A question about cooking chicken.

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Chronos
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19 Feb 2012, 9:20 pm

I realize this is not really the appropriate section for such a question, however, in light of the fact that there is not a more appropriate forum here for this question, and I imagine most parents cook frequently, I've decided to post the question here.

I have an issue. I have an incredibly good sense of smell when it comes to detecting spoilage. So good, that my brother used to refuse to drink milk unless I first smelled it for him, because I could detect where it was in it's freshness, and whether or not it would be past it's life within the next few hours, or by the next day.

Spoiled milk though, it generally not a big deal. Add enzymes and it's cheese or cream, and most people, provided they are not lactose intolerant, can generally drink milk that is somewhat pungent without ill effect.

Poultry is another issue though. Most poultry generally contains potentially life threatening bacteria. Or at the very least, bacteria that can cause a severe and lengthy illness should one contract it, and so it's generally advised that one throw out any poultry that has a scent to it that might indicate spoilage.

The issue is, I can detect a sour or pungent scent on about 60% of the raw poultry I buy. Sometimes, I just detect a slight hint of this towards the bottom of the package, and I will proceed to cook the poultry. However, sometimes, it's more apparent and can be found to come from all of the pieces in the package.

When it's strong, I throw it out of course, or return it. However I'm conflicted over what to do when it's not overtly strong because I can't determine if this is a scent that most people would detect or not, and if it is a scent that most people could detect, I don't know if it would be strong enough such that they would not cook the meat.

I find it difficult to believe that people would throw out or return 30%-60% of the poultry they buy though.

What is the general method of you parents for dealing with such situations? How do you determine whether or not to cook poultry when it has an odor?



CanadianRose
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19 Feb 2012, 9:34 pm

Most raw meat will have some odor to it. My dad used to hunt and I have had some pretty fresh meat - it still has an odor to it.

Your best bet would be to buy poultry from a reputable shop. Check the expiry date and transport it home (purchase a cooler bag to help keep the product cold on your way home). Put it in the fridge so that it stays no warmer than 4 deg C. Cook it within the recommended time to the recommended temperature (use a meat thermometer). Serve immediately, do not let cooked chicken sit out for more than 2 hours. Preferably, refrigerate any unused portions promptly and use the next day. Once reheated - do not chill and re-heat again.

Although I read this in an edition of Wine Spectator magazine, there appears to be some scientific evidence that enjoying a glass of white wine with chicken dishes actually helps destroy samonella (sp?) in the human stomach. I personally don't like to take chances and prefer either a Chardonnay or a Reisling :wink:



DW_a_mom
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19 Feb 2012, 9:54 pm

I've only once tossed out poultry for appearing to be bad before the date on the package. It was more than the odor; everything just seemed off.

I usually my meats pretty well before the sell by date, but the rare times I've run too close and been mildly concerned I've chosen a recipe where I can overcook it. Enough heat long enough will make anything safe to eat, although I can't guarantee it will taste any good ;)

I do shop better stores and buy better brands, so that might work into it, too. And I definitely am straight home after purchase, only like a 10-20 minute lag from grocery isle refrigerator case to my refrigerator.


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19 Feb 2012, 10:01 pm

This is why our family is willing to pay extra for responsibly raised chickens.

If the chicken smells at all bad to you, return it. If you buy only responsibly raised meats, the grocer should be able to tell you where and when your chicken was processed. Also, ask your grocer to suggest the freshest brand or cut if brand.

My best suggestion is to talk with the grocer. Even the butchers at large supermarkets are surprisingly knowledgeable about their stock. They are also delighted to share that knowledge and help you make the best selection.

When in doubt, throw it out.


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Chronos
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19 Feb 2012, 10:03 pm

I buy it from chain supermarkets...which I realize isn't the freshest place to buy from for poultry, however it's the standard place to buy from, and it's usually more than 4 days from the sell by date, and is packed with the other cold items for the 20 minute trip home, at which point it goes into the back of the refrigerator. I usually cook it that day, and don't let it sit in there longer than 3 days.



Mama_to_Grace
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19 Feb 2012, 10:18 pm

I have acute smelling issues also. I buy all of our meat from a butcher. It seems fresher and smells better. I think the large supermarkets use some preservative agent that smells bad to me...it's the same with beef. I can't eat any aged meats because they smell off to me (gamey).



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19 Feb 2012, 10:22 pm

Buying form a chain supermarket is fine. You should try to get as far away from the use by date as possible. That being said a couple of ways to also tell other than by smell if chicken has gone bad is by the color and also the feel. Fresh chicken has a bright pink color, while chicken that has gone bad will have a slight gray tint to its exterior. Also touch the chicken with your fingertips. Chicken that has gone bad in the fridge will feel somewhat slimy, rather than moist, on its surface.



goodwitchy
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19 Feb 2012, 10:34 pm

Raw chicken usually smells bad to me too - sometimes even after it's cooked it still smells like that. I also have olfactory sensitivity.


