How to Prepare Chicken Before Cooking: Ultimate Guide

Making a delicious chicken dish begins long before turning on your oven, grill, or stovetop. So the question is: how to prepare chicken before cooking? From cleaning your cooking area to knowing your cooking times, here’s a guide to prep chicken the best way possible.

How to Prepare Chicken Before Cooking (Step-by-Step)

🍗 Start it Raw

Beginning with raw chicken is the best way to ensure you’re using the best quality meat possible. I recommend getting fresh, grain-fed, and organic chicken regardless of the source. These are usually free of steroids, hormones, etc. 

🍗 Clean the Cooking Area

Before you work on the chicken, remember to clean your work area as well. After all, you’re going to be using it the entire time.

Using a mild bleach solution, sanitize your countertops, cutting board, then kitchen utensils. 

Aside from your cooking area, remember to sanitize your hands as well.

That’s why remember to wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds before handling the raw bird.

🍗 Separate the Ingredients

To keep your chicken in the best condition possible, reduce cross-contamination by separating your ingredients. Aside from this, it’s also best to separate kitchen gadgets. So use different cutting boards for your veggies and meat. Meanwhile, if you’re cooking more than one kind of meat at a time, separate them and wash your cutting board between prepping the two. 

🍗 Get the Proper Kitchen Tools

A meat thermometer is what you’d want the most among all the gadgets for cooking chicken. After all, you wouldn’t want to end up with a dry or tough chicken dish after tedious preparation. It helps you know when your chicken is done, giving you the best and juiciest outcome.

🍗 Do not Wash the Chicken

how to prepare chicken before cooking - chicken on cutting board

As surprising as it is, do not wash the meat first for the actual chicken preparation. According to the USDA, washing raw chicken elevates one’s risk of contracting food poisoning. That’s because tap water can’t kill the bacteria present in raw chicken. Instead, it increases it.

Moreover, all you do when washing raw chicken is splash the bacteria all over your sink. After all, with all that water, you wouldn’t know what you’re spreading. 

That’s why it’s best to cook chicken straight from the package. Cooking the raw bird under the appropriate temperature is the only way to eliminate all bacteria. And I understand that this is hard to accept, but I’m assuming experts over at the USDA know more about this than an average folk like me. 

🍗 Marinate or Brine the Meat

To achieve juiciness and superb taste, marinate or brine the chicken before cooking. Doing so gives the meat a unique flavor, not to mention impeccable juices! And the best part is, there are plenty of marinade and brine solutions you can concoct at home.

🍗 Familiarize Yourself with Cooking Times

Knowing the suggested cooking times before cooking chicken helps you get delicious results. Not to mention, it lets you pick recipes that fit your schedule best.

But most importantly, it helps you avoid undercooking or overcooking the meat.

So keep the chicken cooking times chart in mind, and you’ll be preparing chicken like a pro in no time!

Mistakes to Avoid When Preparing Chicken Before Cooking

Now that you know how to prepare chicken before cooking, keep these tips in mind to avoid making common mistakes and going back to square one:

❌ Never Leave Raw Chicken Out for Too Long

Always treat chicken with a time stamp. After all, chicken can be dangerous when left out for too long at room temperature. That’s because this is the time when the meat develops hazardous bacteria. And if consumed, this might result in different foodborne illnesses—or food poisoning. 

So I recommend placing the chicken in the fridge instead of on your kitchen countertop. And only take the meat out when you’re ready to cook it. 

But if you’re handling frozen chicken, thaw it inside the fridge about two days before cooking. 

❌ Not Knowing When to Throw Away Raw Chicken

Remember, raw chicken is supposed to be pink and a little slippery. It’s not supposed to be slimy, grayish, or smelly. So if you notice any of these rotting signs on your raw chicken, it’s time to throw it away. And this applies to all forms of chicken. So whether you brought it from the grocery or took it out of the freezer, toss it off when necessary.

Instead, make sure to shop intentionally. Have a plan and cook chicken within two days of purchase. And regularly check the raw chicken for the appropriate color, odor, and texture. 

❌ Washing Chicken Before Cooking

When you learn how to prepare chicken before cooking, you’ll eventually understand that washing is never good for the raw bird. Rinsing the meat before you cook can be hazardous to your health. After all, contrary to common beliefs, you should never wash raw chicken. Doing this can cause the bacteria on the chicken to spread. So, you’re doing more harm than good when you wash your chicken before cooking. 

I suggest skipping washing the chicken entirely. However, you can dry your chicken by patting it dry with paper towels. Then put your chicken straight into the oven, stovetop, grill, or slow cooker. 

❌ Not Washing Your Hands

When preparing the actual chicken, your hands are your best tools. After all, it lets you get into that meat, allowing you to bring the best flavors by hand—literally! However, cross-contamination is imminent once your hands come in contact with the meat’s juices. Nothing is safe from bacteria, whether it’s your kitchen countertops, seasoning bottles, or drawer knobs. 

So always take extra care of your hands when preparing chicken by washing regularly. And take care not to touch anything after you’ve handled raw chicken. You can always wipe your hands afterward with antibacterial wipes if you do. 

A technique that I stand by is using one hand when handling chicken. Doing this keeps your other hand free and clean, allowing you to grab other tools or ingredients without the risk of contaminating them. 

Regardless of your preferred method, never forget to wash your hands before and after preparing chicken.

