To wash or not to wash?
There seems to be a neverending food debate about whether or not to wash or rinse your raw chicken before cooking it. I often wondered if it was a regional practice. Or was it how you were brought up and taught from those you learned to cook from. I did a lot of reading and asking around. It didn't seem to fit into one box or another on answering why some people wash and some do not.
I will tell you now, I am on team NO WASH! I will share the reasons why you should not wash your chicken before cooking it. For example, it can do more harm and spread more bacteria, like salmonella. Safe food handling has been important to me most of my life. When I recertified my certificate in 2000, chicken safety was the #1 thing used as an example of what to focus on during the classes and the testing process.
There is a good reason for that, the safe handling of chicken and your surroundings when cooking chicken is very important. Every cooking show on the Food Network includes a bit of hand washing as the cooks do their meal prep. But have you ever seen them rinse off their chicken? Maybe I missed an episode but I have never seen them do this. And have you ever seen Gordon Ramsey on Master Chef scream - "IT'S RAW" - and throw a plate full of undercooked chicken in the trash? There is no mystery how serious food handling and cooking can be.
Why You Should NOT Wash Your Chicken
Bacteria Spreads and Can Contaminate Other Things
There is really only one reason to NOT wash your chicken - FOOD SAFETY!
Washing your chicken spreads possible bacteria. It can contaminate other areas in your kitchen that you may not realize and be cautious about. Washing chicken also gives you a false sense of cleanliness. You may think your chicken is safer and not worry about washing hands and surfaces as thoroughly. You may also think that cooking it to the right temperature is not as worrisome as well. All of this is a food safety nightmare.
Chances of Getting Salmonella from Chicken
Think about it. When splashing water hits the raw chicken it will likely splatter any possible germs onto other surfaces. For example, salmonella is now not just on the chicken, but is in your sink, splashed up on the counter, onto a random utensil, and on the faucet handle. A few minutes later, your child comes in to rinse off an apple to eat for a snack. They grab the faucet handle, turn on the water, rinse the apple, turn off the water, and rotate the apple back to that same hand that touched the salmonella splashed faucet and start eating the apple. ICK!!!!
The chances of getting salmonella from raw or undercooked chicken increase when proper food handling is not followed. Wondering if all raw chicken has salmonella? According to the CDC, as many as 1 in 25 packages of chicken at the grocery store can have salmonella. That means 4% of all chicken has salmonella. Even the CDC says to NOT wash chicken in this recent ARTICLE
Not convinced yet because this is always what you have done and Grandma still does it this way? But still not convinced because you think raw chicken that is not rinsed would be unclean and can be more dangerous to eat. Keep on reading. Because safe food handling and cooking to the right temperature is all you need to worry about. Washing chicken is not the correct practice.
What You Should Do to Prevent Food Poisoning
- Keep raw chicken in disposable bags in your grocery cart. Pack in separate grocery bags that are not shared with fruits and vegetables.
- Always wash your hands with a lot of soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds after handling the chicken. Make sure you get under any jewelry and your fingernails.
- You can also use disposable gloves when handling raw chicken. I advise still washing your hands after removing the gloves. You cannot be 100% sure that you didn't still contaminate your hands during the glove removal process. My husband always uses gloves when he touches any sort of raw meat. Here are some gloves that work great.
- NEVER put cooked chicken or other food onto a surface that touched the raw chicken. If you grill chicken and bring the raw chicken outside on a platter to transfer to the grill, get a new serving platter to transfer the cooked chicken before serving.
- Use a separate cutting board, knives, and utensils for raw chicken. Do not share with any other foods, even those you plan to cook as well. I always have many cutting boards to choose from and keep them separate when I am prepping food. I recommend this cutting board pack to keep your food safe.
What Temperature Do You Cook Chicken To?
- Chicken is ALWAYS COOKED TO AT LEAST 165° internal temperature. Never anything less. There is no such thing as medium-rare chicken.
- DO NOT GUESS or just cut and peak. For one, you can be wrong and eat chicken that is not safe. And for the love of juicy meat, you cut that chicken there go all the juices. NO!!!!
- I love this quick read meat thermometer for no matter what way I cook my chicken it works great. It is great when grilling, baking, or frying any meats. The digital readout has a backlight which makes it easy to read for everyone. It is also magnetic so ready to grab quickly when the time comes.
There are 17,000+ positive reviews on Amazon for this instant-read thermometer, a must-buy!!
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Do you wash chicken before marinating?
The answer here is the same as I shared above. For the safest food-handling of raw chicken, never rinse or wash it. Doing so simply spreads the chicken bacteria to other surfaces like your sink, counter, or even on your skin should it splash.
The Best Way to Marinate Chicken
To marinate raw chicken, place it in a deep-rimmed dish. This will ensure none of the marinade or raw chicken juices splash or escape. You want to contain all the liquid. Add your favorite marinade or one of my homemade recipes. For an easy recipe with bold flavors like garlic and citrus, try Lemon Pepper Marinade.
In case your chicken is not defrosted yet, try to marinate frozen chicken. It is not ideal but it can be done if you follow those steps. It does take a day or so still and is not a quick way to have dinner tonight so keep that in mind.
PIN FOR SAFEKEEPING & SHARING!
Chicken Recipes to Enjoy
Now that you know the basics of food safety when handling raw chicken, now to move on to enjoying it in some wonderful recipes. Here are some great chicken recipes that you and your family will love: