I just read a study that measured the amount specific bacteria on raw, packaged chickens. The study found that 62% of the raw chickens contained Campylobacter and 14% contained Salmonella. Both of these microorganisms are capable of ruining your day.
Actually, I was surprised that the numbers were not higher. I have always been instructed to assume that all raw chicken (and poultry) is contaminated as a result of processing. Safety improvements are continual, but it’s always safest to assume the worst.
This might cause you to ask, “why eat chicken?”, but there are a lot of good reasons! Fortunately, simply cooking poultry to a minimum internal temperature of 165F kills the bacteria. Cooking to 180F is safer and reduces the chance of finding any “red” meat or liquid. Also, be sure to carefully clean and sanitize all tools, containers, cutting boards or other surfaces that may have contacted the poultry.
To be safe, check the internal temperature of your poultry by using a temperature probe in the thickest part of the chicken and leave it there until it holds a constant temperature. Using a temperature proble can even give you a better tasting end result. I noticed my outdoor grilling improved once I started using a temperature probe. Chicken done to 180F is actually moist and tastes much better than a “crispy critter”!