September 10th, 2013
02:30 AM ET
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Home cooks have been all a-cluck over recent guidance not to wash raw chicken before it's prepared and cooked. While it may seem counterintuitive, food safety resources like the United States Department of Agriculture's "Ask Karen" website advise:

"Washing poultry before cooking it is not recommended. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces. We call this cross-contamination.

Some consumers think they are removing bacteria and making their meat or poultry safe. However, some of the bacteria are so tightly attached that you could not remove them no matter how many times you washed. But there are other types of bacteria that can be easily washed off and splashed on the surfaces of your kitchen. Failure to clean these contaminated areas can lead to foodborne illness. Cooking (baking, broiling, boiling, and grilling) to the right temperature kills the bacteria, so washing food is not necessary."

The same goes for beef, pork, lamb and veal. Eggs, too, can incur an uptick in potential contamination, because according to the USDA, "the wash water can be 'sucked' into the egg through the pores in the shell."

So why did we all start bathing our birds in the first place? Probably because Julia Child, James Beard, Bettie Crocker, Fannie Farmer, Margaret Mitchell and the "Joy of Cooking" told us - and our parents and grandparents - to.

In 2001, Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume 1" was republished in a fortieth anniversary edition, complete with a foreword to the 1983 edition that acknowledged updates in kitchen technology since the book's original edition. Beck and Child noted that they had adapted recipes from the original 1961 version to include the use of food processors, update meat thermometer readings and adjust for shorter-cooking rice and reformulated chocolate.

However, the 2001 edition still includes the advice: "Because commercially raised chickens, on the whole, are packed in a communal tub of ice at least during part of their processing, it is probably wise to give them a thorough washing and drying before storing or cooking - just to be on the safe side." A jacket note from the same printing indicates that the text therein "leads the cook infallibly from the buying and handling of raw ingredients, through each essential step of a recipe, to the final creation of a delicate confection."

Plus it's Julia Child! Her, Beck and Bertholle's masterwork became culinary canon because of its rigorous attention to getting recipes right. That omelette technique works every time. The boeuf Bourguignon recipe is practically the basis for a cult, and while there are likely far fewer consumers are consulting brain blanching methods these days, a goodly chunk of those who do probably have their copy of MtAoFC cracked open to the relevant section. It stands to reason that a home cook would assume that every facet of the guidance offered would stand the test of time - and it may have been assumed accurate in its day.

Oeufs can be trusted to fluff as the decades roll on, but food production practices - and the accompanying safety concerns - are in a constant state of flux.

Child, it should be noted, passed away at the age of 91 in 2004. It would not be out of the realm of strong possibility that the obsessive recipe tester might have revised the text to reflect the updated safety information, had she been just a teensy bit further from the century mark.

But plenty of equally-trusted cooks of the era were in the kitchen with Julia on the topic of poultry-laundering.

The 1953 edition of Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker's "The Joy Of Cooking" (originally published in 1931) counseled at the conclusion of "To Draw a Bird" not to to soak the bird at any time, but rather: "Hold it under running water to clean the insides." While it might seem somewhat antiquated or twee for modern cooks to take as gospel the teachings of a book with a robust aspic and "ring salad" section, "Joy" is a book that takes on more cachet, the more generations it's been handed down through.

A cook could be forgiven for trusting a book with his or her grandmother's notes penned primly in the margin. The same goes for devotees of Betty Crocker's 1958 "Dinner for Two" ("Select roasting chicken or young turkey. Remove any pinfeathers and wash. Pat dry."), or Caroline B. Perry's 1953 classic "The Shaker Cookbook: Not by Bread Alone." ("Select chickens weighing 2 1/2 pounds or a little over, for smaller ones lack flavor and cook up waxy. Wash well and quarter.")

Nine different recipes in home economist Margaret Mitchell's 1958 "Mealtime Magic Cookbook" for Alcoa Wrap Kitchens begin with some variation of "Wash, clean chicken, cut into desired pieces." Mrs. Albert Simons of 1950's "Charleston Receipts" believed a rooster needed a good washing before being "boil(ed) hard" for Faber's Pilau. Even actor Alfred Lunt hopped on the chicken cleansing train with his Chicken Paprika recipe in the 1948 "The Celebrities Cookbook." ("Wash and disjoint chicken, cutting into portions for serving.")

