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To Rinse or Not to Rinse...Chicken

When working with chicken, do you rinse it before prep? I can see arguments with both methods....How do you all feel?

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  1. I tend to rinse it off, because it usually sits in some of it's own blood/juice....but then again it gets rinsed off anyways because 90% of the time I am going to brine it.

    You should also dry it off a little too if you want to sear it off in say a hot pan to get a crust or perhaps to roast it in the oven. It's much easier to sear something and get a nice browned crust if it's dry

    1. " I can see arguments with both methods"

      So what's your argument against rinsing prior to prep? I am hard-pressed to think of an argument against cleaning and inspecting one's food.

      10 Replies
      1. re: FrankJBN

        Does a rinse in water actually do anything besides spread potential bacteria? If the rinse is intended to kill germs, shouldn't a mild bleach solution be used? I think alot depends on the cooking method too

        1. re: FrankJBN

          The USDA recommends against rinsing chicken or meat because it is of little use yet can cross contaminate your kitchen.

          1. re: C. Hamster

            I find this to be truer more often. The chicken is wet and chicken blood/water runs all over when I'm trying to cut it up. Maybe cut first then rinse??

            1. re: C. Hamster

              That's correct, do not rinse your chicken. Here's an extensive PDF to clarify...

              http://tinyurl.com/46687q

              Be safe!

              1. re: goodegg333

                A show of hands please; How many folks here kill their own birds? I still couldnt find the part about don't rinse your bird. could you point it out please?

                1. re: jsummers

                  Well, if you skim more of this document you can see that it was pulled up on a search of the words "chicken" and "rinse" as those two words are highlighted throughout. The instructions do call for rinsing many other foods, but not chicken, so I suppose that can be taken as a recommendation not to. But it's hardly definitive.

                  1. re: jsummers

                    Back in my huntin' and killin' days, I always washed my dove and quail. I clean the fish I catch on the kitchen counter as I live in an apartment and don't have access to water outside, but I sterilize the counter afterwards and like to think it's cleaner than before I started. The same with chicken, I rinse it and clean well afterward. What about turkey? Is it not an overgrown chicken of sorts? Am I wrong, or don't the instructions say rinse thouroughly?

                2. re: C. Hamster

                  I never rinse either unless it is a bit smelly and hasn't been rinsed by the local producer. I buy locally produced chickens and they are minimally processed and some times they are a bit sticky and smell a bit funky. After a rinse they are fine. Then i have to sanitize my sink of course.

                3. re: FrankJBN

                  The arguement against rinsing is contaminating the kitchen with salmonella. I have never had a problem, nor do I know anyone who has had a problem, but for some reason it seems to be a hot topic.

                  1. re: FrankJBN

                    My understanding is that rinsing actually increases the risk of spreading things because the blood and juice can splatter as the water runs. I never rinse, but that's just me.

                  2. I rinse chicken - just they way I was brought up I guess. Also, I hate the feel and look of the juices it's been sitting in.

                    According to the USDA, there is no need or risk to rinsing. It all gets cooked anyway.

                    "Rinsing or Soaking Chicken
                    It is not necessary to wash raw chicken. Any bacteria which might be present are destroyed by cooking."

                    http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/c...

                    1. I always rinsed chicken, out of habit, mostly. Then got to thinking recently about cross-contamination, and all, and rationally I see no benefit. I have to say, though, Biscuitboy, when I clean up, everything gets doused with my 'sanitizing solution'. Capful of bleach in one of those industrial type spray bottles, then hot soapy water. Makes me feel better.

                      1. To me this is a no brainer. Rinse the chicken. If you're cookin it whole, rinse the whole chicken inside and out. If you're cutting it up, rinse the parts. Do a thorough job. Cross contamination? I'd be more worried about that from a contaminated bird. The rinse is not intended to "kill" bacteria as someone mentioned but to remove the muck left behind by an actively growing bacterial contamination, and believe me it's there. The issue ain't wether or not cooking is gonna kill the bacteria. The issue is the flavor of the finished product. Rinse the chicken.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: jsummers

                          I always rinse. I seem to remember an old segment from the PBS Jacques & Julia series where he said he tends not to rinse his chickens as a holdover from France, but I can't remember his reasoning, possibly he alleged that he didn't want to lose any flavor and that bacteria would be killed during the cooking process.

