Rinse Chicken Meat at Your Own Risk

Rinsing chicken meat isn’t worth the risk, especially since cooking kills bacteria anyway. You may be just making things worse.

According to health experts, washing chicken meat is actually a bad idea.

Keith Warriner, a food science professor at the University of Guelph, says the problem is that for years, home cooks were told to do just that.

The 1951 edition of the Joy of Cooking advised rinsing out a chicken before roasting it. So did Julia Child on her legendary TV show. Martha Stewart recipes call for it – in fact many recipes still suggest it. So it’s no wonder home cooks are having a hard time breaking the habit.

“It’s really only been since the ‘90s or the 2000s that public health officials started saying, ‘Oh wait, this is actually more dangerous than we thought.’ So now you just have to de-program people,” Warriner said.

Rinsing off poultry is actually pointless since any bacteria that might be on the meat surface are going to be burned off during cooking. Meanwhile the washing process runs the very real risk of spreading bacteria.

Spray from the tap can “aerosolize” bacteria, and tiny droplets can find their way onto the sink, work surfaces and utensils as far as 50 cm away.

The pathogen that’s of most concern when it comes to chicken is called campylobacter.

“Just 500 cells of campylobacter will give you profuse diarrhea for a week,” Warriner said, adding that not much more is needed for E. coli or salmonella infection either.

“The sink is the hotspot for bacteria in the kitchen,” Warriner said. “Sponge harbor huge numbers of bacteria and are magnets for contamination. So when we clean surfaces with these sponges, we just spread them around.”

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