Toss one more on the fire? Fine: no less an expert than Fannie Merritt Farmer advised in the 1929 edition of "The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book":

"Remove oil bag, and wash bird by allowing cold water to run through it, not allowing bird to soak in cold water. Wipe inside and outside, looking carefully to see that everything has been withdrawn. If there is disagreeable odor, suggesting that fowl may have been kept too long, clean at one, wash inside and out with soda water, and sprinkle inside with charcoal, and place some under wings." [Editor's note: If this even needs to be said, don't try this one at home.]

By 1972, gourmand and cookbook author James Beard made chicken washing contingent upon its origins. While lamenting about the loss of flavor he attributed to modern poultry raising methodology, Beard found one thing to crow about in his "American Cookery":

"However, these nine-weeks wonders are beautiful to look at, perfectly drawn and cleaned, and come so pure they do not even have to be washed before cooking...There was once a time when chicken was a Sunday dinner dish and could be found in most homes stuffed and roasted, stewed with dumplings, or fried and served with cream gravy. Now it is daily food, propagandized for its low calorie count."

Just several pages later, Beard paid homage to these heavy, homey dishes with recipes for sumptuous, long-stewed Country Captain, Stuffed Poached Chicken and Country-Style White Fricassee. He cited chicken washing in each of those, but not for any fried variation, Chicken California or anything involving poaching. American cooks, it seemed, were testing their wings, but not yet ready to fly away from the faucet completely.

Nowadays, there's nary a peep about chicken washing, even in poultry-centric cookbooks, unless it's a caveat against the practice. Cooks Illustrated's 1999 "The Complete Book of Chicken" makes no mention of it, and the tenth anniversary edition of Mark Bittman's food bible "How to Cook Everything" relies on general kitchen cleanliness (including lots of hand washing) and obsessive attention to temperature to ensure the annihilation of harmful bacteria like salmonella.

Better Homes and Gardens, however, knows how far you've come together, and how hard it is to let go of the past. The plaid-bound workhorse of a cookbook could be found in one million American kitchens by its eighth anniversary in 1938 and has now sold more than 34 million copies. It seems almost like a civic duty for the editors to lay it out plainly:

"Rinsing poultry and meat is not necessary. The less you handle it the better."

Maybe...just maybe, the flock will finally follow.

– Fast facts on salmonella

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that people in a normal state of health who ingest Salmonella-tainted food may experience diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, which typically begin within 12 to 72 hours. This may be accompanied by vomiting, chills, headache and muscle pains. These symptoms may last about four to seven days, and then go away without specific treatment, but left unchecked, Salmonella infection may spread to the bloodstream and beyond and may cause death if the person is not treated promptly with antibiotics.

Children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune symptoms should practice extreme caution, as salmonellosis may lead to severe illness or even death.

Consumer resources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Food and Drug Administration's Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts
FDA Food Safety
FoodSafety.gov
United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety Education
IsItDoneYet.gov

More on food poisoning from CNN Health and all foodborne illness coverage on Eatocracy



soundoff (471 Responses)
  1. Joe Anderson

    " it is probably wise to give them a thorough washing and drying before storing or cooking" yep, they're demanding I wash chicken before cooking it....

    June 18, 2014 at 3:04 pm |
  2. Bob Johnson

    I rinse off a whole chicken not to remove bacteria, but just to get the slimy "it's not blood" reddish goo off of it after having sat in its tight plastic wrapping.

    June 18, 2014 at 2:54 pm |
  3. Lisa

    I honestly never understood the logic. Do you bring a steak home from the market and wash it? Or bacon out of the package? Why is chicken any dirtier, especially since it's getting cooked anyway?

    June 18, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
    • Ed

      I rinse it so the spice rub will stick better.

      June 18, 2014 at 3:23 pm |
      • Lisa

        I use olive oil or melted butter for that.

        July 12, 2014 at 12:35 am |
    • Yakobi

      Yes, and yes. You'd be disgusted to know what can accumulate on the surface of raw meat.

      June 18, 2014 at 4:46 pm |
  4. sftommy

    This is the dumbest advice I've ever heard.

    On the other hand if more kids ate a little dirt when they're young they'd be a lot healthier in adolescence and later life.

    June 18, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
  5. Boris

    Can I soak it in vodka?

    June 18, 2014 at 2:32 pm |
    • jo

      Yes, just don't let it drive afterwards.

      June 18, 2014 at 4:24 pm |
    • Dixie Chicken

      Stolichnaya, tovarisch. Hic.

      June 18, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
  6. Terre

    I would trust the late Julia Child anyday over the USDA!!!

