One Twitter user was shocked to learn that some popular chicken chains don’t wash their poultry first. We VERIFY if washing raw chicken is recommended.
Should you wash raw chicken before cooking it?
No, you should not wash raw chicken before cooking it.
WHAT WE FOUND
Food safety experts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Cleveland Clinic and Drexel University say you should not wash raw chicken before cooking it. Doing so can spread harmful bacteria around your kitchen, potentially causing foodborne illness.
“Many consumers wash or rinse their meat or poultry before cooking it. However, washing raw poultry before cooking it is not recommended,” the USDA says. This also applies to seafood.
The practice of washing raw chicken is not new, according to the USDA. Some people rinse it under running water or with a strainer, others soak it in containers full of water and some even use salt water, vinegar or lemon juice to try to “clean” their poultry. Others may wash it out of habit or because a family member they trust has always washed it, the USDA says.
But all of our sources say washing raw chicken can splash contaminated droplets and cause harmful bacteria, including campylobacter and salmonella, to spread to other foods, utensils and surfaces in your kitchen, increasing the risk of cross-contamination, which can lead to foodborne illness.
Instead of washing raw chicken, the USDA recommends cooking it to the right temperature (at least 165°Fahrenheit) to ensure all of the bacteria is killed.
“Rinsing is not going to get rid of all of the bacteria in your raw chicken. The only way to make it fully safe is to fully cook it to that safe internal temperature,” USDA food safety specialist Meredith Carothers told VERIFY.
To prevent cross-contamination, the USDA recommends washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after handling food, cleaning countertops and sinks with hot, soapy water, and disinfecting surfaces and sanitizing utensils with products that are designed to eliminate illness-causing bacteria.
So, where did the idea that raw chicken should be washed originate? According to the USDA, meat processing was not as good decades ago as it is today. Back then, raw chicken often came with dirt, slime, fat, blood or feathers that needed to be removed and washed off before cooking — but things are different now.
“While washing poultry may have been appropriate decades ago, the modern food safety system doesn’t require it. Meat and poultry are cleaned during processing, so further washing is not necessary,” the USDA says.