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Wash or not wash raw turkey, poultry or beef prior to cooking?

Is there an upside or down side to washing meat prior to cooking? Whole turkey and chickens come from the store with quite a bit of liquid in them. What's best to do and why?

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  1. Current guidelines say NOT to wash. You won't actually clean the meat and will likely spread any surface bacteria around the kitchen.

    20 Replies
    1. re: CanadaGirl

      That makes no sense. Of course, you won't get rid of my bacteria lingering inside the meat, but why would you cook something that has surface yuck on it from the meat packer/ butcher/grocery store?! You don't know where that piece of meat has been before it was packaged up nicely for you. Nothing wrong with rinsing it in cold water before cooking. It's not that hard to clean up your sink with those Clorox wipes after rinsing it. I've done that for years, never have contaminated anything by doing it.

      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

        Apparently they think no one cleans their sink and counters afterwards.

        1. re: Dirtywextraolives

          You may obviously do as you choose. I do not wash my meat; if I am concerned the counter where it was purchased is dirty, I am not shopping there. I also, for various reasons, avoid bleach and many cleaners as much as possible.

          According to the FDA: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FACTSheets/D...

          UK Food Standards: http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdf...

          Canada's Food Inspection Agency also recommend NOT washing poultry and meat before cooking.

          1. re: CanadaGirl

            Excellent link. I had heard "not to wash" but my gut says wash when it looks yucky.

            1. re: SamVee

              if it looks "yucky", why are you purchasing it?

              restaurant health codes are to NOT wash meat or poultry, due to the possibility of cross-contamination. professional kitchens feed way more people than you do at home.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                I've also gone over to the "not wash" side. From what I've read, it's not just the gunk that gets in the sink or countertops, but aerosolized bacteria that gets sprayed on adjacent coffee-maker, wine bottles, etc So, one less prep step for the Pine household.
                I do, however, wash my hands/forearms as if I'm doing turkey surgery.

                1. re: pine time

                  but aerosolized bacteria that gets sprayed on adjacent coffee-maker, wine bottles, etc


                  So, one less prep step for the Pine household.

                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~^^and this^^.


                    1. re: pine time

                      Perhaps that happens at your home, but it doesn't appear to happen at mine. My coffee pot is sealed, so there's no way aerosolized anything gets into it. And since I have three sinks, it is only the middle sink with the disposal that gets the bird or meat put into it, and then all three sinks, faucet and surrounding counters get sanitized afterward. I also make sure to never have any fresh produce around while I am rinsing off the bird. And mainly I just do it for birds; last night for my skirt steaks, I did not rinse, just dried off with paper towels.

                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                        I am coming to the belief that the more "over"clean people are, the more likely they are to get sick from food borne contaminants. The research is starting to come in to support the premise. See, e.g. http://www.johnson-family-chiropracti... ("Researchers claim that they've found a subset of the population who has a higher incidence of peanut allergies: the middle class. The upshot of the article is that the wealthier a family tends to be... then the cleaner their house and environment is kept... then the children growing up in these houses encounter fewer bacteria and viruses... then these children have underdeveloped immune systems which are itching for a fight... then these immune systems erroneously identify peanuts as an allergen (enemy).")

                          1. re: MGZ

                            I get your point. However, I doubt anyone would call my house "over clean", LOL! And I have two children, neither of which has any allergies to anything. But I do believe the research about the overuse of antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers, and how they have contributed to the rise of superbugs.

                            1. re: MGZ

                              It is a mistake to take this hypothesis as an excuse for being reckless with the handling of poultry. Poultry can contain some pathogens which are dangerous even to people with healthy immune systems.

                              It is also a mistake, in my opinion, to take any medical advice at all from a chiropractor.

                              1. re: GH1618

                                nobody is suggesting reckless poultry handling, lol. however, the simple fact is that health departments who inspect restaurants do NOT recommend washing of animal proteins before cooking. they are responsible for the health of millions of diners. if it was "better" or "cleaner" to do so, that would be policy. it's not and it isn't.

                                it's not something i was taught in culinary school, nor have i seen it done in any professional kitchen. home cooks can sometimes be their own worst enemies.