                          1. re: jsummers

                            What's next? Steak rinsing? Rinsing is a waste of time- it does not kill bacteria and it just splashes the bacteria around the kitchen. As far as flavor goes, here's an article- in it's entirety, from Cooks Illustrated (aka America's Test Kitchens) :

                            Published August 15, 2004.

                            "Should I wash my chicken before cooking it?

                            The U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as food agencies in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, advises against washing poultry. Rinsing chicken will not remove or kill much bacteria, and the splashing of water around the sink can spread the bacteria found in raw chicken. (Cooking poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit effectively destroys the most common culprits behind food-borne illness.)

                            To find out if rinsing had any impact on flavor, we roasted four chickens—two rinsed, two unrinsed—and held a blind tasting. Tasters' comments and preferences were all over the place, leading us to believe that differences in flavor had more to do with the chicken itself than with rinsing. Our conclusion? Skip the rinse. If you can't help yourself, avoid the shower in the sink and try just blotting the chicken with paper towels to remove excess liquid and keep cross-contamination to a minimum."

                            Now, if any of you still aren't convinced, here's somthing to ponder : Not all traditions are based on logic, or perhaps the logic is now outdated. Sometimes, even grandma was wrong. Now go cook!

                            1. re: ddferrari

                              I agree that some of the things our parents and grandparents told us turned out to be wrong, but how many times have you seen studies overturned by another study. Then again, if the Department of Agriculture says don't wash, it must be so. I don't think the government could possibly be wrong, do you? I'll continue to wash.

                          2. I rinse and it has nothing to do with trying to kill bacteria and/or germs.

                            I rinse for esthetic reasons.

                            1. I grew up not only rinsing chicken, but if it was on the bone, passing a flame over it to remove any residual hairs or feather pieces that didn't come off when being processed. It is hard for me to overcome the feeling that chicken needs to be rinsed because it always seems to be sitting in a pool of its own liquid. However, I recently read that rinsing increases opportunities for cross contamination. I think I minimize this by rinsing in a bowl that is then put in the dishwasher, and then using antibacterial wipes or soap to clean the sink and counter, which I know will elicit a groan from several posters here at CH. I recently did not rinse boneless chicken breasts purchased from Costco, because they are nicely packaged in vacuum wrappers and I made the decision to try it. But -- these were not bloody and looked great. I think I will still rinse, at least most of the time. Now that I think of it, I also rinse pork and beef, especially if the packaging seems to need it.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: RGC1982

                                I usually rinse pork too, especially if the package doesnt look all that fresh. Beef I'm not quite as particular about but again, it depends on the package. Most of the time I buy wholesale and cut my own so I at least know how it's been handled after leaving the packer.

                                1. re: jsummers

                                  In this month's COTM, both authors say to rinse the pork before prepping. I have always rinsed chicken but never any other meat. Now, of course I'm rinsing, and wiping with paper towels, the pork I use in these recipes.

                              2. I rinse before cooking most any meat and then dry and salt/spice. I have read that rinsing chicken can spread around things like salmonella but don't really take this seriously (and I used to be a microbiologist).

                                1. All this concern about cross contamination as a result of rinsin your bird. I'm not to clear..... aint we rinsing our birds in the sink where the rinse water drains away? Where are we spreading anything to that we weren't already gonna?

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: jsummers

                                    That is exactly what I was thinking! where else are you thinking of rinsing this chicken that you weren't planning on then washing?

                                    1. re: LJS

                                      The concern is that droplets of potentially contaminated water could splash around on nearby surfaces, get on the faucet handle, places that you might miss wiping down, etc.

                                      Remember, they are always looking at the worst case scenario.

                                      IF your chicken is contaminated and
                                      IF you splash water and
                                      IF you miss wiping it up and
                                      IF you touch the contaminated spot and
                                      IF you then touch your salad greens or some other uncooked food,
                                      then you MIGHT get sick.

                                      I'm tending to the 'don't rinse, just dry off lingering moisture with a paper towel' camp these days.

