Avocado Chicken Salad is an easy way to use up any leftover chicken.

What’s for dinner tonight? There’s a good chance it might be chicken.

Many people are concerned about the safe handling and cooking of chicken.

Here are the answers to a few commonly asked questions:

Should I wash my chicken before cooking it? It might be hard to believe but washing poultry is no longer recommended. In fact, washing meat and poultry can allow bacteria to spread to your kitchen sink, countertops and other foods. The best defense in keeping harmful bacteria at bay is to cook poultry to 165 degrees F. Any bacteria present on the surface will be destroyed by proper cooking.

How do I marinate chicken safely? Place the poultry with marinade in a non-metal container and refrigerate. An airtight plastic bag works well and allows you to easily rotate the food every few hours, to help combine flavors. Poultry may be marinated for several hours or longer, but use within a day to prevent the food from becoming mushy.

If the meat is pink after cooking, does that mean it is unsafe to eat? The color of cooked chicken is not necessarily a sign of its safety. Only by using a food thermometer can you determine that chicken has reached a safe temperature of 165 degrees F. The pink color in safely cooked chicken may be due to the hemoglobin in tissues which can form a heat-stable color. Smoking or grilling may also cause this reaction, which occurs more in young birds.

Is the color of the skin on a chicken a sign of how nutritious it is? Chicken skin color varies from cream-colored to yellow. Skin color is a result of the type of feed eaten by the chicken, not a measure of nutritional value, flavor, tenderness or fat content.

How long will fresh chicken keep in my refrigerator? Store chicken in a refrigerator at 40 degrees F, and cook within one or two days, or freeze. If kept frozen continuously, it will be safe indefinitely. Chicken may be frozen in its original packaging or repackaged.

If freezing longer than two months, over wrap the porous store plastic packages with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap or freezer paper, or place the package inside a freezer bag.

How long can I keep leftovers? Use leftover chicken within three to four days or freeze.

Here is an easy recipe to use up any leftover chicken.

Avocado Chicken Salad

  • 2 cooked chicken breast halves, diced
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Wash hands with soap and water.

Gently rub avocado under cold running water. Slice avocado in half, remove pit and dice. Mix gently with chicken in a medium-sized bowl.

Combine sour cream, black pepper, lime juice, garlic powder, onion powder and salt in a small bowl. Add to avocado and chicken. Stir to combine.

Serve on whole grain bread or with whole grain crackers.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 220 calories, 14 g total fat, 220 mg sodium, 7 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 15 g protein.

Recipe adapted from: North Dakota State Extension

Cami Wells is an Extension Educator for Nebraska Extension in Hall County. Contact her at (308) 385-5088 or at cwells2@unl.edu. Visit the Hall County website at www.hall.unl.edu

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