                          2. re: pine time

                            Ya got me thinking now, and appealing to my near dominant lazy side ;)
                            TracyL's comment may apply at times..

                            1. re: wavywok

                              the aerosolized bacteria is prevalent in the loo, too...fecal bacteria found on toothbrushes stored 3-4 feet from the toilet. So, I'll stand by my no rinse meat, which also appeals to my lazy nature. YMMV.

                              1. re: pine time

                                True, one reason I always close the lid before flushing the toilet. But it makes one wonder, why aren't more people coming down with sicknesses from that?

                                1. re: pine time

                                  They did this topic on Mythbusters and found there was fecal matter on toothbrushes that had been stored in other rooms as well. It may be unavoidable.

                                  1. re: Sooeygun

                                    Interesting, sooeygun. I've also ready of fecal matter on washed towels and then your hands in transferring from the washer to the dryer. We're getting away from the food implications, I guess, but to me, it's a matter of a little "dirt" helps build healthy immune systems. Just a matter of how much "dirt" you want to innoculate yourself with!

                  1. I rinse packaged poultry, especially whole chickens and then pat dry and season. It was something my mom taught me as young girl and I have never really thought twice about it.

                      1. re: pagesinthesun

                        +1, for do not wash. Did a quick search and did not see a single one that said rinse. One exception would be if there are bone fragments or residue from giblets. Defrosting in water if want to cook immediately does work great. In those cases make sure you wipe down your sink / counter / area and wash your hands afterwards.





                        1. re: smaki

                          We do.

                          The bird, be it Chicken, Turkey, Duck, or Geese, in placed in a pre-cleaned sink, and remains there until ready for the pot, roasting spit, or pan.

                          Never on a sink or countertop. If cooked (based on our thermometer), only then on a cutting board washable mat for trimming, cutting, or ahead of serving.

                          1. re: smaki

                            How do you know there are bone fragments or giblet residue on it if you don't rinse it off?? Why not just assume there are, as it was just in a processing plant, and rinse anyway?? WTH is wrong with rinsing it off "just in case"??

                          2. I always rinse meat and poultry to get rid of "bag gunk" (that is a phrase I learned here on Chowhound). As for spreading bacteria around the kitchen, well, I do clean my kitchen so that is not worrisome to me. Do as you see fit, and don't tret too much about it.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: iluvcookies

                              Since half the time we are putting frozen chicken in water to thaw the question is often moot, when doing a whole bird I mostly wash actually SO does and then I follow up with the bleach spray.
                              CanadaGirl why do you avoid bleach?

                              1. re: wavywok

                                Chlorine kills good and bad bugs and too much of it is harmful to the general environment. I do know that there are times when it is the only reasonable option, but I feel that many people use it when not necessary.

                                I have a small bottle of bleach, which I've had for a good 5 years and is not even half gone. I use alternate disinfectants in my kitchen. They have to sit for 10 minutes to be effective, but it's a price I'm willing to pay.

                            2. The thought is if there is a lot of bad bacteria on the poultry then it will be cooked off. I usually don't wash poultry, but a chef friend was asked why some chicken smelled bad only a few days after purchasing it and several days before the expiration date. He said just the juices were bad and the chicken may be fine. He suggested thoroughly washing and patting dry the chicken and then giving the meat a sniff test. That was great advice because when I had that issue the meat itself smelled fine. I grilled at a high heat then at first then at normal temp and had no ill effects. With that said I wouldn't do this if a member of the household had a compromised immune system and I wouldn't feed the cook portion to my pets.

                              Whatever you decide it always a good idea to be consistent, if you do wash, clean all surfaces and your hands and arms thoroughly and cook the meat thoroughly.

                              1. Poultry processing often includes some sort of disinfectant. Washing a bird (whole bird out of a chryo pack) will more likely introduce contaminant then dispell it. Patting a bird dry with paer towels is the best way to get rid of "purge" (that is the trade name for "bag gunk").

                                Cuts from 4 legged mammals should already be pretty clean when you purchase them. A whole primal or sub primal will have; come out of a cryo pack, be peeled, trimmed, cut, fabricated, trayed, and wrapped in a clean work space. The exceptin would be bone in cuts that went on a saw, but those are wiped clean or scraped.

