“Should I wash chicken be­fore I cook it?”

EatingWell - - MORSELS -

The quick an­swer: No. Step away from the faucet, folks. And don’t wash other meat or fish ei­ther. In fact, rather than get­ting rid of bac­te­ria (or what­ever it is you’re try­ing to wash off that chicken!) you may just be mak­ing the prob­lem worse. First, the science. Raw poul­try can har­bor bac­te­ria, in­clud­ing Sal­mo­nella and Campy­lobac­ter. You may not have heard of the lat­ter, but it’s linked to an es­ti­mated 2.5 mil­lion food­borne-ill­ness cases an­nu­ally in the U.S. (of­ten from eat­ing raw or un­der­cooked poul­try). Now, imag­ine adding a splat­tery stream of wa­ter on top of the bac­te­ria that may be on your chicken. This stream is go­ing to splash all sorts of chick­en­tainted wa­ter into your sink (where you wash other things), on your coun­ter­tops and onto nearby food. In fact, re­search has found that wash­ing chicken can spread bac­te­ria up to 3 feet from your sink. That means you’ve po­ten­tially con­tam­i­nated a good por­tion of your kitchen. (Side note: If you were wash­ing your chicken to re­move the vis­cous liq­uid that can some­times ac­cu­mu­late in the pack­ag­ing, the safe fix is to sim­ply pat the meat dry with pa­per tow­els in­stead. It will also help it brown bet­ter.) The good news for us all? The so­lu­tion is on your stove, not in your sink. Cook­ing chicken to the right tem­per­a­ture—165°f—kills the bac­te­ria. The same is true for other meat or fish. So rins­ing them first is un­nec­es­sary. Oh, and it goes without say­ing: al­ways wash your hands af­ter han­dling raw chicken. A trick I like to use to keep from hav­ing to suds up a mil­lion times? Keep one hand “clean” and let the other hand get “dirty.” I’m right-handed, so I use my left to han­dle the meat and my right to sea­son the chicken and place it in a pan be­fore I wash my hands. BREANA KILLEEN, M.P.H., R.D., is our Test Kitchen man­ager.

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