The One-Hand Hack To Safely Handle Raw Chicken

Whether it be a comforting chicken casserole or a classic roast chicken, most people would agree that chicken is among the tastiest and most versatile meats out there, when cooked correctly. According to the CDC, Americans eat chicken more than any other type of meat, yet it also estimates that as many as 1 million people get sick from eating poultry contaminated with campylobacter, salmonella, or clostridium perfringens germs every year — food poisoning, in other words. 


But raw chicken isn't just a food safety risk if you accidentally eat it. You can also cross-contaminate other foods and utensils if you touch them with unwashed hands that have previously come into contact with raw chicken, in effect transferring the germs from one surface to another. Most people know all this, of course, but in the rush of quickly preparing and cooking up a meal, sometimes you forget and cut corners. Fortunately, there's a useful one-hand hack to ensure that you can always safely handle raw chicken and cook with some peace of mind.

The one-hand hack

Where's the salt? Did you leave the marinade in the fridge? And where did you put the knife? Everyone's been there; sometimes cooking can be stressful and you put things down and can't find them again when trying to do two or three things at once, something that can spread harmful bacteria around the kitchen. To avoid giving you and your guests food poisoning or cross-contaminating the kitchen, the key is to try and keep one hand free for doing all the non-chicken steps in your recipes. So don't handle the raw chicken at all with that hand, and then, whenever you need to do something like open the fridge or grab some cutlery, make sure to use your clean hand to do it.


A good way to do this might be to always assign one hand as your 'chicken hand' and the other as the 'everything else' hand in your mind — so, for example, your left hand is always for the chicken and your right hand is for everything else. Some people might even like to hold one hand behind their back until this becomes a habit. And it almost goes without saying, but even with this one-hand hack, still be sure to give your hands a good wash with soap (turning on the tap with your non-chicken hand, of course) and dry them with a clean, non-contaminated towel when switching between tasks in the kitchen, while keeping kitchen surfaces clean throughout.

Lesser known ways to stop spreading bacteria

The one-hand hack is a good one, but it should be one among an entire arsenal of food safety tricks to keep the kitchen clean and avoid food poisoning. Other top tips to avoid spreading chicken bacteria include keeping it sealed separately at the bottom of the refrigerator so its juices don't contaminate other foods in there. As you probably know, chicken, particularly breast meat, can leak pinky, foul-smelling juices when left sitting for a while, even when refrigerated. You should also refrain from leaving raw chicken out for a long period when thawing or seasoning it. Whenever you take raw chicken out of the fridge, think of it like it has a countdown clock attached to it; you need to use it before the time runs out; at room temperature, chicken can quickly grow nasty bacteria that can make you sick. 


Similarly, avoid reusing any utensils that have come into contact with raw chicken. So if you've used a particular knife to dice your chicken breast, don't then start chopping tomatoes for the salad with it. This is also true for pots, pans, cookware, and chopping boards. Most importantly, wash anything that has touched raw chicken (especially your designated chicken hand) very well before reusing it, and don't reuse any towels or kitchen paper that you've used to clean up your kitchen after cooking raw chicken; you can spread bacteria through these cleaning supplies too, and it's certainly not worth the risk of giving you and your guests food poisoning, after all.