    June 18, 2014 at 2:26 pm |
    • Foghorn Leghorn

      Yeah, but she was dealing with a different world and not getting her chickens from a factory farm. There's a cool video probably still on YouTube (MST3K riffed on it once) called the Chicken of Tomorrow. It's about how gasoline-powered trucks have changed the whole chicken industry and shows how they were breeding for larger breasts even then. You hear that, Dixie?

      June 18, 2014 at 4:36 pm |
  7. TerraX

    This Ask Karen is obviously clueless about chicken. I can tell she have never seen the butchering of a live chicken. I'd like to see her eat that chicken without washing.

    June 18, 2014 at 1:17 pm |
    • Jan

      The article is not about not washing the chicken carcass as part of the butchering process. It is about what is safest food preparation advice for folks whose meat comes to them wrapped and refrigerated, and whose food processing facilities are shared by ALL of their foodstuffs, from meat to salad to baking, all using the same sink, counter, and utensils.

      June 18, 2014 at 2:56 pm |
    • Historysmith

      I spent a lot of time in Japan & they / I actually eat Chicken Sashimi – yes, raw chicken. When ordered, that chicken is live in a cage outside. Humanely butchered, the meat has NO salmonella or other contaminants. Those are due to poor handling in mass production plants. Here I never wash Chicken. Cooked properly, it's safe no matter how contaminated. I do keep it separate from everything else. No problems ever. Mom knew best!

      June 18, 2014 at 3:59 pm |
  8. Rich

    Yup – Folks are a-cluckin' "I've been doing this my whole life and I'm not going to change now." If it makes you feel better do it. Amazing that folks think that blood inside the chicken is any different than blood outside the chicken. I can see folks examining chickens with magnifying glasses to see if they've missed any flecks or juices. If it bothers you that much – go to Kentucky Fried Chicken – where they hide the whole thing in batter.

    June 18, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
    • Pete

      Choking my chicken makes me feel better!

      June 18, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
    • Foghorn Leghorn

      The actual issue is that once in a while a chicken is cut up clumsily and you get its excreta everywhere; this contains salmonella and can make you do the funky chicken all the way to the bathroom. Maybe even, I say maybe even to the hospital.

      June 18, 2014 at 4:33 pm |
  9. Ken

    I raise my own chickens and can safely say that previous to raising my own, I always washed, and would always wash again, any chickens bought from stores. I of curse, process on my own the chickens I cull and always wash these as well during the processing. And neither I, or anyone I have ever cooked for has had food born illnesses form any chicken consumed. But if we are to get so wishy- washy about this topic, perhaps a good solution would be to fill up clean basin with cool water and simply dip the chicken in a few times to wash off thereby eliminating any splashing of a stream of water hitting the carcass. Then dry off with paper towels, and promptly sanitize surfaces afterwards. After seeing how much better and cleaner my own birds are than most store bought, I would also highly recommend people look for local farmed chickens at farmer's markets from farmers they can trust.

    June 18, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
  10. jaydavid666

    Running water over raw chicken is NOT washing it.
    And since you're going to cook it, why do you need to run water over it?

    June 18, 2014 at 1:02 pm |
  11. veganathlete

    Tell me why you would eat something that you have to wash and cook for it to be safe>? haha WOW.

    June 18, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
    • rlj

      Because once in a while we get tired of eating apples grown on a tall tree under a net.

      June 18, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
    • Proud

      Someone calling themselves "veganathlete" clicks on an article about chicken . . . just to leave a snotty comment? Sad. And one day you'll find out that you don't know as much as you think you do. Hope you find out before it's too late!

      June 18, 2014 at 3:24 pm |
      • Troll Patrol

        Just a troll dude. Leave 'em be.

        June 18, 2014 at 3:28 pm |
    • Bill

      I think you must have passed over all the recent articles about disease-bearing fruits and vegetables. The problem with these is they often AREN'T cooked to kill off the bacteria.

      June 18, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
      • Salmonella Cantaloupe

        We will get you one day. You humans are DOOMED.

        June 18, 2014 at 4:49 pm |
    • jo

      You know, sometimes I condiser going vegetarian, for ehalth as well as moral reasons. Then a vegan comes on to make some snide remark, showing the rest of us just how holy they are, and I realize, I NEVER want to be that sanctimonious prig. You're never going to convince anyone to go vegan by acting like a jerk.

      June 18, 2014 at 4:28 pm |
    • Foghorn Leghorn

      Eat me.

