Fire up your grills because it’s time for football season! When hosting the perfect tailgate, it is essential to have the perfect game day snacks to serve your friends and family.

Chicken is a fan-favorite entrée on football weekends. To ensure a successful game day, keep safety in mind when preparing, serving and preserving poultry dishes, chicken or turkey.

Poultry should be prepared within three days of thawing and kept in the refrigerator at 40 degrees or lower until ready to be cooked. Cover raw chicken with ice if it is being transported to another location, such as a tailgate, for preparation.

It is not necessary to wash poultry before cooking it. Washing chicken or turkey first actually increases the risk of contamination.

Raw chicken can carry bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter. While these bacteria are only found in a small percentage of poultry, they can cause severe foodborne illnesses.

Kristin Woods, an Alabama Extension food safety agent for West Alabama, explained that all pathogens on the chicken or turkey will be cooked out of it when grilled, baked or smoked.

“Trying to wash the bacteria off first is actually more hazardous because you run the risk of spreading the bacteria around the kitchen,” said Woods. “In a grilling setting, such as a tailgate, this could be especially dangerous.”

So how do we know that we are cooking the meat long enough to remove all bacteria or pathogens? The answer is simple: Chicken must reach 165 degrees before it is fully cooked and ready to serve.

“Some people say that you can tell that poultry is ready when you see clear juices,” said Woods, “but the best way to determine if the meat is fully cooked is to use a thermometer to see if the meat has reached 165 degrees.”

Grilling increases the risk for cross-contamination when cooking poultry. If you are using multiple pans and utensils to prepare your favorite chicken snack, be sure not to use items used on raw meat to serve cooked chicken and turkey.

After serving your chicken or turkey, put leftovers back in a refrigerator or cooler. “Poultry dishes should not be left out for more than an hour or two,” said Woods.

While keeping these poultry preparation pointers in mind, have fun preparing your chicken and turkey this tailgating season. Whether you are grilling, baking or smoking the meat, your guests will enjoy the snack from start to finish.

Speaking of poultry, it’s big business in Alabama and locally. Etowah County ranks 22nd in the state for the number of birds that are produced, and 4-H members do their fair share.

On Sept. 30, as part of the DeKalb County VFW Fair, 44 Etowah County 4-H members will be exhibiting and then auctioning off young, female birds they have been raising over the summer to the public.

The show starts at 11 a.m., awards are at 2 p.m. and the public auction is at 3 p.m. Come out and buy a set of hens to help these hard working 4-H members. Contact the Extension office at 256-547-7936 for more information.

UPCOMING EVENTS

• Job Prep Program: 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sept. 19 at the Gadsden Career Center, 216 N. Fifth St., on appropriate dress and interview skills. Free. To register, contact the Career Center, 256-546-4667, or Emily Hines, Regional Extension Agent for Family Resource Management and Workforce Development at 205-757-5393 or eah0047@auburn.edu

• Rite Bite Series: 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday and continuing through Oct. 10 at the Etowah County Extension Office, 3200-A W. Meighan Blvd. Call the Extension Office to register.

• 4-H Archery Tournament: The Black Creek 4-H Arrow Slingers will host an archery tournament Sept. 23 at Noccalula Falls. To sign up, contact Michael Dillon at the Extension Office. For up to date information, “like” the Black Creek 4-H Arrow Slingers” on Facebook.

• 4-H Chick Chain Show and Auction: Sept. 30 at the VFW Fairgrounds in Fort Payne. Show starts at 11 a.m., auction starts at 3 p.m. Call the Extension Office for a list of breeds available for purchase.

• 4-H Natural Resources Open House: If you have a young person interested in any 4-H Natural Resource activity or project and would like more information, attend an open house from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday or 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Extension Office.

For more information on this topic and many others, contact the Etowah County Extension Office, 256-547-7936 or 3200 A W. Meighan Blvd., Gadsden. Amy Burgess is extension coordinator for the Etowah County Extension Office.