Why You Should Never Wash Raw Chicken

In the kitchen, we often make mistakes we aren't aware of, but which would be better to avoid to limit the risks. This is the case for raw chicken, which should never be washed for the reasons we are about to tell you.

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Washing food before cooking is a habit that we all have, but perhaps you don't know that it doesn't suit every type of ingredient. This is the case with raw chicken: the temptation, before cooking it, is to wash it to clean it. However, experts warn us: it is not a good practice. There are several studies in this regard – the latest of which was carried out by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – which demonstrate that washing raw chicken is harmful, because instead of eliminating the bacteria, it increases the risk of contamination.

Why You Should Not Wash Raw Chicken

Many do not know that raw chicken is often contaminated with a series of bacteria that can cause some serious food poisoning. As reported by the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) in one of it investigations, the bacteria Campylobacter, salmonella and Clostridium are found on raw chicken meat.  The only way to defeat them and make them harmless is to cook the meat at a temperature higher than 85°C.

On the contrary, however, if the meat is washed, the possibility of the bacteria spreading, contaminating other surfaces and other foods, increases. In fact, splashes of water, droplets and water that comes into contact with your hands while they're dirty with raw meat could reach other foods in the kitchen where you are washing the chicken. The water, in this case, would be a medium for bacteria, and could also contaminate kitchen surfaces and utensils.

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The Study by the United States Department of Agriculture

The United States Department of Agriculture partnered with North Carolina State University in a research to demonstrate the dangers of washing raw chicken. The study took place by asking 300 people to prepare chicken and a salad in a controlled kitchen. Everyone, without exception, said that they usually wash or rinse the chicken before cooking it. In this case they were divided into two groups: the first had the green light to wash the poultry, the second was warned of the risks, but in any case 61% of the participants chose to wash the raw meat anyway.

The result was that 26 participants who washed the chicken transferred the bacteria to the salad, and 31% caused contamination by not washing the chicken but by forgetting to rinse their hands and utensils after handling it.

How to Handle Raw Chicken

If you feel the need to clean raw chicken before cooking it, the best solution is to use absorbent paper: you can pat the meat dry and thus remove excess liquids. If you can, use disposable gloves to avoid contamination on the skin, or in any case remember to wash your hands very well before handling other foods that could be contaminated by bacteria from raw chicken.

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