                                      1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                        You are absolutely right. The health dept pros get paid to cook up worst possible scenarios. But, what IF you handle that bird that MIGHT be contaminated then you go to wash your hands and touch the faucet handles or worse, splatter a couple of droplets of water somewhere.. it's 6 of one and a half dozen of the other. Of course all this begs the question; How did the human race ever make it this far?? I will add that after seeing how chickens move through the meat shops from THEIR side of the counter I aint gonna do nuthin BUT rinse that bird.

                                        1. re: jsummers

                                          The human race has made it this far because there are so many of us. There are 75,000,000 cases of food poisoning in this country every year, and 6,000 Americans die from it. Rinsing your chicken does nothing except spread salmonella around your kitchen. But go ahead if you want to. One of your family members may end up being part of those statistics.

                                  2. I rinse because you never know if there's any fecal matter on it or some stray feathers.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: bw2082

                                      exactly!!! we've been eating poorly handled meat for a really long time now, i'm sure we're fine without a rinse. if you've ever eaten out at any chain, there ya go. heat seems to kill enough of it and i'm really not so "worried about germs" as i am choosing to take off the extra bits of skin and feather from the skin (which my children love to crunch on). also if i am able to remove any possible fecal matter, bits of dna from handlers and butchers and that plastic smell all the better. i've been washing my meat (hehe) for a long time now, using hot water and soap to clean the surrounding areas, a swipe of clorox wipe (yeah, i know- it only "spreads" the germs around) to finish and i'm done. i leave my rings on. i live dangerously and like it that way.

                                    2. Out of lifelong habit, and not necessarily common sense, I usually only wash whole chickens and not chicken parts.

                                      1. We were told to rinse the chicken to get rid of as much salmonella as possible before we cooked it. For several years we did that.
                                        Now we are told NOT to rinse it because IF there is salmonella the washing tends to spread the salmonella around the sink and the surrounding area where it might not get washed off when we finish wasing.
                                        As far as cooking is concerned a chicken that has had water on it tends not to brown as well as one that does not.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: The Old Gal

                                          Oh! I always rinse it out of habit and then get paranoid about having spread the bacteria. I will never rinse again unless it is a factory farm bird (which I try to avoid anyway)

                                        2. I don't rinse unless it looks gunky. Ninety-nine percent of the chicken I buy is fresh enough and doesn't need it. Spreading bleach all over the place doesn't appeal to me for a variety of reasons so I see no reason to wash it when it's just going to spread bacteria around.

                                          1. I am in the rinse side - mostly because keeping kosher you want to make sure all the salt in koshering process is rinsed off of the kosher chicken as well helps if I have to remove any pin feathers -

                                            1. http://www.chow.com/stories/11314

                                              I would refer you to the above thread (a recent top ten article) the first tip is to not rinse your poultry the argument being that at worst it may actually spread bacteria to other parts of the cut of meat.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: irisav

                                                I did read the article, but I beg to differ on the reference. I think the USDA 'tip' intended to warn us off cross-contamination of other work surfaces by bacteria, NOT against the spreading of bacteria to another part of the chicken.

                                                But, I do agree, it is not clear...sigh...it is all so confusing trying to keep your family safe these days.

                                                I was not surprised when a young mother in our office shared the other day that she "didn't cook from scratch because it is so dangerous...it is much safer to buy prepared frozen prducts because those food manufacturers really know what they are doing"...this, sadly, is the take on the issue for a lot of people. And though this board speaks to the ongoing love affair with cooking by Chowhounds, for every one of us, there is one of those poor misguided fools like my colleague in the office, who BTW, also will ONLY go to chain restaurants, based on the same reasoning.

                                                I find this attitude much scarier than salmonella.

                                                1. re: LJS

                                                  I think the problem is not that it is hard, it is just that a little knowledge can do a lot of damage. That is to say most people are aware of bacteria and that bacteria are 'bad', but the risk can be made to seem disproportionately large.

                                                  By applying a few simple practices, that are second nature to everyone really, you can be reasonably certain that the food coming out of your kitchen is safe (I would point out that there is no such thing as 100% risk free in food preparation).

