Uncooked poultry can contain extremely harmful bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli, which may cause food poisoning if consumed.

Salmonella and Campylobacter naturally occur within a variety of foods, such as meat, eggs, vegetables, and fruits. They are also a part of the normal intestinal flora of chickens and other birds, where they exist without exerting any harm on the animal. But, certain strains of Salmonella and Campylobacter can be detrimental to human beings, if correct handling processes are not followed.

The good news is that the correct handling and preparation of poultry meat will very effectively neutralize these harmful bacteria. We have put together a guide on how to safely handle meats such as chicken, duck, goose, quail, and other poultry.


The micro-organisms most commonly associated with food poisoning multiply quickly between the temperatures of 5 and 60 degrees celsius. Poultry must be stored below 5 degrees or heated to above 60 degrees to be deemed safe for human consumption. Meat selected for preparation should be unbruised with no discernable odour. In the interests of food safety, when deciding on poultry for purchase, consider the following factors:

– Always choose packaging that is cool and without punctures
– Ensure that poultry has been both refrigerated correctly prior to sale, and immediately upon arrival to its final destination
– Avoid cross-contamination by keeping meat separate from vegetable matter and other food items

Poultry, as well as other meats, must be stored so that its fluids don’t merge with or drip onto other items; for this reason, it should be stored in clean, air-tight bags or containers in the lower parts of the refrigerator.


Fresh uncooked, as well as cut cooked poultry, can be refrigerated in the coldest area of the refrigerator or walk-in for up to 48 hours. Whole cooked poultry may be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

Fresh poultry may be frozen (at a temperature below –20 degrees celsius) if not intended for cooking within a two-day period following purchase or delivery. Wrap the meat in foil or high-quality freezer bags to prevent freezer burn.

Thaw raw poultry in the refrigerator, never at room temperature. Poultry meat may also be thawed in cold water in a water-tight plastic bag, so long as the water is changed every 30 minutes.


Anyone preparing poultry must always thoroughly wash their hands with hot, soapy water before and after touching the meat. Do not allow poultry meat to make contact with other food items during preparation. Do not place other food items on cutting boards, plates, or other preparation surfaces that have held poultry beforehand. Cleanse all utensils, crockery, and other items that have made contact with raw poultry meat with hot, soapy water prior to use with cooked poultry. All surfaces must be sanitary before and after poultry preparation.


One of the most important tools associated with the cooking of poultry is the kitchen thermometer. Most harmful bacteria multiply fairly slowly at cooler temperatures and much more quickly at mid-range, and are eliminated at high temperatures. Using a meat thermometer can prevent food poisoning as a result of undercooking. Simply monitoring the texture and colour of the meat is not sufficient.

All types of poultry, including stuffing, must be heated to an internal temperature of at least 75 degrees celsius. To ensure that the correct temperature has been reached, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the bird (usually the breast). Avoid touching the thermometer’s spike to the bone, as this may give a false reading.


Always wash your hands with soap and water prior to serving food. Cooked items must be served on thoroughly cleaned plates with clean utensils. Never leave foods sitting at room temperature for more than two hours. In hotter climates, this time frame decreases by at least an hour.

Leftover storage

Thoroughly cleaned storage containers and handling utensils must always be used when storing leftover food.

Large quantities of food should be divided into smaller portions to ensure they cool quickly in the refrigerator, walk-in, or freezer. This also means that you can use these portions individually without thawing out more than you need. Never re-freeze unused thawed poultry.

Remove poultry meat from the bone.

Remove any stuffing and store separately to poultry meat.

Be sure to use cooked meat stored in the refrigerator within 72 hours. Cooked meat that has been frozen should be used within a month or two to retain optimal quality.

If you want to enter the food industry and need to learn more about food safety, The Australian Institute of Accreditation can provide you with the right certification. Check out our food handling and safety courses today, or get in touch with us to find out more.