Should You Wash Your Chicken Before Cooking?

Should You Wash Your Chicken Before CookingSo you know how you’re supposed to rinse your chicken and pat it dry before cooking it?  Yeah, well, at least, I THOUGHT you were supposed to, but it turns out, you’re not.  I stumbled onto an NPR article the other day that explained that the science behind rinsing chicken is faulty.  The article claimed that rinsing the chicken actually causes more harm than good, because it spreads bacteria around the kitchen because of splashing, etc. {It even provided a handy little germ-o-vision splash video to drive the point home}.

So if you’re not rinsing your bird, how do you make sure you aren’t feeding your family a not so healthy dose of Salmonella?  The article stated that cooking the bird to an internal temperature of 165 will kill far more food born pathogens than rinsing.

Here’s the thing, I HATE rinsing chicken anyway.  It’s gross.  So, this is some of the best news I’ve heard in awhile.  Still, I’m curious, will YOU still be rinsing your chicken before you cook it?  Or will  you happily stop?


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  1. Erika says

    I usually only rinse my chicken if I am going to bread it (and don’t pat dry), so I use the water to get the crumbs to stick instead of using eggs or milk. As long as I’m cooking it thoroughly, I don’t worry.

    • Mike says

      Exactly! As a Butcher and Cook, clean your food as well as your food preparation area(s). Don’t be lazy doing one or the other.

      For those not cleaning your foods (veggies or meat) (from the butcher side of things), if you only saw what happens to your foods in the food preparation side of things which are but not limited the FDA allowing a certain number of pest and rodent feces and body parts on your food before they exceed the regulated limits, you might want to clean-up some before cooking even if it wouldn’t hurt you (there are a lot of things that wouldn’t hurt you to eat but doesn’t mean you would want to feed it to your children). From personal experience as a young man, trying to keep up in a very large company chain (no name mentioned) I know you have probably all shopped from, we were forced to work fast. With that came dropping of meats between counters to the floors and no time to go rinse a piece of meet. We could go back and forth on these things, are they good or bad, but again bottom line, simple clean practices are all that are needed.

      If you want to look up further what all is allowed on your food before it even begins to start to be considered not acceptable and this doesn’t include food preparation companies who slide on these rules. Don’t believe it, I quickly looked up a news report for you to watch .

      Do I wash my macaroni and cheese…lol, no. I’m not trying to be silly or unrealistic, I don’t stress myself out over it, but I do practice common sense. I do wash what I can, feed the best prepared foods possible and always clean my food preparation areas every night immediately after I cook with bleach.

      • Mike says

        oh, the reason I looked this question up?

        I was prepping a turkey dinner and my brother-in-law said he heard washing it would make us all sick. I knew that wasn’t true so being a bit of a computer nerd, I had to look up where he got the info. I understand where the concern is, just surprised everyone wants to debate over whether to clean their food or counters without considering it is just as easy to do both.

        Happy New Years everyone!

  2. Barbara says

    Hmmm… Not sure where I’ve been, but I never knew you were supposed to rinse your chicken before cooking it!!! In my 40+ years of cooking, I don’t believe I’ve ever rinsed my chicken, and I’ve never gotten salmonella yet!!!

  3. Alison says

    I’ve never rinsed a chicken before cooking. What’s the point? Cooking kills any bacteria. I didn’t even know people rinsed chickens until recently.

    • Amy says

      I didn’t know it was a thing until recently as well! People looked at me like I had 3 heads when I said I didn’t wash it prior to cooking

  4. Sara says

    I own a restaurant and have been cooking for my family for years… never ever heard of rinsing chicken…. no restaurant I have ever worked in rinsed chicken either. We don’t rinse any meat and besides unless you are using a food grade sanitizer I don’t believe it would make any difference.

    We wash and are required by food code to wash veggies and fruits before they are sliced. They are dunked in plain water and ice and agitated and then dunked in a food grade sanitizer and then rinsed again before being sliced or prepped. Likely because many veggies are served either raw or lightly cooked and may not reach a temperature which kills all bacteria.