                                If you get beef wet and let it sit for any amount of time it will start to darken.

                                Buy good meat from a good source and you needn't work about the sanitary conditions.

                                1. I never wash meat - ever. Given that there is no real benefit, why would anyone?

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: MGZ

                                    I always rinse off meat. It's something my grandmother always does and that's what I do too. I have gotten some nasty stuff before. Someone in my family purchased a frozen turkey and when it thawed out I saw that it had yellow scum all over it. It smelled fine, but just looked rough. I have seen the yellow scum on fresh turkeys but just in tiny places. This thing was covered in it. No way was I going to roast it with that stuff all over it. My grandmother always put her turkey in the sink and soaked it in salt water.

                                    The benefit is just rinsing off anything that may have gotten on it during processing, or when the butcher who was having a bad day dropped it on the floor and neglected to clean it off before packaging.

                                    1. re: AnnieWilliams

                                      Butchers don't package turkeys. They are packaged where they are slaughtered and processed. a great deal of this is mechanical and there isn't anyone dropping anything on the floor.

                                      1. re: Brandon Nelson

                                        If we aren't there, we have no idea what is going on. I live in a very agricultural area. My grandmother lives within a few miles of a poultry processing plant where my cousin worked. Don't assume that because it's largely mechanical that nothing gets dropped on the floor or mishandled. I heard some horror stories. Human error is always present.

                                  2. For some reason I never rinse red meat, but always give all poultry & seafood a quick rinse under cold running water. I place a cutting board or large platter right next to & even overlapping the sink so that there's very little chance of contaminated drips. And I make sure to thoroughly clean the sink faucet & handles immediately thereafter.

                                    No problems after decades of doing this. I think the key is to plan ahead & be careful. You don't want to be carrying a dripping raw chicken across the room to your pan or cutting board. Minimal travel.

                                    1. I never rinse the meat on account of I am going to be cooking the meat, cooked meat is pretty safe.

                                      I wash everything that the non-cooked meat or meat juice touches, also everything that I touch after handling the meat.

                                      If I were to rinse the meat it would just give me a greater surface area of the sink to wash.

                                      1. Never. If there's something obvious on my meat I'll pick it off (but why was i buying it in the first place?) otherwise i just cook it. Anything harmful that could possibly be washed off will be killed so who cares?

                                        1. The recommendation is do NOT rinse. There was a study that concluded that washing chicken can contaminate a 6 foot radius beyond the sink.

                                          Personally, I think a 6 foot radius is extreme which feeds into people's fears about poultry. I always wash poultry and meat out of cryovac bags. Beef I don't rinse since the meat tends to be dry, but I do scrape to remove any bandsaw remnants.

                                          What's the best to do?
                                          What makes you comfortable.
                                          If you are okay rinsing poultry, like I am, go for it. If you're afraid of bacteria being sprayed and spreading, skip the rinsing.

                                          It all comes down to common sense, prep foods meant to be eaten raw first before prepping meats or food that are meant to be cooked.

                                          18 Replies
                                          1. re: dave_c

                                            The recommendation does not imply that there is no good that comes from washing. It only implies that, statistically speaking, there will be more incidents of people suffering from contamination as a result of washing than there will be incidents of illness / unwanted effects due to not washing.

                                            If you do your washing carefully, you can stack the odds in your favor. And you won't have to worry as much about worms or dirt in your food (even if they are fried / baked etc.)

                                            You don't have to be enslaved to someone else's measurement of statistical probability.

                                            1. re: calumin

                                              I don't typically find worms hanging out on the exterior of my poultry, don't know about you.

                                              1. re: jgg13

                                                Well then go right ahead and eat whatever slime might be hanging out on your chicken skin!

                                                I personally don't find it to be very clean.

                                                1. re: calumin

                                                  worms hanging on the side of a chicken is a bit different than not being "very clean". If I saw worms crawling around on poultry in a store I'd cease buying poultry from that store. Likewise if I saw dirt.

                                                  As for "slime"? Who cares, if it is bad it'll be cooked off anyways.

