Should You Wash Chicken Before Cooking

Should You Wash Chicken Before Cooking?

The process of removing raw chicken from its packaging and rinsing it underwater is so routine for many home chefs that it is practically second nature to them. The number of older chicken recipes found in cookbooks, periodicals, and internet sources that contain this step is comparable to the number of recipes that include the step “preheat the oven.”

But in all seriousness, ought you to clean your chicken? And where did this once-common piece of advice even originate from in the first place?

The solution to the first problem is a lot easier to understand than the solution to the second problem. According to Bill Marler, managing partner of the Food Safety Law Firm and an experienced litigator in cases involving foodborne disease for the last three decades, “All governmental authorities say, ‘Do not wash your chicken.'” When you wash chicken, you run the risk of spreading harmful bacteria — salmonella and campylobacter, which are two of the most common causes of bacterial foodborne disease — all over your kitchen, your clothing, and eventually all over your house. This is the risk associated with washing chicken.

Where is the reward for taking all of that risk? It’s not even a possibility. Completely cooking your chicken is the only way to ensure that any potentially harmful bacteria or viruses have been removed.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention considers this to be “food handling 101.” However, a number of investigations, like this one from the USDA in 2019, have shown how widespread the practice of washing chickens has grown. The individuals who served as controls for the research study cleaned their chicken before cooking it. Thirty per cent of that group said that they did so because they felt that it removed blood or filth, and nineteen per cent of that group stated that they did so because it was something that a member of their family performed.

Why did so many people decide to first wash, rinse, or otherwise mess with the chicken in the sink?

In her later cookbook, The Way to Cook, published in 1989, she noted the presence of harmful bacteria and directed readers to wash raw chicken in hot water. She said, “Then unwrap the chicken at the sink, let hot water run over it inside and out, washing the giblets as well.” This was an updated version of her earlier recommendation. After patting it with paper towels to remove excess moisture, place it on the cutting board, and go to work.

It’s possible that the popularity of the concept might be attributed, at least in part, to Julia Child, who is known as the “grand dame” of American cuisine. It is probably wise to give them a thorough washing and drying before storing or cooking — just to be on the safe side — because commercially raised chickens, on the whole, are packed in a communal tub of ice during at least part of their processing. This is written on page 236 of her massively influential 1961 tome Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

There is no indication of the temperature. However, if the water is not hot enough to thoroughly cook the chicken, then this proposed adjustment is not acceptable.

When Julia Child explains that she has cleaned her chicken with hot water to lessen the danger of salmonella, Jacques Pepin challenges her on their PBS culinary program, Julia & Jacques Cooking at Home. Pepin’s challenge comes after Child says that she has washed her chicken. Pepin asserts that he does not wash his chicken and justifies this decision by stating, “if it’s going to go in an oven at 400 degrees for an hour or two, if the germs are still alive then they deserve to live.”

The advice given by Child was, at the very least, given with the best of intentions. Salmonella is, in fact, one of the most common causes of serious food-borne illness, and it may even be fatal. Comparatively, campylobacter is responsible for the illness of around 1.5 million people in the United States each year. In accordance with Marler, this is an issue that may be avoided. For instance, in 1994 the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that e. coli was an adulterant in ground beef. Following this declaration, any commercial goods that tested positive for the bacterium were barred from sale, and the number of e. coli cases decreased to almost nothing. On the other hand, consumer advocacy organizations and legal professionals have been petitioning food safety services for decades to label salmonella as an adulterant, but to no success. Furthermore, the American Public Health Association (APHA) has been petitioning the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) since the 1960s to apply labels on chicken products advising consumers on safe handling to protect against salmonella. The chicken industry has been strongly opposed to this idea because they believe it will negatively impact sales. In the case APHA vs. Butz, which was decided in 1974, USDA Secretary Earl Butz caved to the pressure of the poultry industry and decided that it was ultimately the duty of the customer to handle chicken in a safe manner in order to lower the risk of salmonella contamination. This viewpoint has not changed since that time.

According to Marler, “Companies may and do market tainted items knowing that they are polluted.” Therefore, my advise to everyone who handles chicken is to treat it as if you are aware that it is tainted. Because there is a good chance that it is.”

Therefore, how should tainted chicken be handled in the kitchen? It’s not as difficult as it may seem at first. Throw away the wrappings that were around the chicken, and try to avoid touching any surface, including your hands, with raw chicken. This is because hands are more difficult to sterilize than other surfaces, and they are also more prone to spreading bacteria. When it is feasible, Marler likes to use tongs rather than her hands for some tasks, such as moving chicken pieces from the packaging to a dish. When you do contact raw chicken, he recommends washing your hands under running hot water with soap for a full thirty seconds. The water should be as hot as you can stand it. Make very certain that you sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” It won’t take up too much of your time or energy, but you will need to give it some additional thought.

And whatever you do, don’t wipe your hands on your jeans, apron, or kitchen towels: “Those are habitats where germs are pretty happy to be,” adds Marler. “And you don’t want bacteria on your hands.”

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