      June 18, 2014 at 4:48 pm |
  12. Bribetaker

    Hell, I even take a bath after handling chicken.

    June 18, 2014 at 12:47 pm |
    • Interesting

      How, pray tell, are you "handling" that chicken?

      June 18, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
      • steve

        Interesting:
        Good one!!!

        June 18, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
        • Robert

          "Lovingly"

          June 18, 2014 at 1:47 pm |
    • Bribetaker

      I was being just a little sarcastic but since this was my very first CNN reader post (yes, a media virgin), I couldn't find the Sarcasm Emoticon button. But thanks to everyone for being gentle with me....

      June 18, 2014 at 1:56 pm |
      • Even more Interesting

        ~_~

        June 18, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
      • jo

        We're always gentle for first-timers dear....

        June 18, 2014 at 4:29 pm |
  13. thefyahblazes

    extremeophiles.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extremophile
    i think people who think they can ever kill all single celled organisms by cooking are gravely misinformed.
    there are more bacteria/fungi/non-human entities in your body that there are human CELLS! get over it. that ego is holding you back.

    June 18, 2014 at 12:40 pm |
  14. Deb Maetinez

    I ALWAYS wash any meat I am going to cook. Opening packages, there is just too much funk to throw it right into a pan. I get everything ready first, run a low pressure cold water over the meat to remove any slime and filth, and then put it into the oven, or on a plate to go to the grill. Afterwards, I wash my hands; then clean the sink, the counter and faucets, etc with my best friend Clorox Clean Up. No one dies on my watch. Packaged meat is scary... you gotta do what you can... and then you can have sex later (since a lot of you are mentioning that).

    June 18, 2014 at 12:39 pm |
  15. scarf

    Eric

    There is absolutely no need to wash a chicken before cooking. Any bacteria will be killed by cooking it to the proper temperature. Anything you think you're rinsing off will be cooked off. Any excess blood will be cooked off. You don't wash your steaks, do you? The point is, there is just no need to do it in the first place.
    =================================================================================
    I wash chicken to remove excess serum, blood clots, etc., not to remove bacteria. Proper cooking will kill the bacteria, and washing won't prevent illness if the chicken is undercooked. If you think cooking will remove blood or serum, you obviously never poach chicken. I also clean my utensils and work surfaces to prevent "cross-contamination." And yes, I DO wash my steaks, in order to remove bone dust left on the surface. I then dry them and let them come to room temperature before cooking.

    June 18, 2014 at 12:33 pm |
    • Old Enough

      And what do you use to dry you chicken? That is another source of contamination.

      June 18, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
      • Eric

        Paper towels, which are then disposed of. If I"m going to fry or sauté it, I don't want moisture that will cause splatter (and potentially spread contamination).

        June 18, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
      • scarf

        I don't dry the chicken. I dry the steaks with a never before used paper towel. The cooking will kill any surface contamination. Which is why you should always cook ground beef to a well-done level. Ground beef is literally nothing but 100% surface.

        June 18, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
  16. Jeff

    I agree with John. Washing removes any residual bone, feathers and the smegma left inside.

    June 18, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
    • jordancwelsh

      But isn't chicken smegma a delicacy?

      June 18, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
      • Robert

        Smegma is a delicacy ..... but you need to first submerge the fowl in bleach, lye, and a combination of various coal residues and used MacDonalds grease.

        June 18, 2014 at 1:52 pm |
  17. Frank

    Yeah right. Sorry, no way in hell am I not going to wash chicken before cooking it. Chicken is disgusting, and that slime all over it is a layer of harmful bacteria that cooking will NOT always remove. You have a much higher chance of causing cross-contamination by NOT washing your chicken. And washing is NOT for flavor improvement. It is for safety.

    This is, by far, one of the most idiotic articles I've ever read.

    June 18, 2014 at 12:13 pm |
    • Les

      I agree completely – the 'experts' will be telling us something different next week anyway – best to rely on your own experience.

      June 18, 2014 at 12:38 pm |
    • Almost7an7angel

      I agree with you on that Frank, there is this clear gel like stuff that comes off it when washed and I do not want to eat it, lately there seems to be more of it on larger chickens and I believe it is from what they are being fed. And when you wash your chicken you can also remove excess fat and oils left on the skin from processing.

      June 18, 2014 at 12:50 pm |
    • TrueCoug

      If cooking won't remove the bacteria you speak of, then running it under water sure as heck won't. Quit being a pansy.

      June 18, 2014 at 1:48 pm |
    • D.H.