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emtyeye
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19 Feb 2012, 10:40 pm

I raise my own chickens and butcher them myself. A chicken must sit at about 34 degrees F for at least 24-36 hours after butchering before it is cooked or it will be tough. At 2 days, a home processed chicken has no bad odor. Even after a week, and I also have a sensitive nose for off odor. So the ones at the store are probably over a week old. However, unless it smells really rank, if you wash it and then cook it throughly, bacteria will be killed and it will most likely be safe to eat anyway. Unless the idea of that is too disturbing. But buy fresh, local and organic and you can't go wrong. Also, if it is frozen, it got that way shortly after processing, so less likely to be bad.



Alien_Papa
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20 Feb 2012, 12:41 am

Sounds like a good reason to become vegetarian.



Eureka-C
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20 Feb 2012, 1:01 pm

I won't let thawed chicken sit in my fridge more than one day. I almost always buy frozen chicken or freeze it as soon as I get home. I thaw it in the fridge for the night before and day I am cooking and pop it in the microwave on defrost if it is still frozen. I also do not like the smell of raw meat that might have turned, only I am more sensitive to beef/pork smells. Most sites recommend keeping it cold, and cooking 1-2 days after being thawed. Here is one really good pdf about poultry.

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/Chicken_fr ... _Table.pdf



mntn13
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20 Feb 2012, 6:15 pm

I have the same sensitive nose, and check just about everything by smelling it. Chicken and turkey seem to bother me the most often.
Here's how I have fixed this problem for me: buy frozen organic whole chickens from the health food store, and when I get them home I rinse them and put them immediately into a pot, and boil them with a little or a lot of water, some herbs and vegies until well done. Then you can do other stuff with the meat if you want, or just make it into stew, etc. Hope that helps.



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20 Feb 2012, 8:17 pm

Chronos, I think you're right about having a hypersensitive nose; I also have one, and can smell off-ish odors in most supermarket meat - and odd odors in "specialty" natural meats, too. I think it's true that most conventional chicken has been around a bit longer than one would prefer: most of the chicken we buy I'm aware is processed two states away. This does not necessarily mean it's unsafe - unless you're planning on eating it raw; I typically only toss meat if it has a particularly unusual odor, or if it isn't cold to the touch. FWIW, Salmonella, the bacteria typically responsible for food poisoning when chicken is concerned, is odorless, as is campylobacter, the second most common culprit http://www.ehow.com/facts_6127564_salmo ... mell_.html

Salmonella and campylobacter are infections: that is, they make you sick because the germs themselves attack your body. This is good news, because if you kill the Salmonella bacteria, you remove the problem. Salmonella are easy to kill: they can't survive temperatures above 140 degrees for 1/2 hour or more (or higher temps for less time) Campylobacter is managed the same way. http://cookingfortwo.about.com/od/tipst ... -temps.htm

So, cooking solves most problems when it comes to food spoilage - except when you run into toxin-producing microbes. These microbes are less interested in infecting a host, but they surround themselves with poison to protect themselves, and these can get into food. http://www.foodsafetysite.com/educators ... /def5.html Cooking typically has little effect on toxins. They are harmless in minute amounts; we survive them because cooking kills the microbes and thus prevents them from making enough toxins to make us sick. In other words, if food has been held at a temperature where these bacteria can proliferate (between 40 and 140 degrees for four or more hours, cumulatively,) cooking it thoroughly will probably not help you; this is why E. Coli outbreaks can be so serious and why botulism is life-threatening even in cooked foods.

Food processors and grocers have incredibly strict standards about managing time and temperature (known as HACCP, developed by NASA, believe it or not!) and you can easily check how well your grocer follows these protocols by calling your local health department and asking how they did on their last inspection.

Fortunately for us, most of the bad microbes in chicken are most often of the first variety, and can be managed with cooking. In other words, a slight odor probably means the "drip tray" is full of juices and needs to be discarded. You should take care not to cross-contaminate your kitchen with raw chicken juices, but cooking the chicken should take care of it. Raw meat has a definite odor that does not indicate a problem. If your meats have an unusual, strong odor that would bother anyone, (for instance if it smells strongly of rotten eggs) that, I'd toss just on principle - who wants to find out they're wrong the hard way? FYI - typically, bacteria proliferates on cut surfaces; this is why hamburger is potentially more dangerous than a steak.

If this sort of thing bothers you - might I suggest that you enroll in your local health department's food safety class? Anyone who wants to get a job managing people who handle food is required to pass such a class and most municipalities offer them inexpensively; they're usually highly informative - that's where I learned the information in this overly-long answer to your question.



liloleme
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21 Feb 2012, 5:21 am

Alien_Papa wrote:
Sounds like a good reason to become vegetarian.



I agree, or a vegan....just make sure you get your vitamin B 12 :).



angelgarden
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21 Feb 2012, 7:41 am

I am pretty much the same way, and as far as I know I'm NT. Though I swear my son gets just a few of his traits from me. I am super sensitive to smells, and can smell food that is 'off' long before anyone else can. My husband will cook/eat stuff that I won't. Or he just shrugs and lets me throw it away. I have thrown out many things before their expiration date b/c they seemed 'off'. I was pretty sure they must have sat out somewhere too long.

That said, with raw chicken (which I can't stand the smell of anyway), I freeze it as soon as I bring it home. Makes it easier for me to handle/cook when the time comes. No slime, no smell. Yeah, I know fresh is better than frozen, but that's how I deal with my hyper-sensitivity and any 'question' that the meat might have turned in the day or two it would have sat in my fridge.