                                                  1. re: jgg13

                                                    I don't see the chicken bag juices being bad. I do see the bag juices being extra moisture that becomes a hindrance to browning and acts as a barrier for seasonings.

                                                    For chicken, I usually pull out the extra fat, rinse and paper towel dry.

                                                    1. re: dave_c

                                                      Extra juices may not be "bad" initially, but they are the first to spoil. And who wants to cook a chicken that's been sitting in rotting blood juices?!?! Not me..... Thanks anyway, I'll take the zero....

                                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                        it's not blood. animals are bled out immediately after they are slaughtered.

                                                        where do you people shop that your meat is slimy? i mean, seriously? try another store for cryin' out loud. i also don't buy proteins that have been injected or brined. you have options.

                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                          Um, sorry, I know you went to culinary school and all, but my dear friend, who is also a chef with culinary school degrees, described it as blood. Now I'm sure he knew it wasn't the actual blood, as he is quite familiar with the blood-letting process of butchering. Nonetheless, the excess liquid that leaches from the carcass of any animal does indeed have some blood proteins mixed in with its muscle tissue..... Nonetheless, in my house, it gets rinsed off. And no, my meat is never slimy.

                                                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives


                                                            this is a how-to for small farms to slaughter, bleed and butcher. improperly bled animals would be rotting before they even got to market.

                                                            that most americans buys their meats shrinkwrapped in styro removes them from the reality of eating a dead animal.

                                                            once i was eating at a local legendary pizza place that butchers its own lamb for grilling. they do it during the day when the place is quiet. a lady realized what they were doing and became hysterical. out. of. her. mind. bawling and yelling. they made her leave. it made me very happy. and my lamb tips were delicious.

                                                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                              I always figured it was just stuff from the muscle tissues, myoglobin and the like.

                                                        2. re: dave_c

                                                          so...... you add more moisture to a product you already think is too wet? why not just pat dry what you've got? alternatively, let it air-dry overnight -- uncovered in the fridge.

                                                      2. re: calumin

                                                        My point is that people generally wash other foods before they eat them, but with poultry they instead make arguments saying that it's probably really clean - as if going through a poultry plant then sitting in packaging in a highly manufactured process will somehow make it more clean than other foods.

                                                        People will rinse off vegetables then put them in a pan to cook. But with poultry, people instead say that whatever might be lurking on the skin should just be part of the cooking process and add to the flavor.

                                                        The reason people say this is because of some study that proposes that if you wash the skin then you're more likely to get sick by contaminating your kitchen area. My point was that if you wash your poultry carefully, you can gain the benefits of cleaning your food without worrying about contamination. The study should not be taken to mean "don't wash your food" - it should imply "don't contaminate your workspace."

                                                        1. re: calumin

                                                          Unless there is visible dirt on something, I don't wash it. I use the same bags repeatedly for produce. I don't get sick. Maybe Darwin was on to something?

                                                          1. re: calumin

                                                            ***The study should not be taken to mean "don't wash your food" - it should imply "don't contaminate your workspace."***

                                                            This. Exactly.

                                                            1. re: calumin

                                                              I rarely wash anything. Certain kinds of produce that tend to have dirt or sand or whatever all over them. Otherwise I just eat it as is.

                                                              So no, your point is flawed.

                                                              1. re: calumin

                                                                Because vegetables grow in the DIRT and we are rinsing off dirt. If I see no dirt and the veg will be cooked, or if it's prewashed, I don't bother. Chickens don't grow in dirt.

                                                                1. re: calumin

                                                                  It's not just "some study", it's multiple studies an assessments from government agencies and universities around the world. It has been accepted by the relevant scientific community that regardless of how careful one is when rinsing the meat, bacteria is likely to spread to surrounding areas that do not appear to be splashed at all.

                                                                  It's fine (obviously) to make your own decisions about washing, but it doesn't make the experts wrong.

                                                          2. Dry meat, like a steaks, pork chops, or skin-on chicken legs, I do not wash. Directly into pan they go!

                                                            But if it has "bag juice" like whole birds, corned beef, or pork loin, I do wash and then pat dry with paper towel to remove said juice. It's just blood, brine, or water defrosted from meat. Do not want.

