January 27, 2023

Appliance Choice For Cooking Frozen Stuffed Chicken is Problematic

Appliance choice for cooking frozen stuffed chicken products is problematic, according to a new report in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Frozen stuffed chicken products have been linked to Salmonella outbreaks in the past few years, including one in the summer of 2021, and given detailed cooking instructions on the package, these outbreaks are concerning.

Appliance Choice For Cooking Frozen Stuffed Chicken is Problematic

An internet panel was convened to find out how consumers are cooking these raw breaded stuffed chicken products, which are covered in browned breadcrumbs so they do appear to be fully cooked. More than one-half of these respondents said they used an appliance other than an oven to cook them. In fact, 29% said they used a microwave oven, even though labels warn against using that appliance. About 30% of respondents used an air fryer, and 14% used a toaster oven.

One of the issues is that microwave use for cooking these products is more likely among respondents with a lower household income and those who live in mobile homes, RVs, and boats. Microwave ovens are more portable and are less expensive than full size ovens and are often used in those types of living arrangements, as are air fryers.

These types of appliances can cause problems for several reasons. Studies have shown that using microwave ovens, air fryers, and toaster ovens can be dangerous when preparing this type of food, even if the consumer turns and rotates the food during the cooking process.

First, microwave ovens and air fryers do not heat food evenly. That means that even if the consumer uses the microwave oven or air fryer and cooks the product to a safe final internal temperature using a food thermometer, some parts of the product may be undercooked and still contain active bacteria. And some microwave ovens with lower wattage may not be powerful enough to cook the products safely.

And most consumers do not read package instructions or they discard the packaging when they bring the product home and put it into their freezer.

Another problem is the use of food thermometers, Only about 38% of consumers who own a food thermometer use them to check doneness of these frozen chicken products.

The study’s author recommend that instead of relying on labeling to make these products safe, they should consider try to control or reduce levels of Salmonella in these products. These products could also be sold fully cooked, or levels of Salmonella could be monitored and testing during production.

Marshall KE, Canning M, Ablan M, Crawford TN, Robyn M. Appliances Used by Consumers to Prepare Frozen Stuffed Chicken Products — United States, May–July 2022. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2022;71:1511–1516. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7148a2.

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