❌ Incorrectly Storing Chicken

Chicken juice can leak and drop outside of a container when stored improperly. And this can lead to severe bacteria contamination, especially when coming in contact with vegetables and fruits. So always keep your chicken correctly. 

It’s best to place chicken on a plate with a cover. And store it on the bottom shelf of your fridge. Doing this prevents it from contaminating other contents on your fridge. 

❌ Reusing Tools Used on Raw Chicken

Although reusing kitchen tools is a great time-saver, it can be detrimental to your health. After all, it puts your ingredients at risk for cross-contamination. That’s why avoid using kitchen utensils, cookware, and cutting boards on raw chicken and other foods. 

If needed, always make sure to wash kitchen tools after coming in contact with raw chicken. 

❌ Improperly Marinating Chicken

Although chicken tastes best when marinated, this can be dangerous to your health when done incorrectly. Leaving raw chicken on your kitchen countertop to marinate at room temp encourages bacteria to grow. After all, bacteria multiply best in warm environments. 

Instead, marinate the raw bird inside a sealed and airtight container in your fridge. And don’t forget to throw away the remaining juices when you’re done.

❌ Allowing Raw Chicken to Touch Other Ingredients

After learning how to prepare chicken before cooking, you should know that raw chicken touching anything is dangerous. After all, it puts other ingredients and items at risk for salmonella. 

That’s why I recommend separating ingredients and tools before preparing chicken. Doing so protects them from possible contamination. 

Preparing Chicken Before Cooking: Easy Ways to Cook Chicken

Being one of the most versatile meats, you can cook chicken in many ways. So after learning how to prepare chicken before cooking, it’s best to explore the best ways to cook it! Here are easy ways to cook chicken at home.

  • Fry. The easiest way to cook chicken is by frying it in oil. But for the best possible fried chicken, try to keep the oil’s temperatures between 325°F and 400°F. 
  • Roast. Roasted chicken is one of the most uncomplicated yet delicious dishes you can make out of the meat. 
  • Pan-fry or Sautéed. A simple two-stage cooking procedure that gives you different delicious results is pan-frying or sauteing chicken. You’ll only need a hot pan, a small amount of oil, and juicy chicken! And not only is this method simple, but it’s also gratifying. It lets the chicken’s flavor develop while ensuring it’s fully cooked. 
  • Grill. Grilling is similar to broiling when it comes to simple procedures. For this, all you need to do is toss the chicken to a grill. However, you need to be more attentive for this one. 
  • Smoke. If you’re looking to try a different chicken cooking method that involves the oven than roasting, try smoking the chicken. This method is when you set the grill up as a smoker. It’s an excellent alternative as it rewards you with rich-tasting meat without hassle. 
  • Braise. To get the most delicious results of cheaper and less tender cuts of chicken, braising is the way to go. Braised chicken is one of the most delicious soulful dishes you can make out there. And the meat will nearly fall off its bones, every time!
  • Bake. Baking and roasting chicken is similar, yet so different. After all, you prepare baked chicken with individual parts instead of the entire bird. Not to mention, we usually dredge baked chicken with flour before cooking. 
  • Poach. One of the easiest ways to cook chicken is by poaching it. Moreover, it’s one of the healthiest dishes you can make out of the bird! It’s low fat, moist, and juicy. What’s there not to like about this cooking method?
  • Broil. Broiling involves tossing the bird in a broiler—it’s that easy! And this cooking method rewards you with a delicious chicken dish perfect for any taste bud. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I know when a chicken is well-done?

A: The best way to tell if a chicken is done cooking is by using a meat thermometer. Although seeing if its juices run clear is an excellent way to give you an idea if a chicken is cooked, it’s not always reliable. I recommend inserting the meat thermometer into the chicken’s thigh. This tool gives you a more accurate estimate of the whole chicken’s internal temperature.

Q: What’s the best way to prevent a chicken from being dry?

A: The most efficient way to prevent your chicken from being dry is regularly checking it. Doing so helps you avoid overcooking, the leading cause of a dry and tough chicken. Aside from this, I suggest cutting the chicken evenly. After all, thinner chicken pieces tend to cook faster than thick ones. 

Q: What can I do with leftover cooked chicken?

A: It’s best to immediately store leftover chicken in a sealed and airtight container. After all, leaving cooked food out for too long can be dangerous to one’s health. Anyway, time limit aside, there are plenty of ways to reuse leftover chicken. From stews pizzas to enchiladas, chicken is a versatile piece of meat!

Q: Is preparing raw chicken before cooking necessary?

A: Preparing raw chicken before cooking is crucial. After all, this determines how good your chicken will taste and ensures the chicken is clean. So I don’t recommend placing the chicken in your cooking pan or pots straight from the package. Instead, follow the proper procedures for the best results. 

Q: How do I wash chicken properly?

A: The best way to wash chicken is by patting it dry with clean paper towels. Never rinse chicken with vinegar, plain or soapy water. If you use the latter methods, this increases the risk of bacteria spreading.

Final Words

How to prepare chicken before cooking? From cleaning your prep area to marinating the chicken, chicken is a versatile meat that will have your imagination running! So whether you’ve never cooked chicken before or are exploring a new recipe, preparing the same old bird should be easy. Follow the guidelines mentioned for the best chicken dishes at home! Trust me, and your taste buds will thank you!

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