To wash or not to wash your chicken; that is the question. Or, at least it is on TikTok where several trending videos have cast new light on this debate.
Let’s cut to the chase shall we? The short answer is NO. You should not wash raw chicken before cooking. As in, never ever.
For whatever reason though, this is yet another TikTok food trend that has popped up and it has everyone arguing over the proper way to handle their hen.
Should You Wash Raw Chicken?
If you’ve spent more than 5 minutes in a kitchen, whether it be professional or home, you’ve likely heard of the late Julia Child.
If you haven’t heard of her, do yourself a favor and look her up. You owe it to yourself. She is a literal legend.
Julia was an accomplished chef and teacher and has been credited with introducing French cuisine to the American people.
Her teachings inspired many to pursue careers in the culinary world and she was known for her playfulness in the kitchen, as well as her affinity for butter.
Julia also believed one should wash their chicken prior to preparing it. While she meant well, this is definitely one thing Julia got wrong.
According to the experts, this is a big no-no and should be avoided at all costs.
Why Shouldn’t You Wash Chicken?
There are many reasons for not pampering your poultry with a hot bath, but the primary concern is the spreading of bacteria, specifically campylobacter.
Campylobacter and salmonella are both bacterias that can lead to food poisioning and foodborne illness, something nobody wants to experience.
When your faucet is turned on, the water hits your bird and can send imperceivable droplets of bacteria nearly two feet in every direction.
In addition, simply rinsing the chicken will not remove any potential germs or bacteria so there’s no benefit to doing so, perceived or otherwise.
If you are cooking at home, you likely only have one sink to do all your prep work and dishes, making washing raw chicken downright dangerous.
What should be a clean area for washing vegetables and other foods, is now potentially hazardous to your health and anyone else in the kitchen.
Any possible bacteria that are on your featherless fowl will not be able to survive the cooking process, assuming you cook your chicken to 165˚.
Since eating chicken medium-rare isn’t a thing, you’ll be just fine. (Which is why chicken recipes always advise cooking your chicken to temperature.)
If avoiding harmful bacteria isn’t enough of a deterrent consider that chicken, especially with the skin on, needs to be dry to get the skin nice and crispy.
Water will make this process much more difficult to accomplish. And who wants to sacrifice flavor and potentially get sick? Not this guy.
How to Safely Handle Raw Chicken
Now that we have all agreed that we’re not going to wash raw chicken, let’s cover some basics for how to safely handle raw chicken.
For this example, let’s say we’re working with a whole chicken, and we need to quarter it before cooking.
- Start with a clean surface and give yourself plenty of room to work.
- Make sure your knife and other utensils have been properly washed and sanitized.
- I suggest getting a plastic cutting board that you use specifically for cutting raw meats on. Keep another cutting board in a different color for fruits, vegetables, and bread.
- Wear gloves. Even at home it’s good practice to always wear gloves when dealing with raw meats and seafood.
- Cut your chicken to your specifications and place on a sheet tray lined with parchment or wax paper.
- Pat all pieces of your chicken dry with paper towels and immediately discard in your trashcan.
- Any liquid in the packaging should also be discarded into the trash can instead of poured down the drain to avoid any splattering of those microbes we talked about earlier.
- Cover the entire tray of raw chicken with plastic wrap until you are ready to cook.
- Wash all utensils and the cutting board in your dishwasher. The heating element in your dishwasher is hotter than anything you will get from your faucet.
- If you do not have a dishwasher, or you’re like me and you only hand wash your knives, then use the hottest water you can in combination with an antibacterial soap.
- Wipe down all surfaces with hot water and soap and then spray with sanitizer to ensure you aren’t leaving anything behind.
These sample basic steps work for handling any raw chicken, meat or seafood, helping to keep your kitchen clean and safe for food preparation.
Can You Put Raw Chicken on a Wooden Cutting Board?
A special note concerning cutting boards; if all you have are wooden boards, don’t fret. The experts say they’re fine to use with raw chicken.
There is a lot of debate on whether wood should be used, but there are safe ways for using this type of cutting board with raw meats.
It is important that you frequently reseal your board and keep up with the maintenance to make it safe to use, regardless of the food.
Rubbing it down with half a lemon and sea salt after each use, is a great way to clean the tiny fibers of wood and kill germs between use.
That said, when I’m not writing or cooking, I’m in my wood shop. I’ve made many cutting boards and I trust that they are made right and sealed properly.
However, after years in a professional kitchen, I still use a plastic board for most things. They’re easier to clean and dishwasher safe.
My wooden boards are used for bread and cheese or for serving something delicious at a party.
Our Favorite Chicken Recipes
It wouldn’t be right to do all this talking about chicken and leave you with an empty stomach, now would it?