Food Safety and Handling

Learn how to handle poultry and eggs

  • Discard eggs that are unclean, cracked, broken or leaking and make sure you and your family members use good hygiene practices, including properly washing your hands and keeping them clean.
  • It’s best to cook eggs slowly over gentle heat for a high-quality finished dish and to help ensure even heat penetration.
  • Cooking time and temperature depends on what kind of meal you want to prepare with your eggs. Please refer to the egg doneness guidelines below for more information.
  • For eggs, the white will coagulate (set) between 144 and 149° F, the yolk between 149 and 158° F, and whole egg between 144 and 158° F
  • Scrambled Eggs, Omelets and Frittatas: Cook until the eggs are thickened and no visible liquid egg remains.
  • Fried Eggs: To cook both sides and increase the temperature the eggs reach, cook slowly and either baste the eggs, cover the pan with a lid or turn the eggs. Cook until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken but are not hard.
  • Soft-cooked Eggs: Bring eggs and water to a full, rolling boil. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and let the eggs sit in the hot water about 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Poached Eggs: Cook in gently simmering water until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken but are not hard, about 3 to 5 minutes. Avoid precooking and reheating poached eggs.
  • Baked Goods, Hard-cooked Eggs: These will easily reach internal temperatures of more than 160° F when they are done. Note, though, that while Salmonella are destroyed when hard-cooked eggs are properly prepared, hard-cooked eggs can spoil more quickly than raw eggs. After cooking, cool hard-cooked eggs quickly under running cold water or in ice water. Avoid allowing eggs to stand in stagnant water. Refrigerate hard-cooked eggs in their shells promptly after cooling and use them within 1 week.
  • French Toast, Monte Cristo Sandwiches, Crab or Other Fish Cakes, Quiches, Stratas, Baked Custards, Most Casseroles: Cook or bake until a thermometer inserted at the center shows 160° F or a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. You may find it difficult to tell if a knife shows uncooked egg or melted cheese in some casseroles and other combination dishes that are thick or heavy and contain cheese (i.e. lasagne). To be sure these dishes are done, check to see that a thermometer at the center of the dish shows 160° F. Also use a thermometer to help guard against uneven cooking due to hot spots and inadequate cooking due to varying oven temperatures.
  • Soft (Stirred) Custards, Including Cream Pie, Eggnog and Ice Cream Bases: Cook until thick enough to coat a metal spoon with a thin film and a thermometer shows 160° F or higher. After cooking, cool quickly by setting the pan in ice or cold water and stirring for a few minutes. Cover and refrigerate to chill thoroughly, at least 1 hour.
  • Soft (Pie) Meringue: Bake a 3-egg white meringue spread on a hot, fully cooked pie filling in a preheated 350° F oven until the meringue reaches 160° F, about 15 minutes. For meringues using more whites, bake at 325° F (or a lower temperature) until a thermometer registers 160° F, about 25 to 30 minutes (or more). The more egg whites, the lower the temperature and longer the time you need to cook the meringue through without excessive browning. Refrigerate meringue-topped pies until serving. Return leftovers to the refrigerator.
  • To maintain a high quality make sure chicken is refrigerated immediately.
  • Don’t leave chicken in the fridge longer than two days.
  • Wash countertops and cutting boards after chicken has been handled and prepared.
  • Keep chicken refrigerated until cooking; this includes indoor and outdoor cooking.
  • It is not recommended that you freeze chicken once it has been cooked or thawed.
  • For convenience, individually quick frozen (IQF) chicken is now available, this will enable consumers to choose the quantity they will eat in one setting, instead of unthawing the whole package.
  • Recommended temperatures for cooked chicken include the following: 180° F for whole carcass chicken that contains the bone, 170° F for parts that contain the bone, 160° F for boneless parts.
  • Refrigerate duck immediately and use within 1-2 days, otherwise freezing is the most effective means for preservation.
  • Duck can be defrosted in the following three ways: refrigerator, microwave, or cold water.
  • The defrosting process may take anywhere from 2-6 hours, depending on the size of the duck.
  • The USDA recommends cooking whole poultry to 180° F as measured in the thigh using a food thermometer. When cooking pieces, the breast should reach 170° F internally. Drumsticks, thighs, and wings should be cooked until they reach an internal temperature of 180° F.
  • Turkey should only be thawed in one of three ways: refrigerator, cold water, or microwave.
  • For every four to five pounds of turkey, please allow 24 hours to thaw.
  • It is safe to put raw turkey in the freezer, only if it has not thawed out.
  • To store leftover turkey, the consumer must cut all meat from the bone and remove the stuffing within two hours of cooking.
  • Most consumers marinate turkey with an injector, however another method is available. Poke the turkey with a fork to make holes, pour marinade on the turkey in a plastic bag and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. Always discard the marinade; do not use it to baste the turkey during cooking.
  • Recommended internal temperatures for cooked turkey include the following: the breast should reach 170° F, the thigh should be 180° F, and stuffing should be 160° F.

Rules for handling frozen poultry

  • Use only fully-dressed poultry for the kitchen.
  • Poultry should be kept apart from other raw or cooked food.
  • Poultry should be completely thawed in the chiller before cooking.
  • Cook stuffing separately.
  • Utensils and work surfaces used for preparing poultry must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized after use.
  • Poultry should be eaten immediately after cooking.
  • If the poultry or poultry part is meant to be eaten cold, cool it for less than 2 hours and store it in the refrigerator.

Thawing of frozen food

Most frozen food in small portions can be cooked immediately, particularly in Asian cuisines where food ingredients are cooked at high temperatures for a considerable period of time.

However, whole birds, large joints of poultry meat or other larger chunks of meat must be properly thawed. Low cooking temperatures or short cooking duration may be insufficient to allow the interior of the product to be fully cooked.

Ideally, slow thawing can be carried out by placing the product in the chilled section for several hours before cooking. Once thawed, these foods should not be re-frozen as bacteria content may have multiplied rapidly during the thawing period.

Preparation of Food

Food poisoning may occur in the kitchen of any individual household. It is important to prevent cross-contamination – the transfer of bacteria from one part of handling equipment to another.

All knives, forks, spoons, chopping boards must be kept clean.

In order to avoid cross-contamination, the same handling equipment should not be in contact with both raw and cooked food. Hands should be thoroughly soaped and washed before commencement of food preparation. Where possible, avoid the use of hands to touch food.

Display of Food

Food on display must be protected from possible contamination from food handlers, customers and the environment.

Open cooked food must be protected from flying insects or saliva droplets from humans. Cooked food may be displayed in glass covered counters or in individually-wrapped dishes. Displayed food should be kept within the correct temperature range.