  5. Nikki says

    Even though I have heard the new guidelines, I still rinse and pat dry my chicken occasionally when I am making oven baked “fried” chicken. It gives it a crispier breaded layer and helps the breading layers stick better if there’s no weird sticky chicken residue and the outside of the meat is as dry as possible before dipping. It also prevents splatter if you’re planning on browning your chicken in a little EVOO in a pan first. After I pop the chicken in the oven, I spray down my sink and surrounding counter/stove area with hydrogen peroxide or other homemade disinfectant cleaner, let it sit a few minutes, and then wipe it down with hot water-soaked rag. All my kitchen rags/towels go into a bleach/super hot water load in the wash. I don’t like using bleach, but I also don’t like having funk grow in my towels that stinks, stains, and could make someone sick. I have used many other homemade laundry detergents to try to replace bleach and haven’t found anything that does that. OxiClean, Borax, baking soda, washing soda, vinegar, etc… none of them have totally worked for getting stains and stink out of really nasty cleaning rags. Part of it could be that I have an HE washer so those things need more water action to work properly (?) So for now, I think the environment will appreciate my one bleach load of laundry a week instead of using hundreds of trees in the form of paper towels. Not to mention, almost all my other cleaning products are homemade and a lot more environmentally friendly than their store-bought counterparts.

  6. Em says

    Whew, good to know. I was supposed to have put a chicken in the crockpot this morning, but something came up and I forgot! Now I can save that step! Thank you!

  7. PattyB says

    Growing up we never rinsed te chickens. But I really don’t like the slimy residue, which I think is blood, so I rinse. Given some of the things that have come to light, ie., pink slime in gr beef products, I just like to rinse.

  8. Carri says

    You don’t need running water to rinse chicken. You can fill the bottom of the sink, rinse your chicken and then just drain the water. Dry the chicken in the sink then transfer to your work surface. No splashing! You should always bleach the sink after cooking raw meats because of the bacteria rinsed off of your hands during washing anyway.

  9. andrea d says

    I’ve never rinsed and never gotten anyone sick. I always just figured anything would be killed by proper cooking.

  10. Kate says

    Not only do I always rinse chicken especially on the inside where there are always bits of gut and fat and unidentifiable objects, but also I cheerfully eat cookie dough and cake batter without fear. Never had salmonella poisoning and don’t expect to. If you always bleach the heck out of everything your immune system becomes more vulnerable! (That being said, yes I do bleach occasionally, just not 3x a day)

  11. Amy says

    I never did rinse before because I always thought it was so gross how the raw chicken liquid was everywhere in the sink. Now I feel less guilty about not rinsing lol

  12. Laura says

    I never rinsed my chicken before, and I’m not going to start now! If it’s wet and drippy something wrong with it. It it’s slimy, something wrong with it.
    I only wet it if I am going to bread it or coat it with something so it sticks. Then I throw out that liquid.
    I do wash out the insides of whole chicken and turkey, but that’s to get out the icky lose stuff! I don’t bother to “pat dry” though.

    Nikki mentioned HE washers. Mine are front loading, and they use way, way, way less water than top loaders!

    • Nikki says

      Just to clarify, when I said that “maybe those things need more water action to work properly” I meant my homemade cleaners need more water, not the HE washer. If I use HE detergent with my top loader HE washer, it cleans wonderfully. If I try any of my homemade stuff in it, it will clean, but not as well, but they used to work a lot better when I had a traditional washing machine. If you hear of any recipe that works well for getting stains out of whites in an HE machine, let me know! I have tried various Borax, Fels Naptha, washing soda, baking soda, vinegar recipes in various forms, but nothing gets the dinge out of my white towels and cleaning rags!

  13. Helen in Meridian says

    What about turkey? I always wash my turkey, and had been washing my whole chickens before this news. YEA.

  14. Vicki says

    It was MANY years ago that a TV program showed the water chickens are bathed in before commercial packaging. Water was avocado colored from all the chicken feces that was in there. THAT did it for me – and certainly I have washed every bit of poultry since then. I will still do that – can’t get the poop green vision out of my head these many decades later.

  15. Kathryn says

    Always rinsed, probably always will. I learned how to process chickens and am still an omnivore. We rinsed everything as we cleaned out the chickens. A little more rinsing won’t hurt.

  16. Kristy says

    I know that when I was a kid the chickens didn’t seem as “clean” (from store) as they are now. I can remember my grandma and mom rinsing chickens, but also cleaning off any extra fat, veins, and tissue. Kind of gross, but worse to leave it back then. I don’t wash mine because the chickens today seem to have been cleaned better.