                                                  As long as you; wash your hands thoroughly before preparing and cooking your food; wash your hands before and after handing meat; have a chopping board dedicated to meat preparation; wash your knife after preparing meat if you intend to use it for chopping other items and; you store food appropriately, you can feel fairly confidant your food handling won't lead illness (note I said your - this does not account for anything that may occur prior to purchasing food).

                                                  I think part of the problem is that there is a lot of money to be made by keeping the public terrified of the invisible 'germs' this way they can convince you that you need to hose down your kitchen in hospital strength disinfectant every other day, that you need disposable 'anti-bacterial' wipes to ensure your not 'spreading germs' etc. Unless you live in a hospital, or with immuno-compromised people you don't need to live in this sort of hyper clean environment.

                                                  1. re: irisav

                                                    You got that right, Irisav! There is a lot of money in fear...

                                                    1. re: LJS

                                                      Amen! Those blasted fear mongerers!

                                                  2. re: LJS

                                                    Damn. LJS, that was fascinating. Phew. What an incredibly evocative post.

                                                    I think your co-worker is exceptional only in that she *knew* she was thinking that way and could articulate the feeling/fear as the driver for rushing into the arms of corporate food. I would be willing to bet that there are way more people who *feel* that way, and who operate that way, but who don't know it and couldn't report that about themselves the way your co-worker can. In fact she actually gives me more hope because she is conscious of it.... I betcha far more people making their food eating/buying decisions on that basis are totally unconscious of it. Man, those marketing people at Sysco must be congratulating themselves!

                                                    Thanks again for a really thought-provoking anecdote.

                                                2. I always rinse and thoroughly inspect it to remove the hairs, quills and that weird yellow pebbly "skin" that's around the bone of the drumstick. There are also little things that look like blackheads and if you squeeze them, something pops out. I'd rather wash my sink after rinsing and removing all those things than eat them.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: GSDlove

                                                    Reading about squeezing blackheads is going to put me off of eating chicken for a while.

                                                  2. Personally, I rinse, in the sink, before. Not because I think I am removing bacteria but rather because I know I am washing out, these odd bits of gosh knows what left inside the carcass, or the bone saw mash left on the cut pieces. I leave the bacteria removal to the cooking, making sure the end result has cooked to the proper temperature, leftovers stored correctly.

                                                    I also rinse and then dry my meat pieces, as I really really hate that pulpy mess that remains from the butcher's bone saw, I sure don't want to chow down on it; cooked.

                                                    If I thought mere water rinsing was a bacteria removal, why am I using soap and a through wash after "ahem" bathroom breaks?

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Quine

                                                      I'm with you, and do a quick rinse to remove any gunk. After reading through the FDA link above, there is also a section on TSP:

                                                      Trisodium Phosphate
                                                      Food-grade trisodium phosphate (TSP) has been approved by FSIS for use in poultry slaughter as an antimicrobial agent. When immersed in and/or sprayed in a dilute solution on chickens, it can significantly reduce bacteria levels. TSP is "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) by the FDA, and has been safely used for years, particularly in processed cheese.

                                                      Now I want to make sure I rinse any TSP too.....

                                                      1. re: firecooked

                                                        TSP the same thing I use to remove grime and gunk... the same thing that takes the paint of the wood work?

                                                        I may just give up eating altogether!!!

                                                    2. I rinse chickens for the same reason I break my eggs on the edge of the bowl instead of the flat part as Mark Bittman instructs: because that's the way my mom taught me to do it, and that's how I've been doing it for sixty years or so. I've learned a boatload of new tricks, from making a good mojito to using Photoshop, but I'm damned if I'm going to change my egg-breaking or chicken-rinsing routine without some deeply compelling reason, none of which I've read here so far.

                                                      1. Well, I rinse the interior mostly to get rid of loose innards. But I do this after I make sure to check the inside of the pelvic bones to make sure the kidneys r are removed (it depends on the processor), as they make things bitter. Then the chicken gets either a dry salty rub or a wet brine.

                                                        1. I rinse my chicken in the sink with a slow faucet....this way it's assured it's not going to splash all over the counters. Afterward I use bleach in the sink to sanitize.

