My 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?