Welcome to my new series on kitchen myths here at Making it Home! After a few recent incidents regarding (what I thought were well-known) kitchen myths, I was inspired to start this series to help clean up some common, and even some less-common, kitchen myths.
Myth: You should wash your chicken/poultry/meat before you prepare and cook it.
Verdict: FALSE. I was shocked when I realized this one wasn’t well known. Even the FDA recommends against rinsing raw meats and poultry before preparation and cooking.
Rinsing poultry and raw meat actually causes more problems than it cures. Rinsing the meats often results in the pathogens and bacteria spreading from just the chicken (and any surface it touches) to any surface the water may have dripped on between the sink and cutting board. This can then spread it further as you wipe up the juice with a towel or sponge, or other foods and utensils touch those same areas, resulting in cross-contamination.
Since meats go through the “kill-stage” of cooking, any pathogens or lingering bacteria are killed during the cooking process, making rinsing rather obsolete.
Also, you can’t just rinse off e-coli. That’s simply not how it works.
It came up a few weeks ago when I was making dinner at my parents’ house. My mother flipped her lid when I wasn’t washing the chicken prior to preparation, and declared she would not touch the food because I refused to rinse my chicken. To cool her off, I did end up rinsing it, but I’ve since tried to explain to her why it is a bad idea. Sometimes, immigrants and Polaks and mothers can be tough-headed, so we’re still working on it.
Regardless, I was curious as to where such an absurd myth would come from. It makes sense to rinse your fruits and vegetables, since they grow in the ground and often have lingering dirt, but meats have been processed in clean kitchens by gloved people with sterilized knives, what’s there to rinse off?
Turns out, the “washing your chicken” myth came from a number of brilliant and well-respected cooks of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, including Julia Child, Betty Crocker, and the “Joy of Cooking.”
Well then, no wonder it’s so prominent and so fiercely defended.
Poultry washing was a recommended practice in the early to mid-1900’s, but had fallen out of vogue by the 1990’s, when it was left out of most cookbooks, except maybe to advise against it.
With the USDA, FDA, and other comparable agencies outside of the United States all agreeing that it is poor practice, it is generally well-known not to rinse your chicken. The only push-back you might get will be from mom or grammy, whom you’ll just have to politely correct.
The less you handle your meat prior to cooking, the better.
Are there any kitchen myths you’d like to see me bust or explain? Leave me a comment here or send me a message through my contact page and I’ll see what I can do for you!