The idea for this post came about when I was talking with a valued friend and customer one day about the challenges or mental roadblocks that can come up when thinking about cooking a whole chicken. Or, honestly, any larger cut of meat. My friend admitted that although she loves our chickens once they are cooked, she has anxiety about cross contamination when cooking raw meat and also feels anxious about over cooking and possibly ‘ruining’ a WHOLE chicken. And that it’s hard to get over that ‘hump’ to actually start the cooking process.
And the thing is, I feel some of these anxieties at times myself and I’m sure a lot of other people do to. Soo, in addition to some of my own tips, I thought it would be really helpful to have professional input. And I am so very grateful that Vera agreed to contribute to this post!
To start, I think it helps to have a basic understanding of how to cook/handle raw meat and specifically a chicken. For a specific cooking method called ‘Spatchcocking’ check out my video: How to Spatchcock a Chicken
I would suggest making sure you have a clear counter space to work on, preferably close to the sink for easy hand washing. Before doing anything else, place your trash can next to your workspace so you can place the chicken packaging directly into the can after removing it from the chicken. It is also helpful to keep disinfecting wipes close by. Keep them open and ready to use! Because you are close to the sink, any utensils used can go directly in the sink when done with them. If you will be using any seasonings, pre-measure them into a bowl that can be easily washed so you don’t have to touch the containers with messy hands. This may feel awkward at first but after some practice, you will develop a routine that minimizes mess and therefore chances for cross contamination.
Vera shares that “Another way to build trust may include taking cooking classes. Community colleges often have non-credit classes for the public to take during an evening. Metropolitan Community College in Omaha often hosts specific classes about knife skills or cooking poultry. This classroom experience allows a space where you can feel safe to ask questions (because you will not be the only person with that question) and practice with the guidance of an experienced educator”
And “Possibly the scariest [but still effective] way to build trust would be to learn to practice on your own. For this, work on using rationalization. Your dish most likely will not be perfect the first time and possibly not the second or third time either. Let go of the ideal perfect outcome as even the best chefs have had moments of overcooked or ruined chicken. It is a great learning experience!”
Finally, Vera adds “One of the biggest culprits of low self-confidence in the kitchen would be anxiety and it’s power to self-sabotage. Remind yourself, anticipatory anxiety can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, replace these negative thoughts with positive affirmations such as “I can learn from this”, “I am smart”, “I can do hard things”, or “I did the best I could.””
As for me, my last bit of advice is to familiarize yourself with different ways to check your chicken or other cuts of meat for ‘doneness’ as well as what ‘done’ means. There are cues such as smell, color of the skin and of course the old ‘when juices run clear’ and those are all valuable indicators, however these can be highly subjective and so I recommend using a meat thermometer. According to the USDA, Chicken is ‘done’ when the thickest part of the breast, and innermost part of the thigh and wing read 165F*. It’s worth noting that meat does NOT stop cooking the second you remove it from the oven. In fact, it will continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes. This means that even if you remove the chicken from the oven a degree or two shy of 165, the meat will finish cooking. And regardless of what temperature you remove the chicken from the oven, ‘tenting’ your chicken with tin foil and allowing it to rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting will allow the juices to settle and leave you with a juicier/tastier chicken.
Like most things, you can get a whole spectrum of meat thermometers – all the way up to thermometers that stay in the bird in the oven and send a signal to your phone when it reaches a pre-determined temperature. Honestly, I use a very basic, no frills meat thermometer but it’s nice to know that there are more specific tools out there too!
I hope this article has given you some ideas to help quell kitchen related anxieties! I want this blog as a whole to be helpful to you and so if you have any questions or things you would like me to write about, reach out via email firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t guarantee I will have all the answers or be able to get to all the requests but I do want to make sure I write about topics (and offer products) that are interesting and relevant to my followers <3
Thank you for reading and a huge thanks again to Vera for co-authoring this post. See Vera’s full bio below. We are lucky to have such a great mental health professional practicing in our small community!
Emily + Vera
Vera Petersen graduated in May 2017 with her Master of Arts degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Grace University in Omaha, Nebraska. She is currently a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in the state of Iowa, and a Licensed Mental Health Practitioner (LMHP) and Certified Professional Counselor (CPC) in the state of Nebraska.
She is trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) as a trauma therapy. She is also participating in a 2-year Play Therapy Certification which includes Sandtray Therapy.
Her private practice, Vera Petersen Counseling, LLC has a main office located in the industrial North Downtown neighborhood of Omaha, Nebraska. The second office location is located on the historic main street of Exira, Iowa. She also offers Telehealth services in both states.
To learn more about Vera and services offered, visit Vera's website: www.vpetersencounseling.com
To order whole or cut up chickens visit www.brunkofarm.com/chicken