                                                            1. Like a few others here, my grandmother & mother rinsed meat before cooking; my grandparents raised their own meat. I always do the same. If I saw meat being panned up & cooked without rinsing, under no circumstance would I eat it. And on another note, I've worked in restaurants before; you may want to think about how your meat is treated before eating it when you frequent these type of establishments. My thought is, not everyone is as clean as I am. I'm not worried about bacteria due to washing. That's what disinfectant is for.

                                                              I am concerned those handling my meat before purchase may have scratched their private parts, dug up their noses or touched their hair without my knowing then package my meat. You may not can see it but it's there....Those who don't wash their meat may want to think about it. To each his/her own.

                                                              9 Replies
                                                                1. re: Cherylptw

                                                                  restaurant cooks are required to wear gloves and so are food processors...

                                                                  so now you're worried about other's bodily fluids, not that of the chicken? sooo... do you never eat out?

                                                                  just because my mother or grandmother did something doesn't mean it was right or good. they both smoked, ya know? i am not trying to argue and i know i am not going to change anybody's mind. i just think most americans have become absolute germ-a-phobes, and even more are woefully out of touch with how their meat gets to their plate.

                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                    I don't know where you live but here in NC, cooks are not required to wear gloves by law...the restaurant owner might require it or they might not. I've worked in places where they did not. The same goes for food processors; I worked in a frozen confectionary plant once. They did not require gloves.

                                                                    And it's not NOW I'm worried about other's bodily fluids; I've ALWAYS been concerned about other's bodily fluids. Which is why I do what I can do to make sure my food is clean. I think it may be you who is out of touch with how food gets to a plate..if you know anything at all about animal processing, you would know there is the possibility of residue on meat as it gets from point A to the consumer and as long as human hands or any device that can harbor bacteria touches it, there will continue to be. My grandmother & mother may not have been right in you're opinion, but they never killed anyone from their food and it works for me. No arguements here, you're entitled to your opinion. It has no bearing on me at all.

                                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                      Perhaps we have become a nation of germophobes, but its for better though, in my opinion. I would prefer to live and raise my family in a more sanitary manner than they way we lived fifty or a hundred or more years ago. And even my grandparents who grew up and worked on farms still had the sense to rinse off their freshly killed poultry because, like it or not, and I believe most Americans have figured this out already, BIRDS LIVE IN SQUALOR, as do many other farm animals. Now I'm not trying to get into some debate over the benefits of factory farming over other methods, we can save that for another topic. But nonetheless, no matter WHERE the poultry is raised, be it my great grand uncle's back yard or Farmer john's out in the country a few hundred miles from where I shop, they are still filthy and I am not assuming my local processing plant is up to snuff, as we all know how understaffed and overworked the USDA is. I, for one, will not rely on my Govt, however all knowing and Big Brotherly it is becoming, to ensure my poultry's cleanliness, up to my standards.

                                                                      And you may be completely right as to the distance we Americans have put ourselves between our food and ourselves. But, for better or for worse, that is what we call, in the western world, PROGRESS. Some don't like it..... That's okay. The majority of us do.

                                                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                        You are correct in noting that poultry are dirty, but no amount of washing will make them clean. The only way to protect yourself from the pathogens which can be found in poultry is proper cooking.

                                                                        1. re: GH1618

                                                                          I would like to think washing the carcass would protect my family & I from any pathogens ON the bird, not in it's meat, obviously only cooking it could do that.

                                                                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                            What we'd like is not always what is true . . . .

                                                                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                                                              Maybe washing with bleach or soap would, but how exactly do you think rinsing with water will?

                                                                              1. re: christy319

                                                                                water only rinses away surface dirt, not pathogens.

                                                                                in the meantime, after being bled, birds are SCALDED to more easily remove the feathers. that's ferociously hot water. then rinsed and often sprayed with some sort of disinfectant. they are then kept at cold enough temps to prevent growth or spread of any potential pathogens. once you get them home, proper storage and safe cooking temps are your best friends. there is no magic elixir coming from your stainless steel faucet.

                                                                                if washing with water somehow makes you feel better go right ahead. it's doing nothing to remove remnant pathogens from the bird, the handlers or the processing plant.

