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why do we rinse chickens before roasting them?

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It's something I always do (rinse then dry with paper towels) but I suddenly wondered why. If there are germs in/on my chicken, will a brief cold water rinse really get rid of them? It's not like I scrub them with a brush or anything. Surely oven heat is more likely to kill them than cold water? Or am I supposed to be rinsing off dirt? I buy chickens from my butcher, so they're not already all wet inside vaccum-packed plastic. The chickens usually look pretty clean too...

Anyone know if there's any good reason to be rinsing a perfectly clean-looking chicken?
Thanks.

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  1. We had a discussion about that a while back (Kitchen myths or something.) I think there were two camps:

    the
    "OMIGOD-THERE MUST BE GERMS SO I'M GOING TO RINSE IT THEN BAKE IT- I WISH I COULD DISINFECT IT- I'LL DIE IF I DON'T"

    and the more laid back

    "It probably doesn't matter but it washes off anything that COULD be on there and any chicken gunk still in the cavity."

    For me at this point, it's more part of the routine - I don't think it matters, as I sometimes don't do that rinse and i'm still alive (as are my guests).

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jonathan Saw

      I'm of the George Carlin school of sanitation, i.e., it's good to exercise your immune system so it stays tough. By doing such things as eating something that has dropped on the floor or not washing your chicken, you give your immune system a good workout!!!

      Kidding, of course, but I have been known to pick up something from the floor and eat it. Of course it depends on what floor and what food.

    2. Actually, i believe that the USDA recommends NOT rinsing chickens before roasting. Apparently the risk from the raw chicken juice that gets all over your sink, hands, faucet, soap container, etc. during the rinsing process creates a greater risk of contamination than cooking an unrinsed chicken. That being said, I think rinsing just feels better to most of us, and I still do it.

      1. I was assisting a chef in a cooking class and he did not rinse the chicken which upset a couple taking the class. It had been drilled into their heads that chickens had to be rinsed for sanitary purposes. He said "why do you want to contaminate your sink?" They kind of lost it there and I have never rinsed a chicken since.

        1. i'm guessing it's a practice that developed from factory processed meat. a chicken from a local butcher comes in a paper wrapper, but one that's travelled thousands of miles and been frozen/refrozen and is wrapped tightly in plastic will have some stickiness or sliminess on it that I always like to rinse off. As for contamination, well...I get to know my chickens (and turkeys) pretty well, what with the butter massage, occasional cutting-up, leg tendon removal, and all that. A boiling-water rinse or a mild bleach solution will clean your sink and counters if things have gotten messy or unusually complicated.

          chicken sanitation takes some weird turns when you start slaughtering and butchering your own. At what point does your bird become "unsanitary"? I still haven't figured that one out.

          Link: http://www.pdbd.com/henwaller

          1. This thread has already covered the subject regarding sanitation vs raw chicken, but there is a related point that hasn't been mentioned. Inside a whole raw chicken (and very often on leg-thigh pieces) there will be little bits of dark red kidney or liver or some such giblety stuff, still attached. If you like it, fine, but we happen to detest the flavor and if you leave it there it will make everything taste the way it does. If you use the chicken to make broth, the whole pot of broth will have the flavor of giblets. So one reason I put my raw chicken under running cold water is so I can gouge out this stuff with my thumb and send it down the drain. Yuck. Be advised.