Why You Should Never Wash Raw Chicken

Put down the chicken and step away from your sink! That's right. Washing chicken is a big no-no. We repeat: You are not supposed to wash raw chicken. If you're feeling lied to, we totally understand. But believe it. It'll help protect you and your family from potential food poisoning.

Just Say No to Chicken Baths

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 3,000 people die from foodborne illnesses in the United States each year. Since raw chicken contains the bacteria that's one of the most common causes of food poisoning (Campylobacter), common sense tells you to thoroughly rinse the chicken before you cook it. That's actually the worst thing you could do.

These nasty cells are typically found on meat and poultry that has been contaminated during processing, usually with animal feces. (Yuck.) If your chicken has been contaminated and you splash water on it, bacteria will spread to everything the droplets touch — your hands, cooking tools, kitchen counters, and clothing. As NHS UK states, "water droplets can travel more than 50cm in every direction and only a few campylobacter cells are needed to cause food poisoning."

Campylobacter bacteria are the main cause of bacterial food poisoning in the United States.

What to Do Instead

So, how do you get rid of those big, bad bacteria once and for all? Easy. Cook your chicken. (You were planning on doing that anyway, right?) Here are a few pro tips from NHS UK to avoid food poisoning from raw chicken:

  • Cover and chill raw chicken. Be sure to store your chicken at the bottom of the fridge to avoid dripping contaminated juices on other food.
  • Wash hands and used utensils. Make sure everything that has come in contact with the raw chicken has been thoroughly scrubbed.
  • Cook chicken thoroughly. Your chicken should be steaming hot all the way through, have clear juices, and no pink meat. If you have one, use a meat thermometer to ensure the chicken has reached at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius).
Written by Ashley Hamer February 28, 2017

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