                                                                                and yeah, i have seen food inc., and all of that. i am under no illusion that most large-scale meat and poultry plants are anything but horrible places. that being said, i just cook my food properly and have never had any issues.

                                                                                as with another poster, i rinse sandy produce, like leeks and radish, but anything being put in water i do not. rinsing isn't going to kill the e.coli on my tomato.

                                                                    2. There is absolutely no reason to "wash" meat unless you want to spread bacteria around your kitchen. Anyone who "washes" their meat is not being clean: they are being slightly more dirty. That is why the recommendation is to NOT wash chicken. It's not being lazy, it's basic food safety.

                                                                      Yeah, my mom rinsed off poultry in the sink. She also served asparagus out of the can. She doesn't do either of these things anymore, because neither is a good idea.

                                                                      If your chicken looks gross or dirty at the store, don't buy it. It seems like that would be common sense. A quick pat dry will dry up any juices from the bag. If you're really concerned, buy a high quality chicken that hasn't been injected with a saline solution, so you won't have many juices to begin with.

                                                                      1. I only rinse whole birds and only the inside.i do dry all my meat for the most part. My question is to the briners...how does one disposed of te water without contaminating? I am not a neat freak buy the inside of the turkey/chicken are the only parts that ever seem to "need" it.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: melpy

                                                                          since I brine my turkeys in cooler on the porch I just dump the brine in the woods and then wash out the cooler with soap and a hose.

                                                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                                                            I do brine poultry. I do so in a large glass bowl. I carefully place the bowl inside the dishwasher, pour the liquid into the bottom of the machine, put the bowl in the rack and wash. Seems the simplest to me.

                                                                        2. I wash my chicken, only from habit. But I don't mind it not being washed beforehand. Reason why? Restaurants don't wash their chickens and I eat out at restaurants frequently. If I were afraid of unwashed chickens, I would not be eating out. Those who claim that it's dirty to not wash chickens prior to cooking should probably avoid chickens in restaurants -- along with many other things.

                                                                          1. I find it hilarious that so many people think rinsing with water will wash off pathogens, will protect you from "someone scratching their privates" then touching the bird, (as one poster said), protect you from anything it might have picked up when dropped on the floor, etc.

                                                                            PEOPLE. It's WATER. Rinsing with water does nothing to kill germs/bacteria/pathogens. Do you only rinse your hands with cold water after using a public restroom, too? Do you seriously think water has some kind of protective power?

                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                            1. re: christy319

                                                                              I think it's funny that the conclusion that some people are coming to with this thread is to not bother washing anything because water has no ability clean at all.

                                                                              1. re: calumin

                                                                                My main reason is that I don't think it'd matter much. But that said I do think that christy319's point is a solid one. Why do you think that surgeons go through a heavy scrub procedure instead of just a quick rinse under some water?

                                                                                1. re: jgg13

                                                                                  I agree (and it is scientific fact) that rinsing isn't going to help you much if your food is already contaminated. If you have sprouts that have been contaminated with e.coli, you're screwed unless you cook them very well- no matter how much you rinse.

                                                                                  Rinsing can reduce the concentration of some bacteria (also proven in studies) but won't get it all off.

                                                                                  But if your butcher had a dandruff spell while handling your poultry... or if any of a thousand scenarios happened before it got to your package, rinsing can help with that.

                                                                                  The idea that washing is dangerous, however, is dumb. Rinse if you want, and be aware that its benefits may be limited.

                                                                                  1. re: calumin

                                                                                    If there's dandruff on my steak and I notice it i'd probably just wipe it off. If I didn't notice it, who cares? it's not going to hurt me.

                                                                              2. re: christy319

                                                                                Agreed. At the end of the day, we're talking about the skin and meat of a dead bird. It's not fit for human consumption until it's fully cooked. Splashing it with water is not going to magically change that.

                                                                                1. re: christy319

                                                                                  Yes. Washing chicken by rinsing with water is like rinsing your hands off after using the bathroom. Unless you're using sanitizer, you're not getting rid of the germs. It is funny that people are going to be eating meat and skin but are turned off by the possibility that blood or another chicken part might remain. Cook your meat to a safe temperature; if not, no amount of rinsing is going to save you.