Food & Drink

Must chicken be removed from carcass before refrigerating?

Q. I roasted a chicken the other night. I usually pull the meat from the carcass after we finish dinner, but I was tired, so I covered the entire bird and pan with foil and put it in the refrigerator. Is there some food safety rule about removing the meat from the bird immediately after cooking?

Things like chickens and turkeys, which are large and dense with interior pockets of air, can cool slowly and unevenly. That can allow bacteria to grow before the interior gets thoroughly chilled.

Any time you have a large object that you want to cool quickly, it's best to break it down into smaller amounts.

However, if your chicken had cooled to room temperature while you were serving it, it's less risky to put it in the refrigerator whole. That sounds strange, but the problem is in the contrasts. If the interior is hot and the exterior is cold, they meet in the middle and you end up with lukewarm. In food, lukewarm is the danger zone, between 40 and 140 degrees. And that's where bacteria live happily and multiply the fastest.