Washing Your Chicken Before Cooking It Is a Seriously Risky Move

Say What!? 54

chicken by a sinkMy husband and I have chicken for dinner more often than I'd really like to admit. But while I've been especially concerned about buying organic chicken (to avoid antibiotics, hormones, arsenic!), I've never really cared so much about doing one thing as many as 90 percent of people do to avoid getting sick from their meal: Rinsing it in an attempt to eliminate bacteria. I'm not sure why I've never done it ... I don't recall ever seeing my mom do it. And we only really buy prepared breasts that have been packaged by the butcher, and I guess I just figured they've been cleaned up beforehand.

But as it turns out, there's really no reason for me to fret about it, because it's better NOT to wash your chicken, say food safety experts from Drexel University.

Food microbiologist Jennifer Quinlan says:

The reality is the water is hitting the chicken. Much is going down (the drain) but then you have what is called aerosolization -- an invisible spray that's going to potentially carry that bacteria for a foot or two feet.

In focus groups and surveys with everyday cooks, her research team found that although some people rinsed their chicken in the sink, others rinsed it with vinegar water or lemon water with the idea that those acidic agents would kill all the bacteria. None of 'em were getting it right. She explained:

There's no benefit. You aren't killing the bacteria with the washing, and the cooking is killing anything that was on there to begin with.

What's more, washing chicken creates high risks for cross contamination. Chicken water -- carrying salmonella -- can splash on to clean dishes by the sink or slosh into raw vegetables waiting on the counter. Gross!!

It makes sense to me. But then again, I guess I'm in the minority. Still, if you're skeptical about this research, consider where the USDA stands on the matter: They've been advising against washing your poultry since at least 2005.

How do you feel about washing your chicken before prep?

dinner, food safety


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Jespren Jespren

Heavens! Other than for very rare specifics I'd never rinse meat before cooking! Not only are you, you know, about to *cook it* thus killing anything you could potentially be rinsing off, but you have to clean up the whole blasted sink and counter afterwards! If I'm cutting up chicken, like a whole chicken into pieces I carefully wash down every surface which could possibly have come into contact with meat, juices, splashes, drips, etc, but why would you go through all that work just to get something wet before you cook it??

nonmember avatar ka

i rinse my chicken every time. i don't know how long it's been sitting at the grocery store. besides if you don't know by now that chicken juice shouldn't touch other food/surfaces then you've been living under a rock. i think i know how to clean my kitchen after doing anything with chicken. if you don't want to rinse your chicken then don't, no one is forcing you too. (yet)

ashjo85 ashjo85

I've never heard of ANYONE doing that. That's the point of cooking! I only rinse my fruit and veggies because I'm not cooking them before eating them.


I will continue to rinse off my chicken simply because I like rinsing off the blood. When I hear about all the things that are "harmful"its a bloody miracle I'm still alive after 50 years. I don't let these people scare me.

nonmember avatar Kali

When I was a child, my father worked as a butcher in a grocery store, and he always advised washing all meat off (ribs, pork chops, chicken, etc.) because when they cut it up, sometime small bone fragments and bone dust end up on it and you don't want to ingest it.

I have gotten out of the habit, but I do notice that some meats, like pork chops and ribs tend to have small bone fragments - some of which are quite sharp - and I worry about my small daughter getting hurt.

The issue isn't getting the "chicken water" on stuff, it's the aerosolization - teeny tiny little droplets that spray everywhere - there really isn't any way you can control it. (The same thing happens every time your flush your toilet!!)

That said, I agree with PRIMA489 - it is amazing we all survive all the dangers that are published every day!

nonmember avatar Kristi

I am sure not many of us close our toilet before flushing. I will keep rinsing my chicken and cleaning up afterward.

nonmember avatar Jane Dog

The USDA wants to fire a bunch of meat inspectors, then have the "manufacturers" soak the (feces-laden) chicken in bleach. If this goes thru, you better wash the bleach off the chicken. It's disgusting, but god knows, we can't afford regulations or inspectors! (We can only afford wars).

Amy Jo Dutton Ferriss

I rinse off my chicken then soak it in salted cold water for an hour or two before cooking.  Vinegar and lemon may not kill bacteria, but salt does.  Salt was used as a preservative and a means to kill bacteria.  Moreover, it gives the chicken a nice flavor.  And for clean up I use hot, soapy bleach water.  Mind you, scrubbing the sink and the area where the chicken sat with the soapy, bleach water will kill anything that might be there.  But to each their own.    simple smile

Mike Pearson

the point of cooking it is bcz you can't eat it raw, I have and will always wash mines, because if you ever soaked you chicken in salt water before cooking it see the water it comes out of, I promise you will wash it from now on.

Terry Steward

I always clean chicken before cooking it! Especially if it has the skin. The plant always leave feather quills and what ever the yellow film on the skin is! I will try the salt water bath the next time I make a whole chicken.

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