      @Frank: Sorry, did you read the article? That biofilm does NOT come off with washing. You are just spreading it around. Have you ever gotten plaque off your teeth by rinsing? Same thing. So you MIGHT get that film off if you're willing to SCRUB your chicken with SOAP. But even if you did that, you've ignored the fact that salmonella is not a surface contaminant (like E. Coli on beef). Chickens carry salmonella because they're INFECTED with it. You have to cook chicken all the way from the surface to the center to make it safe, and nothing else will make one whit of difference.

      @Les: Yes, the 'experts' often disagree when it comes to bleeding-edge, complex, difficult areas like nutrition and health, but waving off ALL science in favor of experience is madness. Would you say it's "best to rely on your own experience" when building a bridge? How about designing a helicopter? How about heart surgery? The "kill temperature" for salmonella is based on totally uncontroversial, easy-to-measure data that no informed person disagrees with. Look up "log reduction" sometime and stop spreading ignorance.

      June 18, 2014 at 6:20 pm |
  18. Ryan Nguyen

    We pretty much wash all the raw meat to clean out whatever the crap that the meat was enclosed in (blood, wrapping materials), and normally cleaning by sprinkle salt on the meat and wash it down.

    June 18, 2014 at 11:59 am |
  19. Eric

    There is absolutely no need to wash a chicken before cooking. Any bacteria will be killed by cooking it to the proper temperature. Anything you think you're rinsing off will be cooked off. Any excess blood will be cooked off. You don't wash your steaks, do you? The point is, there is just no need to do it in the first place.

    June 18, 2014 at 11:52 am |
    • Yakobi

      Actually, yeah–I DO wash my steaks before grilling. Again, to get the blood and any other grime off that I don't want to ingest, whether they're bacteria-laced or not. It's a matter of flavor, not cleanliness.

      June 18, 2014 at 4:32 pm |
  20. SilentBoy741

    "Do you wash your chicken?"

    __ Yes
    __ No
    __ If it looks like it needs it
    __ Is this a trick question?
    __ What I do in there is my own damned business

    June 18, 2014 at 11:24 am |
    • Foghorn Leghorn

      As long as you don't, I say, don't dress it up and talk to it, you probably gonna be ok.

      June 18, 2014 at 11:38 am |
    • wew

      ....will this be on the midterm?

      June 18, 2014 at 11:51 am |
    • soulcatcher

      _Choke your chicken.

      June 18, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
  21. Debbie

    I agree bacteria is killed in the cooking process. However, who needs all the juices and blood that comes in the package. And, if anyone has seen how these chickens are dispatched and prepared for packaging you'd be washing every time.

    June 18, 2014 at 11:14 am |
    • Eric

      You don't need them. Just throw the package with the juices in it in the garbage.

      June 18, 2014 at 11:54 am |
  22. KieranH

    Not hard, be a smart cook. I brine my meats so I always wash the contaminated brine off. Don't hit it with a pressure-washer, and do it over a clean sink, and you're fine.

    June 18, 2014 at 11:01 am |
  23. Dixie Chicken

    You heartless monsters! I will infect you all with my salmonella, and if I fail, my cantaloupe allies will get you later.

    June 18, 2014 at 10:59 am |
    • Foghorn Leghorn

      There, I say, there's something just kinda 'ickk' about a chick that don't, I say, don't want to be eaten.

      June 18, 2014 at 11:00 am |
      • Dixie Chicken

        Not in your wildest dreams, Foggy baby.

        June 18, 2014 at 11:02 am |
        • Foghorn Leghorn

          Do you, I say, do you use bubble bath when you wash the chicken?

          June 18, 2014 at 11:13 am |
        • Foghorn Leghorn

          Rejected again. I don't, I say I don't NEED your love, baby. I got, I say I got my feathers to keep me warm.

          June 18, 2014 at 12:47 pm |
    • Salmonella Cantaloupe

      Word.

      June 18, 2014 at 11:04 am |
    • Green Onions with Salmonella

      We will get you humans yet.

      June 18, 2014 at 11:39 am |
    • ER

      But do I have to be your Tennessee wife?

      June 18, 2014 at 12:40 pm |
      • Foghorn Leghorn

        I think the recipe calls for Tennessee Lamb.

        June 18, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
        • 'Ol Doc Chris

          Only down in Dixieland...

          June 18, 2014 at 4:23 pm |
  24. Biff

    "All a-cluck" is not a common expression, or even an uncommon one. Nobody has ever said that. You can't just make up an expression and then try to make a pun out of it.

