Among animal meats, chicken is undoubtedly the world’s favorite.
It is the most consumed meat globally: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) calculates that in 2021 133 million tons of white meat were consumed in the world.
In Latin America, the third region in the world where this food is most consumed, in 2019 they ate an average of 32.7 kilos of chicken per person. The figure in Brazil was 40.6 kilos and in Argentina 40.4 kg.
Chicken consumption is popular because it is generally affordable, low in fat, and faces few cultural or religious barriers.
In addition, it is a meat rich in protein and an important source of vitamins and minerals. And it also contains significant levels of beneficial monounsaturated fats, which can support cardiovascular health.
But, this very popular food also seems to be surrounded by doubts and false beliefs.
For example, chicken skin is known to contain a high level of fat. So, is it good to eat chicken with skin or should we remove it before cooking or consuming the food?
“Chicken skin has 32% fat, that is, for every 100 grams of skin that we consume, 32 grams are fat,” María Dolores Fernández Pazos, nutritionist at the Meat Nutritional Information Center, tells BBC Mundo. of Chicken (CINCAP) in Argentina.
Of these fats contained in chicken skin, explains the nutritionist, two thirds are unsaturated fats, the so-called “good fats”, which help improve blood cholesterol levels.
And a third of the fats are saturated, one of the so-called “bad fats”, which contribute to increasing levels of “bad” cholesterol.
This is the same level of fat that chicken meat contains. Therefore, says the expert, “if we consume chicken with skin, we will be increasing the caloric intake of each portion by approximately 50%”.
So, for example, if we eat a 6-ounce skinless breast, we’ll be consuming 284 calories (according to the US Department of Agriculture nutrition data), with 80% of calories coming from protein and 20% from fat.
But those numbers increase dramatically if we include the skin: The brisket will have 386 calories, with 50% coming from protein and 50% fat.
Therefore, says nutritionist Dolores Fernández, “the healthiest and most general recommendation in the population is to remove (the skin) before eating, so as not to add extra calories or fat to the plate.”
“In the case of people without a history of disease, with an adequate weight for their height, physically active and with an adequate body composition, we can suggest leaving the skin of the chicken during cooking and removing it before eating, since the presence of the skin during cooking will help the meat dry out less and be juicier and more flavorful,” says the expert.
Is it okay to refreeze chicken that has been thawed?
“No. It is not recommended to refreeze chicken meat that has been thawed,” says the CINCAP nutritionist.
“The goal of freezing food is to stop the growth of microorganisms in the food. So by thawing the food, those microorganisms could start to grow again.”
And this is advice that applies to all meats that have been defrosted. The only safe way to refreeze them is when they are cooked.
“In this way, with safe cooking, we will eliminate the presence of microorganisms and we can refreeze the meat, ensuring the organoleptic properties and safety of that product,” says Dolores Fernández.
What is the best way to defrost chicken?
The best way to thaw chicken, experts say, is in the refrigerator.
“Defrosting at room temperature could increase the development of the microorganisms that we mentioned previously and spoil the product.”
Since thawing in the fridge will be slower, it could take about 24 hours for a whole chicken. We must plan in advance the best time to remove the chicken from the freezer.
Experts stress that chicken meat should never be thawed at room temperature or in hot water.
Why do some stores sell yellow chickens and others pink? Are some better than others?
The color of chicken meat can vary depending on the pigments contained in the grain used in its diet, explains the CINCAP expert.
Grains such as corn contain a higher concentration of pigments than white sorghum or wheat, which contain less.
And in some countries, due to consumer preference, a natural pigment is often added to poultry feed to give the meat a yellowish color.
But from a nutritional point of view, points out Dolores Fernández, “there are no differences between the properties and nutritional contributions of a yellow chicken and a whitish-pink one.”
How to avoid poisoning with chicken meat?
Chicken, as we see, is one of the most nutritious, popular and consumed foods in the world, but it is also often a major source of food poisoning.
Raw meat is contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria and also, occasionally, with Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens.
That’s why if you eat chicken that hasn’t been cooked properly or if you contaminate other foods or drinks with raw chicken or its juices, you can get food poisoning.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that each year in the US around one million people get sick from eating contaminated poultry.
These are the basic tips from the expert at the Chicken Meat Nutritional Information Center:
- Always wash your hands before preparing all types of food and several times during its preparation, especially if raw and cooked foods are handled at the same time.
- To avoid cross-contamination: when handling chicken and other raw foods, use different equipment and utensils, and avoid contact with cooked and/or ready-to-eat foods.
- We should NEVER wash chicken meat, as this can cause it, together with the water particles that splash, to contaminate the workplace.
- Cook chicken thoroughly: Chicken should be free of pink inside or near bones and joints.
- If you have leftover chicken from one meal and want to eat it at the next, reheat it completely.