Handling Raw Chicken: To Rinse or Not To Rinse?

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

We’re not saying this is a debate that ranks up up there with health care, but still — there is a lot of disagreement over whether or not you should rinse raw chicken when it comes out of the package.

We do not. And we have pretty good reasons for our stance…

We’ve all read countless recipes that say to “rinse and pat dry” the chicken before proceeding. And for years, that’s what we did, thinking we were washing off salmonella germs and other surface bacteria.

But then we spoke to the director of a big-time test kitchen, who explained that not only is bacteria killed if you cook the chicken properly, but washing chicken breasts can spread bacteria around your sink or countertops as water splashes those germs around.

This theory is backed by the USDA, which claims washing raw poultry can cause cross-contamination in your kitchen. You can read the article here.

The practice of washing poultry and other meat was probably started back when meats might not have been at their freshest, needing a quick rinse to make them smell better. If you are buying from a local, organic source or a trusted brand, that shouldn’t be the case. And we find patting chicken dry with paper towels is perfectly sufficient.

One exception would be if there are bone fragments or residue from giblets, as in a roasting chicken. In that case, rinse away if you like — just make sure you wipe down your sink afterwards.

We’re not super persnickety about germs and frankly prefer skipping an extra step when preparing chicken. But some people just like to wash away the sliminess that sometimes comes with commercial packaging.

We’re sure there are other studies and opposing opinions out there. Let us hear ’em. Do you rinse your chicken?