Should You Wash Raw Chicken Before Cooking? The Final Verdict Is In

When you purchase raw chicken, what’s the first thing you do before throwing it on the grill, frying it on the stovetop or baking it in the oven? Rinse it with water, right? Wrong. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued yet another reminder that washing raw chicken will do more harm than good. It seems counterintuitive that washing something could be more dangerous, so let us explain. 

In a tweet on April 26, the CDC warned that washing raw chicken can spread germs from the chicken to other food or utensils in the kitchen.

Three days later, the CDC posted a follow-up tweet emphasizing that the most effective way to kill germs is to cook the chicken thoroughly — not washing it.

“You shouldn’t wash any poultry, meat, or eggs before cooking. They can all spread germs around your kitchen. Don’t wing food safety!” the CDC stresses.

Other steps to take when handling raw chicken — and preventing food poisoning — include using a separate cutting board for the raw meat, washing your hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling raw chicken, and never placing cooked food or fresh produce on a plate, cutting board or other surface that previously held raw chicken.

“Wash cutting boards, utensils, dishes and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing chicken and before you prepare the next item,” the CDC states.

While cooking, ensure that the thickest part of the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Once it does, it’s safe to eat.

According to the CDC, raw chicken is often contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria and sometimes with Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens bacteria. And a surefire way to getting a nasty case of food poisoning is through consuming undercooked chicken or other foods contaminated with raw chicken or its juices.

Around this time last year, the CDC issued a similar reminder regarding washing raw chicken.

In an interview with TODAY at the time, USDA technical information specialist Argyris K. Magoulas said, “The problem is that you can splash, which can cross contaminate,” adding that the pathogens could cling to surfaces where they can linger for weeks or months. “Washing is not really removing the [bacteria]. You kill them [pathogens] when you cook them.”

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