As with raw eggs, uncooked chicken can contain salmonella and other disease-causing germs. So should you wash chicken before cooking it?
For years, experts have urged caution and good hygiene practices when handling raw pieces of the bird. Many people thought they were doing precisely that by washing their chicken before cooking. Then, in 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said they were doing the exact opposite.
Should You Wash Chicken?
“Unless you want to spread germs around your kitchen that can make you sick, never wash raw chicken,” says Samantha Thoms, MPH, RDN, a registered dietitian in the Center of Health Advocacy and Wellness at Florida State University. “You will kill the bacteria on the chicken once you cook it thoroughly to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.”
The CDC also recommends:
- Using a separate cutting board for raw chicken
- Never resting cooked food or fresh produce on surfaces that previously held raw chicken
- Washing your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling chicken
Why Does Washing Chicken Spread Bacteria?
“Chicken is known to carry illness-causing germs like salmonella and campylobacter,” says Thoms. “When you wash chicken, contaminated water can splash on your faucet, the counter, your cooking utensils, and even your clothes. This increases the odds of spreading the germs around your kitchen and making you ill. This is especially true for those with weaker immune systems, such as young children, seniors, pregnant women, and those with chronic medical conditions.”