                                                          1. Per the USDA, rinsing chicken is both unnecessary and risky-- it's unnecessary because, providing your cooking method will raise the chicken temperature to 165ºF, it will be sufficient to kill salmonella and any other harmful bacteria-- it's risky because you stand a real chance of cross contaminating the sink, and everything in and around it, including the countertop, nearby cookware, and utensils, food, etc.-- read more from the USDA here: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/...

                                                            1. I rinse in the kitchen sink after a scrubbing with either half a lime or lemon. This is a habit picked up living in the Caribbean where poultry was predominantly free range and tended to smell rather......chickeny, for the lack of a better word. We washed just about all meats,poultry and fish with what ever citrus was available.
                                                              After, I rinse again with cold water,pat dry with paper towels and clean sink and prep surfaces with a weak bleach solution.

                                                              1. I think encouraging people to clean properly after handling raw meats is a much better solution than telling them not to rinse something that might have residual fecal matter on it.

                                                                1. I don`t like to rinse it, as I find it makes the chicken steam, even if you wipe it dry. I take a paper towel, and sponge the chicken with vinegar, inside and out.

                                                                  1. that dead animal carcass that you're about to consume has been rotting in cheap plastic for you probably don't know how long -definitely- needs a rinse. (local farm goers, enjoy your pinfeathers)
                                                                    if you wash your hands, knives, cutting boards, marinade bins it's cross contamination. just be thorough, use hot water and lots of soap. sing your abc's. you'll be fine.

                                                                    1. I'm definitely a rinser. While along with the OP I can see the arguments on both sides, I just like a good rinse for all raw poultry before cooking.

                                                                      1. I also can see both sides, HOWEVER:
                                                                        The truth about chicken: STILL WON'T AT LEAST RINSE IT

                                                                        OFF?

                                                                        http://www.aspca.org/fight-cruelty/fa...

                                                                        had to edit. the first link went to posts on dogs. the above link should be correct.

                                                                        Excuse the "shouting" - I'm not - I just realized

                                                                        it was all in caps and "Arthur" says not to waste my

                                                                        time editing-:

                                                                        )

                                                                        HOW ABOUT IF THE PACKERS HAD DROPPED IT OR HAD THEIR

                                                                        HANDS OR FINGERS IN PLACES WHERE THE SUN DON'T SHINE,

                                                                        BEFORE THEY HANDLED THE CHICKEN? STILL WON'T WASH IT?

                                                                        I WORKED IN A MEAT-PACKING PLANT FOR ABOUT 1 YEAR. I OPT

                                                                        TO WASH MY CHICKEN ( as opposed to choking it-:) and

                                                                        then sanitize my sink. And I wash with distilled water

                                                                        instead of flouride, chlorine and God knows what else is

                                                                        in our water system here on long Island. I also rise off

                                                                        any veggies just as well. you never know who has been

                                                                        handling the produce and where their hands last were

                                                                        amongst other possibilities.

                                                                        The kicker: my wife of 8 years does NOT bother to wash

                                                                        the chicken or just about anything else she cooks which

                                                                        is a huge reason why I cook for myself and do NOT eat

                                                                        her cooking UNLESS absolutely nothing else to eat. Plus,

                                                                        I figure if she eats it and is fine afterwards, it must

                                                                        be ok. Still, I prefer to wash off ALL meat I cook and

                                                                        alwaays have. Brought up that way by Italian Mom who

                                                                        used to ( in her words ) 'give the chicken a

                                                                        hystorectomy'-:). I followed suit.

                                                                        New Investigation Shows Live Chickens on Factory Farm

                                                                        Buried with the Dead; Others Barely Able to Stand,

                                                                        Living in Filth. I may never eat chicken again unless I

                                                                        know how it's been raised and killed.

                                                                        1. my housemate would run raw meat through a dishwasher cycle if he could - I hate watching him wash chicken in the sink splashing chicken water everywhere UGH. He gets annoyed when I try to tell him tap water is not doing anything but spreading the germs around.

                                                                          I generally put raw chicken in a bowl - douse with some white wine vinegar or lemon juice and then remove and pat dry to dress.

                                                                          bowl gets hot soapy water and in the dishwasher