  17. Angel says

    Please, PLEASE tour the inside of a chicken plant, or work there for a short time. You will change your mind.

    If water spreading the germs was true, it wouldn’t matter anyway because they dump the newly gutted chickens in a big vat of water (and chicken blood and sometimes even guts), called the chiller. It’s meant to bring the newly gutted chickens from body temperature to freezer temperature quickly. They come out from being gutted with chicken poop all over their backs (or front, or where ever), or bird feed all over them if their guts rip while being taken out. Germs abound. They’re sprayed, then dunked in the chiller, then go for processing/wrapping.

    You may think there is some special process to kill germs, but there isn’t. Wash your birds. And besides, if cooking kills those germs anyway, what does it matter in “spreading them by rinsing.”

  18. susie says

    I rinse out the inside of a whole chicken after I pull out the bag of giblets and neck. I just eliminates the “gross” factor for me.

  19. Terry K says

    I never knew why my mother always rinsed meat before cooking until shortly after I was married and found chips of bone in the gravy of un-rinsed pork chops. After that I started rinsing everything. I also like to clean the extra fat, veins and assorted guts left after factory processing. Thirty-five years later, we have never gotten sick from splashed water, so I will continue. Plus I am told the mess that winds up in my septic tank helps to replenish the “good” bacteria. :)

  20. Pat says

    I had kinda come to this conclusion on my own, but I was watching an old rerun of Alton Brown’s “Good Eats”. He mentioned it on the show. His verification was enough for me……I haven’t been able to convince the misses yet though that the cups she had stacked up on the end of the counter that were not put away imediately, now need to be rewashed. I sneak them back in the dishwasher anyway.

  21. Amanda O says

    I have never rinsed chicken. I love to eat chicken, but I should mention that I HATE touching raw chicken. It is the grossest thing ever. I usually dump it in the pan and try not to touch it at all. Ew.

  22. Bonnie says

    YES … I rinse (clean) my chicken … processed chicken from the store is not ready to eat as is. I rinse to get the bits of bone and feathers (if skin is left on) left behind. I also clean out the kidneys and other organs not cleaned off and cut off excess fat and tail. It isn’t that difficult, nor gross … and I clean up the sink, counter and cutting board afterwards.

  23. Beth says

    this is pretty humorous! I admit, I am a chicken rinser. But I also clean out the sink and countertops with clorox (shame) and put utensils in the dishwasher (shame again). I got to change my evil ways, … baby!

  24. Marnie says

    I agree with Angel. My husband worked at a poultry processing plant and, more recently his nephew did. I will chance other germs needing to be cleaned up after I rinse my chicken, in fact we use boiling water to rinse insides of whole chickens and turkeys, you just have no idea. I just can’t believe soaking in water which is filthy by the end of the day will ever make it clean enough to just cook and eat. Please remember to sanitize all the counters, sinks, boards, etc. you use while chicken is raw -same as with any other meat!!!

    • Susie in DeLand says

      I agree with Angel & Marnie. I HAVE to rinse the chicken after learning how chickens are processed. That last “bath” they take is often called “fecal soup” for good reason. I’ll take the word of people who’ve worked in processing plants over the supposed experts at NPR & Food Network any day. Once you see & know about it, the thought of NOT rinsing is just gross.

  25. Edie says

    Hi! LOVE your site! Just wanted to say that I was raised to wash meat before preparation. I was never given any explanation as to WHY, and I never asked. For many years there, that is what I did. Now, after numerous science classes for Nursing, I realized that it is unnecessary, and that it actually splatters Salmonella around worse. I DO continue to rinse any meats that have been sliced with a bone in them, (chops and steaks for example), because I feel that you need to get the grit from the bones off before preparing the meat. I like your Silver-Laced Wyandotte, by the way, love his tail feathers!

  26. Dana says

    So, . . . reading the comments, – I’m the only person that washes chicken with vinegar before cooking? My hope is that the acidic vinegar kills off any untoward bacteria. I put the chicken in a huge bowl, pour vinegar over it, swish around to make sure the vinegar gets everywhere, then a quick rinse and on to the cooking.

    Then it’s all washing the bowl, sink, counters an dof course my hands with soap and water, rinse with water, wipe down all surfaces with vinegar.

    Do I stand alone like the proverbial cheese on this one?

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