To wash or not to wash raw chicken

To wash or not to wash raw chicken

There was a bit of an online furore recently when a food blogger advised against washing raw chicken to prevent dangerous bacteria found on the bird from spreading all over the kitchen.

Despite the outcry, the blogger Maria Godoy's point is not new.

The United States Department of Agriculture has been warning against washing raw chicken for many years.

And the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency's campaign during Food Safety Week this year is: "Don't wash raw chicken."Generally, it is a bad idea because of a food bug called campylobacter, found on raw meat, particularly that of chicken.

While most people have heard of the salmonella and E. coli bacteria, few know about campylobacter. Yet, it reportedly causes more cases of food poisoning than E. coli, listeria and salmonella combined.

In the UK, it is the most common cause of food poisoning and it can be fatal.

Still, washing raw chicken is what we do, even if common sense dictates that chicken chopped and wrapped for sale in supermarkets would have been cleaned first.

Anyway, all bacteria is killed when you cook the chicken thoroughly.

But if you are hung up on washing raw chicken before cooking it, what should you do?

I have always taken raw chicken straight from the packet into the pot to cook, to the dismay of my helper, though the more fastidious may use disposable paper towels to wipe away slime and bits of bone.

Blotting the chicken also creates a crisper finish when roasting it.

You could also ask the chicken seller to wash the fowl thoroughly before bringing it home.

When handling its meat, the rules of cross-contamination apply. Use the same common-sense precautions you follow when handling all kinds of raw meat. Wash everything you have touched, including utensils used, the chopping board, the sink and its surrounding area, and even the faucets, after handling raw meat.

Also, spend at least 20 seconds washing your hands with soap and warm water afterwards.

Still, the only way to kill bacteria on raw meat is to cook it well; which means you have to make sure the chicken is steaming hot all the way through before serving.

Cut into the thickest part of the meat and check that it is steaming hot, with no pink meat, and that the juices run clear.

This article was first published on July 03, 2014.
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