To Wash or Not to Wash?

Washing Raw Chicken

Growing up working in restaurant kitchens, one of the (many) unwritten laws was that as soon as raw chicken arrived, it was unpackaged, inspected and counted, rinsed, dried, trimmed as needed, repackaged according to dish, labeled, and tucked into the walk-in.

Finally, the sink, station, boards, knives, etc., were immediately scrubbed down with santizer and rinsed.

I’ve done this exact process with hundreds of thousands of pieces of chicken.

Apparently, at least according to the CDC, we were all doing it wrong…

should I rinse raw chicken?
In this article on the Cooking Light website, the CDC goes on to say:

“The logic behind washing your raw chicken is clear: You don’t want to get food poisoning. But washing your chicken before cooking it might do more harm than good. If you place your raw chicken in the sink to wash it, for example, bacteria that have contaminated the chicken could get transferred to the sink and any other utensils in the sink. If you then use one of those utensils, you could get food poisoning from the indirect contact you made with the raw chicken.”

“During washing, chicken juices can spread in the kitchen and contaminate other food, utensils, and countertops,” the CDC explains.

While I don’t necessesarily disagree with this statement, my concern is that one of the fundamental rules of kitchen safety is being ignored by simply making the prolem go away. When following proper kitchen procedure, the risk of cross-contamination is little to none, while working with unwashed raw chicken directly before cooking carries a far greater risk of it.

is washing chicken bad

During cooking, when our attention is already often divided, does handling raw, unwashed chicken increases the risk of contamination knives, utensils, pan handles, container and lids,  sink handles, etc., far more than at a dedicated food-washing station with our sole attention?

When workingshould I wash raw chicken? with raw meat, especially poultry, everything the meat or juices touch, including counter-tops and floors, needs to be cleaned with either a commercial santiizer or a bleach solution.

Is the CDC’s suggestion safer…or just easier?

Tell me what you think…

~Chef Perry

Frugal Fine Cooking


3 thoughts on “To Wash or Not to Wash?

  1. I would be disgusted if I knew I was being served chicken that had not been properly rinsed before cooking.

  2. I prefer to not wash my chicken at home. If I need to cut it prior to cooking I do it on parchment paper on a board that I only use for fabrication of meat and seafood and then clean and sanitize the area. The cooking process to 165F insures the safety of the chicken.

  3. I always thought that this was referring to the home cook that rarely “sanitizes” after preparing. And being taught proper sanitizing procedures would be better than just skipping the step.

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