To Wash or Not to Wash Chicken?

washing chickenYou know her voice when you hear it and her impressive cooking chops revolutionized the American kitchen. Did you also know that Julia Child is the reason we wash our chicken today? And did so confidently…until now.

In the mid 1900s, Child, James Beard, Bettie Crocker and other well-known cooking names, started to include poultry cleaning suggestions in their cookbooks, according to

In 1929, Fannie Merritt Farmer told readers to wash the bird by allowing water to run through the insides, specifically suggesting to avoid soaking it in water. And she wasn’t the only cooking professional to share such advice. In 1953, readers were told the same thing by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becks.

However, in 2013 Drexel University’s “Don’t Wash Your Chicken” campaign and a timely post on NPR’s The Salt, began a nationwide debate on whether raw chicken should be washed before cooking. Do we wash it, or don’t we?

The USDA has had a firm stance on not washing raw chicken for years. “Washing raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb, or veal before cooking it is not recommended. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces,” according to Washing Food: Does it Promote Food Safety? Not to mention “… Bacteria already present on chicken can travel up to 3-feet from where the meat is washed.”

But that’s not all. The USDA goes on to say, “Some consumers think they’re removing bacteria and making their meat or poultry safe. However, some of the bacteria are so tightly attached that you could not remove them no matter how many times you washed.” In fact, 80-90% of consumers wash their chicken despite recommendations to do otherwise, according to Jennifer Quinlan, PhD, the creator of the Drexel campaign.

So, despite what the infinitely wise Child and fellow professional chefs recommended, it’s clear that washing your chicken, and any other raw meat including pork and fish, is not the way to protect yourself from potential bacteria and contamination.

With proper cooking, at 165 degrees, you’ll be safe from anything harmful sans cleaning. Here’s how to “clean” your chicken:

1. Double wrap the chicken in a plastic bag and keep it in the fridge

The key here is to always keep your chicken out of the danger zone, which is between 40 and 140 degrees—if your fridge is below 40 degrees, your chicken will be safe from extra bacteria growth.

2. Don’t rinse, wipe with a dry paper towel

If you absolutely cannot cook your chicken without washing it, wipe it down with a dry paper towel. This piece of advice was also shared by Julia Child and stops you from agitating the bacteria and spreading it to other parts of your kitchen.

3. Use one cutting board

While a thorough cleaning of your cutting board should be enough to remove any bacteria, Quinlan recommends using one just for meat. Regardless, it should still be washed, or put in a dishwasher for cleaning, right away. Always use hot water and soap.

Ultimately, it’s best to be picky. If you want to wash your meat because it’s slimy or smells of chlorine, buy your chicken elsewhere. If you purchase good chicken, cook it at the right temperature and wash your hands and cooking utensils after handling, you can be sure you’re following the proper procedure. And don’t worry; your cooking idol Julia Child will forgive you for not taking her advice on this one.

By: Joe Barton

joebartonJoe is the founder of Barton Publishing, Inc., a leading natural health company specializing in publishing cutting edge reports that show people how to cure and treat themselves using safe, natural, and proven remedies. He is also a contributing writer, helping thousands of people who suffer from acid reflux, diabetes, high blood pressure, gout, and 20+ other disease and ailments enjoy healthier lives.

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