Do you normally wash chicken before cooking? If so, you should probably stop, at least that’s what the latest consumer research by the USDA recommends, claiming that washing chicken and handling it with bare hands may significantly increase one’s likelihood of contracting food-borne illnesses. For an explanation of why this is the case and recommendations on the safest way of handling raw chicken, continue reading.
What are the Dangers of Washing Raw Chicken?
To begin, you must understand that any raw foods are very far from being sterile. In the case of raw chicken, for example, nearly all of it contains several strains of bacteria, particularly Campylobacter, a bacterium found in many animal’s digestive systems that causes diarrhea.
Other strains of bacteria commonly found in chicken are Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and several other germs associated with food-borne illnesses. Lucky for all of us, all these germs die off when the chicken is cooked. And while we typically bring the chicken we’re about to eat to the required temperature of 75°C (165°F) during cooking, we never do the same with our kitchen counters, sinks, kitchen equipment, and our hands.
Moreover, we typically prepare several foods side by side with each other, not all of which undergo any thermal processing. As a result, by washing raw chicken, we are essentially splashing bacteria-ridden water all over our kitchen, food and ourselves, ultimately making it so much easier for these bacteria to multiply and infect our vulnerable bodies.
Using antibacterial products, such as vinegar or lemon may kill part of the bacteria, but that’s not enough, heat is the only certain way to get rid of them.
How to Handle Raw Chicken Safely?
While NOT washing or rinsing chicken is a good first step to minimizing the risk of contamination from raw chicken, there are a few other simple methods that will help you protect yourself from foodborne illnesses:
- Use gloves to handle raw ingredients, particularly chicken, fish, and meat.
- Don’t prepare meat, poultry, and fish near ingredients that aren’t processed thermally, such as vegetables and fruit to avoid cross-contamination.
- Use separate knives and cutting boards for different types of ingredients, such as chicken and vegetables.
- Clean kitchen counters thoroughly using antibacterial cleaning products immediately after handling poultry, fish, and meat.
- Measure the temperature of fish, meat, and poultry when cooking it to ensure it’s above 75°C (165°F) using a kitchen thermometer.
- Make sure you’re washing your kitchen equipment using hot water and antibacterial detergents.