Wash Your Hands, Not Your Poultry.

A very interesting practice came up in this week’s Foundations Series class about how we handle raw chicken and meat.  Before I tell you what sparked the debate, take a moment and ask yourself the question; “Do I wash raw chicken or meat under the tap when I remove it from the package?”

In studying cooking methods and the theory behind roasting and browning meat and poultry,  one of the first principles we discussed is that food must be dry before cooking.  If not, an adequate seal or brown sear does not form.  

To illustrate this and other lessons, we prepared a delicious beef braise or stew, Boeuf bourguignonne and a classic Roast Chicken.

As I was demonstrating how to prepare the whole chicken for stuffing, a few jaws dropped when I took the chicken out of the package, patted it dry and proceeded.  “How could you not wash it?”  “It’s dirty!” and “Who knows what it’s come in contact with?” the students exclaimed.

I was taken aback.  I knew from a culinary perspective, meat and poultry should not be washed, but from a food safety standpoint I was unsure.  After class I did some research.

According to the Government of Canada, 4 quick tips to Food Safety are; Cook, Clean, Chill and Separate.  But under clean they only talk about washing hands and surfaces with warm, soapy water.  They don`t mention washing the food at all.

The USDA is more direct.  Under their Food Safety and Inspection Service, it states that “washing raw poultry, beef, lamb, or veal before cooking is not recommended. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces. We call this cross-contamination. Cooking (baking, broiling, boiling, and grilling) to the right temperature kills the bacteria, so washing food is not necessary.”

So if you answered yes to the above question, think again.  The next time you feel the urge to wash raw meat, remember that not only is it not good cooking practice, it is irrational because it doesn`t accomplish what you think it will and can actually spread harmful bacteria to your sink and other kitchen surfaces.

It turns out that in this case the delicious lesson agrees with the science lesson.  

Shabbat Shalom from My Kosher Kitchen,

Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada

PS  Click on Beef Bourguignonne above to go to the recipe.

8 thoughts on “Wash Your Hands, Not Your Poultry.

    • Hi Joyce, you are right about getting rid of the pinfeathers, but I usually take a small knife to try and pluck them out. As for the yellow scales on the legs, I haven’t seen those since I’ve been able to buy the feet. Do your chickens come with them?

      • Definitely some yellow scale on ends of legs! I know what you mean by it being on the feet and there are no feet included any longer, but there is still some of those scales on the ends of the legs. I pour boiling water over the chicken and then pluck the pinfeathers. They come out much more easily when you use the boiling water. Even the yellow scale comes off more easily.

      • so what is the best way to deal with those yellow scaley patches? And what am I doing to the chicken when I pour boiling water on it? Not the same as just rinsing in cold water?

    • If you find pinfeathers on the very bottom of the leg joint (that connected to the foot), I agree with Honey and suggest pouring boiling water on that part of the skin only. This should allow you to flick out the feathers with the edge of a paring knife.
      I honestly have not found yellow scales on chickens in many years. I buy chai chickens and find them to be very clean. If you find otherwise, please let me know.

  1. I’ve never washed chicken or beef before cooking, but I can see where people think it’s a good idea (next they’ll say they boil it for a couple of hours – wait! That’s soup!!)

    I have, however, done as you do, and patted it dry with paper towel that is immediately thrown into the green bin.

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