    I didn't read the rest of the article.

    June 18, 2014 at 10:57 am |
    • Dixie Chicken

      The yolk's on you, then.

      June 18, 2014 at 11:03 am |
  25. plenty

    A simple dunk in vinegar spiked water kills bacteria and makes the chicken taste better

    June 18, 2014 at 10:46 am |
    • Wastrel

      Vinegar doesn't help much and you don't want to use much of it. Now, washing with bleach... uh, no.

      Wash with cold water, keeps hands and surfaces clean, don't use gloves, cook to the right temperature and you'll be OK.

      June 18, 2014 at 11:57 am |
      • snoqualmkanem

        Actually vinegar helps quite a bit. You don't need a lot but it does help sanitize (help not totally clean it).
        Brines were used quite often to cure/preserve meats prior to present refrigeration levels.

        June 18, 2014 at 4:27 pm |
  26. atlwmn

    I can't think of one reason I would rinse raw chicken. If you cook it properly, the bacteria will die. Simple as that. Bacteria doesn't just "rinse off" of a host, folks.

    June 18, 2014 at 10:44 am |
    • Dixie Chicken

      Sterilize your hands under a broiler often? I wash mine.

      June 18, 2014 at 11:03 am |
      • tc

        ...with soap in addition to water which will actually wash away bacteria

        June 18, 2014 at 12:40 pm |
        • Foghorn Leghorn

          Soap is an anionic surfactant. It breaks the surface tension and allows bacteria and particles to slide loose and be washed away. Science, I say, science is cool.

          June 18, 2014 at 12:52 pm |
    • plenty

      Eeewww....Nasty...

      June 18, 2014 at 11:18 am |
  27. honestOpinion

    This is not newsworthy. I come to CNN to read real news with information that is pertinent to the happenings around the world, not to receive poor/biased advice. This lengthy literature can be summed up simply....wash...or don't wash, just USE COMMON SENSE.

    June 18, 2014 at 10:35 am |
  28. Long Commute

    I do not wash my chicken but I do rinse the inside of a turkey before roasting. I don't know why I do...maybe because my mom did...?

    June 18, 2014 at 10:10 am |
    • 'Ol Doc Chris

      As I do...that step does seem to have been handed down from my mother...

      June 18, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
  29. ccalving2014

    As a health inspector for more than 15 years and an avid backyard BBQer; the purpose of washing chicken, then patting dry, isn't to remove bacteria, it's to remove the liquid on the chicken so rubs and marinades attach better and remove the foul tasting juices (and any food grade grease and oils that may have attached during processing).
    The only way one can manage to spread bacteria all over the kitchen, as suggested in the article, is to wash the chicken in the middle of a sneezing fit. A little risk assessment here, CNN.

    June 18, 2014 at 10:02 am |
    • Jim Accomando

      Finally someone that knows food! I 100% agree, and also rinse cavity if myoglobin is present. And if you don't know what that is kids, get out of the kitchen.

      June 18, 2014 at 10:13 am |
    • Jason

      Exactly right. Washing the chicken and patting dry has nothing to do with bacteria. Doing it without splashing all over the place is simple hygiene.

      June 18, 2014 at 10:51 am |
    • Logic

      Seriously, I know how to wash chicken to get all the packaging liquid off of it, without spraying my whole kitchen in the process. Even when preparing the "cleaned" chicken you still have to be mindful of the utensils and cutting board. Most people know this. There is no way I am going to try to prepare store bought chicken without rinsing it first.

      June 18, 2014 at 11:31 am |
  30. Ned Meyers

    OMG - where do I start on how ridiculous this article is? Here is the entire article as it should have been written:

    "Washing chicken is a common practice and beneficial to remove surface contaminants and for peace of mind to the home cook. Most people though turn their faucet water pressure to high when rinsing chicken. This causes the splashed water and contaminants to spread throughout the kitchen which can cause sickness. It is very important to use low faucet pressure when rinsing your chicken to stop contaminants from spreading."

    That's it folks. Use low faucet water pressure when rinsing chicken. Instead we get eight pages of useless information.

    June 18, 2014 at 9:54 am |
  31. Old Timer

    I have been washing chicken for 60+ years. In the old days, not only did we wash it, we cut it open and gutted it. The best fried chicken is soaked in a saltwater or buttermilk brine. We haven't made anyone sick yet. That is what they make clorox for.

