Why Do Experts Insist On Not Washing Chicken Before Cooking It?
Image Credit: Raw Chicken | Image Credit: Unsplash.com

Errors in safety measures, even the most basic ones, can lead to food-borne illnesses. Washing chicken is one such misconception. But chicken is slimy when we buy it, and we need to wash it, right? According to health and food experts, "it’s safer to destroy bacteria when you cook it." One must not wash chicken before cooking it. Seems counterintuitive? Well, it could make you fall ill. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims that 1 in 6 people (or over 15% of people) fall ill each year from eating improperly prepared foods.

Make sure you scrub your workspace before you start cooking. Warm water is recommended by experts for lathering hands. Use soap to scrub your hands for 20 seconds, up to your forearms. Rinse with warm water, and then dry your hands with a towel. Before and after you prepare food, rinse your sink, countertops, and utensils in hot, soapy water.

Do not defrost chicken on the counter. You can defrost your chicken in a safe way, such as by placing it in a bowl filled with cold water. Raw chicken should not be washed before being cooked. A study on consumers was released by North Carolina State University and the USDA, where it was found that washing chicken can increase the risk of foodborne illness and contamination.

Campylobacter is a dangerous bacterium in raw chicken that causes diarrhea, fever, and cramping. Other troublesome bacteria like Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens may also be found in the meat. According to Kristin Kirkpatrick, author of "Skinny Liver" and manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, "the splashing of water and holding the chicken in your hand all create this increased risk of contamination and illness."

What about antibacterial products like lemon juice or white vinegar? Experts seem to concur that all of them pose a risk because they all involve washing the chicken. Washing meat or chicken can increase your risk for foodborne illness because you are more likely to cross-contaminate other areas of your kitchen when it is done – into the sink, onto your table etc. There’s no getting around that. Some experts recommend using "culinary gloves" for handling the chicken from the packaging to the pan. Poultry must be cooked at temperatures above 73 degrees Celsius to kill the harmful bacteria. The safest methods for preparing food are baking, broiling, and grilling, as long as the meat is at the proper internal temperature.

You shouldn't use the same board for everything. It's better to have at least two in your kitchen—one for raw meat and another for all other food. After preparing each dish, it's a good idea to wash the boards with soapy water. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) suggests that you give your boards a final rinse with only water, then dry them using paper towels or air drying.

Don’t use old cutting boardsbecausetheycan become brittle over time. This allows bacteria to thrive in the grooves. Throw away any cutting boards that are starting to look a bit worse for wear. Cutting boards can be made from wood, plastic, glass, or other non-porous materials such as glass, plastic, ceramic, and marble. Wood boards can have more grooves due to knife use. Bamboo cutting boards are considered more durable, porous, and less susceptible to bacteria than other wood options.

Your fridge must be at a temperature that is safe and comfortable. Experts say the ideal fridge temperature is below 4 degrees Celsius. This makes it more difficult for bacteria to grow. According to research studies, food can develop dangerous bacteria at temperatures ranging from 4 to 60 degrees Celsius, or pretty much on any given day if left outside normally. This is a broad range that covers almost anything you would consider room temperature. If you place a thermometer near the refrigerator door, which is the warmest part of your fridge, it will give you a more precise reading.

Separate food. It is important to keep raw poultry and meat away from cooked and ready-to-eat foods. Place chicken and other meats on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator to avoid dripping juices on other foods. Separate plates and utensils are required for cooked and raw poultry.

Heat leftovers until they reach the desired temperature. Refrigerated chicken is a good option if you don't have the time to cook it in the microwave. To kill any bacteria that might be left behind, the leftovers must be heated to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit or 70C. The USDA recommends that you store leftover chicken in the freezer or fridge within two hours of cooking to ensure it doesn't become dangerous. If the temperature outside is higher than 32 degrees Celsius, you can put it in the refrigerator for an hour.