Water Needed for Large Quatities of Rice
Refreezing Meat

Frying Pan Concern - Cleaning After Cooking Chicken

How do I clean a seasoned fry pan in which I've cooked chicken?

I'm not really sure what this question is getting at, but I'll hazard a guess that since chicken is notorious for contamination from salmonella, enterococcus or E. coli (among others), what you are concerned about is cross-contamination of other foods by a pan in which chicken was previously cooked.

Indeed, in February 2014, Consumer Reports reported the following contamination rates in chicken breasts they had tested:

  • Enterococcus (79.8 percent of 316 samples tested),
  • E. coli (65.2 %),
  • Campylobacter (43.0 %),
  • Klebsiella Pneumonia (13.6 %),
  • Salmonella (10.8 %), and
  • Staphylococcus Aureus (9.2 %).

While all of these can be transferred when other foods come into contact with surfaces that have been contaminated by raw chicken, there is considerably less risk when the chicken is cooked.  Heating food to a temperature of over 165°F (75°C) will kill most common pathogens.  When you are frying foods, the surface temperature of your pan is typically in excess of 375°F (190°C), meaning that the pan itself is not likely to carry any contamination.  If you are stewing or braising the chicken (in a non-acidic liquid, I hope) the temperature will still be around 212°F (100°C).  All of this means that you can clean the pan the same way after cooking chicken as after cooking anything else. 

Seasoned pans should not be washed in the dishwasher or scoured with abrasive cleaners or pads, as this will remove the coating. Wash in hot water with a small amount of dish soap using a dish cloth and then dry immediately. If necessary, use a non-abrasive scrubber to remove stuck on foods.

Eventually the seasoning will wear off in areas. You can tell that this has happened because food will start to stick or rust spots will appear. When this happens, clean the pan well using a steel wool pad, and then re-season it.

While I certainly don't mean to diminish in any way concerns over the handling of raw meats, especially chicken, I think that in our germophobic culture we keep looking for the bogeyman in our kitchens.  Proper food handling can avoid many risks.  According to the FDA, the following can greatly help to lower the risk from most pathogens:

  • Wash your hands before and after handling food, and in between handling different foods;
  • Wash raw fruits and vegetables under running water;
  • Cook food to proper temperatures kills most bacteria, including Salmonella , Listeria , and the kinds of E. coli that cause illness;
  • Keep raw and cooked foods separate. Keep them in different containers, and don’t use the same equipment on them, unless the equipment is washed properly in between. Wash counters with hot soapy water after handling raw meats.
  • Refrigerate food at 40°F as soon as possible after it’s cooked.  Proper refrigeration helps keep most types of bacteria from growing to sufficient numbers over a short period to cause illness.

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