    June 18, 2014 at 9:36 am |
  32. Paul

    Read the Department of Agriculture text carefully. It's not that the chicken won't benefit from being washed. It's that "Failure to clean these contaminated areas can lead to foodborne illness." In other words, they know most folks don't bother to clean up after themselves. They don't wash the sink and disinfect their counter tops after preparing food. It's the same reason we now have entire aisles devoted to air fresheners. If your house is kept clean they're usually unnecessary. But many of us would rather just make the place smell nice instead of going to the trouble of actually cleaning it. We're lazy. And messy.

    June 18, 2014 at 9:26 am |
  33. Rod C. Venger

    So there's an assumption being made that we don't keep out kitchens clean. Hey, the cats will lick up anything I miss with the sponge.

    June 18, 2014 at 9:24 am |
  34. isla989

    The idea that you're 'cleaning' what is essentially a corpse by running water over it is nothing less than hilarious – any processed meat is riven with germs and bacteria, short of scrubbing it with detergent no amount of running water removes any significant amount of germs – it's a WASTE OF TIME – if you're going to back it at 350 degrees or drop it boiling hot oil why bother? that being said I may rinse a bird briefly to get some of the excess blood of it, but those people rinsing for minutes at a time thinking they're 'cleaning' a piece of meat are comical.

    June 18, 2014 at 9:14 am |
  35. cedaly1968

    Bad advice in my mind... I wash my poultry now and will continue to do so. Cross-contamination has ZERO to do with washing poultry. It is 100% due to the cook not following sanitary practices around poultry and other meats. Wash your hands after handling raw meats of any kind, if possible, work on a surface that can be cleaned in a high temperature environment like a dishwasher – I do not use a wooden cutting board with poultry. Use anti-bacterial cleaners to wipe down surfaces (don't forget handles on sink faucets you may have touched) where raw poultry juices may have spilled before using them again. Also do not use utensils that have touched raw poultry on other foods. Thanks for an article and advice CNN that I think is completely wrong.

    June 18, 2014 at 9:08 am |
    • iLoveChicks

      i agree with you

      June 18, 2014 at 9:09 am |
    • ChickenLittle

      You need to watch the video that shows how much bacteria is sprayed around the sink area via splashing. Even when splashing isn't apparent there is a bacterial mist rising from the sink as you wash the chicken. It isn't about what you touch and what the actual chicken touches. It's about the part you don't even realize happened.

      June 18, 2014 at 9:34 am |
    • mickeyd

      always us a wood cutting boards as the bacteria dies off much quicker than plastic and don't wash your chicken
      only the cooking kills bacteria

      June 18, 2014 at 10:14 am |
      • Yakobi

        Never use a wood cutting board for raw meat as it cannot be sterilized properly. Use a ceramic surface, like a big plate that be put in the dishwasher.

        June 18, 2014 at 4:20 pm |
  36. iLoveChicks

    It depends on how fresh the meat is. I notice lower leg meat smells more than breasts. I always make my chick wash before going down on lower extremities.

    June 18, 2014 at 9:05 am |
  37. fidelity

    making generalizations about people based on their nationality is a bad idea.

    June 18, 2014 at 9:01 am |
  38. SdW

    "Washing poultry before cooking it is not recommended. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces. We call this cross-contamination. ----- DUMB. If you're worried about cross-contamination, then BE CAREFUL. Prepare your area first, do things in order such as having pots on the stove first with water heating up or have the grill ready. Cooking is a process and it follows that you have to prepare steps in advance. When washing the chicken, have wipes or paper towels ready to use. Have soap ready to use. When you're done with the chicken you wash your hands and wipe down everything. Good grief,,,does the LW think we're all children? It's not difficult. I have never gotten sick from handling raw chicken in my house and any cook will tell you that rinsing is the smart thing to do to rinse off anything from the process plant and bacteria that has grown on the skin.

    June 18, 2014 at 8:54 am |
  39. absolutely

    If it is a whole chicken I rinse it outside and inside and sometimes a little scrub of the skin with my hands...there are fools who will actually use bleach or soap on poultry and that is just crazy. Most bacteria are easily killed if you cook properly. Having worked in the industry I am careful about cross-contamination has made me sensitive to bad practices when I see them; I once watched Jamie Oliver on the Today Show stuff a turkey and he spent so much time slapping the outside of it (and therefore splashing the immediate area) that I wanted to scream.

