I discuss the nutritional importance of protein in a child’s diet and offer up guidance around how to choose high-quality chicken at the supermarket. I feature a range of delicious and nutritious allergy-friendly recipes and provide detailed step-by-step guides for parents around how to get their little ones involved in the kitchen from as early on as possible.

Children learn through experience, play and repetition, so by starting the conversations around food hygiene and food preparation you’ll be setting your little ones up with a useful set of life skills to stand them in good stead.

Involving children in every step of the chicken preparation and cooking activity is a great way to explain the reasons for doing certain things – as well as what to avoid doing, and why.

How to cook chicken
Good chicken habits start early. Let's get clucking! Image: Wholesome Child.

Chicken Don’ts…

1. Never wash chicken.

This is a definite no-no! Washing raw chicken means that tiny droplets of bacteria are easily spread around the kitchen and surrounding surfaces. This contamination, paired with warm Australian climates, especially in places around Queensland, can be a breeding ground for food poisoning. Instead, you can use a paper towel and pat the chicken dry. Or a  safer alternative is to bypass the washing completely and start cooking immediately.

2. Don’t store chicken on the top shelf of the fridge.

When unpacking groceries after a shopping trip, many of us tend to rush and put everything into the fridge where it will fit (fridge Tetris comes to mind!). When it comes to high-risk foods like chicken however, it’s best to store these on the bottom shelf, to reduce cross-contamination from the juices dripping onto other foods. A simple strategy that goes a long way towards a healthier family (and a perfect reason to enlist the help of older children in a fridge re-organisation activity!)


3. Avoid thawing frozen chicken on the bench.

If you’re in a hurry to defrost your chicken, it can be tempting to leave it on the kitchen counter to thaw in the heat. It turns out, however, that you may be doing more harm than good. In order to minimise the risk of bacteria multiplying, it’s best to leave any chicken in the fridge to defrost. It may take a little longer, but it’s most definitely worth the wait!

Chicken Dos…

1. Make sure your chicken is thoroughly cooked.

I can’t stress enough how crucial it is to make sure chicken is properly cooked, especially when it comes to feeding little ones. The best way to do this is to make sure that the juices run clear when the thickest part of the meat is sliced into. There should be no pink visible. Investing in a meat thermometer is another helpful way to check that the inside of the chicken is a safe temperature.

Chicken drumstick casserole with orange and thyme.
Chicken drumstick casserole with orange and thyme. Image: Wholesome Child.

2. Keep your hands clean.

We all know the importance of keeping our hands clean, however this is a vital step in the food preparation process - both before and after. It’s also essential to wash our hands in between handling chicken and other produce.

Teaching little ones how to wash their hands properly and how important it is for preventing the spread of “raw” juices and any bacteria, is another valuable lesson in food safety.

3. Use separate chopping boards.

A helpful way to reduce chopping board cross-contamination is to use separate boards for chicken, meat and veggies. Perhaps with special images, icons or colour coding, so that everyone in the family knows which are which.

Do you have any more tips to add when it comes to cooking and preparing chicken? Share with us below.

Mandy Sacher is a paediatric nutritionist, mum and author of the Wholesome Child: Complete Nutrition Guide and Cookbook, which includes a host of nutritional information and guidance, along with over 140 allergy-friendly recipes and a range of menu planners suitable for busy families. It’s available to purchase online or via iTunes. Connect with Mandy on Instagram and Facebook.

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner, Queensland Health.

Click here for more tips on food safety.