Why You Should Never Wash Your Raw Chicken
Like most good daughters, I try to follow my mother’s advice, at least in the kitchen. She taught me to wash my hands, keep my hair pulled back, and keep my cooking surfaces clean. Oh, and she taught me to wash raw chicken really well, which meant lots of water splashing hither and yon. The purpose was to get rid of bacteria that might make the entire family sick. Shockingly, she and her mother before her were wrong about the chicken. Unwashed raw chicken is actually safer than its seemingly cleaner counterpart, which, despite common household practice, is something the health industry has known for decades.
As Maria Godoy on NPR.org pointed out, washing raw chicken raises the risk of spreading bacteria throughout your kitchen, meaning you are more likely to poison your family by cooking a clean bird. Just picture how much water ends up splashing off your chicken and where that water goes. It’s on the counter, the stove, your hands, and maybe even dishes that are nearby. If you were trying to spread around bacteria, you couldn’t do a better job.
Dr. Jennifer Quinlan, PhD, started a mini cluck fest when she posted a video called, appropriately enough,”Don’t Wash Your Chicken,” which spelled out the dangers of bathing your bird. As she explained, your chicken is likely to have either Salmonella or Campylobacter on it and washing just spreads these nasty bacteria around. Since these two villains are responsible for most of the food carried illnesses we get, washing your chicken sets up your family for some serious sickness.
The way to stay safe, according to foodsafety.gov, is to cook your poultry to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. That is all it takes. Remember that using a food thermometer is your best bet when you want to be certain your meat has been properly cooked. Once your chicken has reached this internal temperature, Salmonella and Campylobacter are dead and cannot hurt you anymore. Your meat is then actually clean.
Stopping the practice of bathing your chicken may be a bit of a struggle, but fight the urge and keep your family healthy. My mother thought she was keeping me safe by having me lustily bathe our dinner, but she was mistaken. Remember, cook it: don’t clean it. You’ll keep the nasty bacteria off of your kitchen surfaces and out of your family’s intestinal system, which is what any good cook wants.