    June 18, 2014 at 8:45 am |
  40. bence

    you people that give us advice gag at a nat and swallow a camel I am not impressed

    June 18, 2014 at 8:45 am |
    • Abdul a-Bulbul Emir, Akond of Swat

      I think you mean 'strain at gnats yet swallow a camel' or something like that. It is an old saying from my native country You Becky Becky Stan Stan.

      June 19, 2014 at 8:25 am |
  41. Michael

    I clean poultry and most meats for 2 reasons: 1) what if the packaging person dropped it on the floor?, and 2) Sometimes there's a bit of slime on the chicken – kinda gross if you ask me. I'm very careful to not cross contaminate.

    June 18, 2014 at 8:44 am |
    • Jess

      If your chicken is slimy, there's a good chance it's gone bad... just saying.

      June 18, 2014 at 9:08 am |
  42. bence

    I wash it and then soak it in salt water

    June 18, 2014 at 8:41 am |
    • Foghorn Leghorn

      But what do you do with the chicken?

      June 19, 2014 at 8:30 am |
  43. Fyre

    Some people are confused about the splashing issue, since no one actually sprays raw chicken and makes a mess everywhere. The issue is micro droplets, which get everywhere even if you're simply turning on the faucet. The concern is that bacteria laden micro droplets will end up in places you don't think to clean – under the cabinets, even your face. I'm not sure how concerned we should be about this bacteria, though – is the concern that it is antibiotic resistant? Flushing a toilet sprays far mor micro droplets at a much greater distance than running water in the sink.

    June 18, 2014 at 8:07 am |
  44. fidel

    taking health or dietary advice from an american is a bad idea.

    June 18, 2014 at 8:06 am |
    • Foghorn Leghorn

      Stick to running Cuba, my aged and senile friend. When we want your recipe for scrawny chicken, we'll let, I say we'll let you know. Now beat it, you bother me.

      June 19, 2014 at 8:29 am |
  45. John

    Washing simply makes the chicken taste better, really it is not about safety. The leftover production liquid and juice in the package will taste nasty whether it is safe or not. I have found that more often than not, the reason people end up serving foul tasting fowl is becuae they have not cleaned the bird. If you have ever looked into the cavity of a whole chicken or turkey out of the package you will see all the nasty soup that is inside ... who wants to eat that? You may be able to make it safe by cooking the heck out of it, but noway you are going to make it taste good. Not a single person in three generations of my family has ever gotten sick from eating or preparing chickens and turkeys.

    June 18, 2014 at 7:59 am |
  46. Skeptimist

    There's always the bacteriophobes' nuclear option: New England Seagull Soup.
    You place a seagull and a rock in a large pot and boil for three days.
    Then throw the seagull away and eat the rock,

    June 18, 2014 at 7:36 am |
    • Interesting

      Interesting perspective. Brings to mind a movie idea: how germ-o-phobes survive in a post-apocolyptic world.

      It would, of course, have to be a comedy.

      June 18, 2014 at 7:57 am |
  47. Don

    Rinse chicken in cold water,,and soak in brine for a couple hours to give the chicken a juicier and tender taste ..

    June 18, 2014 at 7:08 am |
  48. hannah1

    Why would you wash any meat (unless you plan to eat it raw). And WHO WASHES EGGS???????

    June 18, 2014 at 7:06 am |
    • Steve

      Remind me to never eat at your house I pity your poor family, you wash for cleanliness, have you never read in the news of meat and food packing places that have been shut down for lack of sanitation and communicable disease amongst their workers? Again, you wash for cleanliness.

      (Why would you wash any meat (unless you plan to eat it raw).
      And WHO WASHES EGGS)

      June 18, 2014 at 7:26 am |
    • rs1201

      I always wash my raw chicken...thoroughly. I always wash my kitchen countertops and sinks throughout the day while cooking. I'm aware of what utensils have come into contact with raw meats and I isolate them or just put them in my dishwasher. I raised two children and ...a husband. Never had any type of bacterial infection or problem from anything in my kitchen.
      I will continue to wash my raw chicken.

      June 18, 2014 at 7:52 am |
  49. Matthew

    What an idiot the author of this blog is. They have no idea why we really wash chicken or meat. I come from a nation where we have never heard of Julia Childs or the other names. We wash meat to clean out the blood and many other things on it. In the US, we will definitely wash all meat – because its all coated with meat protection chemicals and some are washed with chlorine before they are packed and shipped off to stores.

    So....yes, we will continue washing all meat products – and – clean up the area after that.
    if you cannot do that much, then dont cook meat at home.

    June 18, 2014 at 6:51 am |
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