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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

                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~^^this^^

                  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..
                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8791...

                            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.
                                  http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/myt...

                                  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.

                        http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Factsheets/D...

                        http://www.realsimple.com/magazine-mo...

                        http://shine.yahoo.com/shine-food/don...

                        http://www.thekitchn.com/handling-raw...

                        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.