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April 6, 2009 7:17 AM   Subscribe

Do you rinse off your chicken before cooking?

Mr. Wocka and I were at home yesterday preparing a salad with grilled chicken in it. We bought a package of chicken breasts from the refrigerated area of the meat department - they were not frozen, but definitely >41 degrees. At home, he took them out of the packaging and started rinsing each breast off under water. I was taken aback and had an odd expression on my face because I had never seen this done before, much less ever contemplated doing so.

Doing so makes no sense to me. After cutting the small amounts of fat off, and heating up the grill, all of this meat was thoroughly cooked. I have even taken ServSafe classes (though never worked in a commercial kitchen) and had not seen or heard of this before. I do not see the point, but understand that others do.

So I ask you: do you rinse your chicken off before thoroughly cooking? If so, why? Any potential for salmonella will be wiped out after being cooked through to 165 degrees.
posted by wocka wocka wocka to Food & Drink (40 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't but I've seen plenty of people rinse chicken before cooking it.
posted by foodgeek at 7:19 AM on April 6, 2009

I never did. I read that rinsing it is just another way of accidentally spreading salmonella around your kitchen.
posted by at 7:20 AM on April 6, 2009

Not religiously, but sometimes. Depends on whether a recipe asks me to, and maybe whether I'm in an especially cootie-sensitive mood.

Rinsing the chicken with non-chilled water can warm the surface of the meat enough that moisture from the air stops condensing on the surface, so it stays dry after you pat it with paper towels. The drier surface is good for either adhering herbs and spices, or avoiding splatter when cooking in fat.
posted by jon1270 at 7:26 AM on April 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

Never have. I would think that the outer surface is the part that will heat up quickest, and stay hottest through the cooking process. I suppose the surface of the meat might be the first place bacteria would begin to breed, but I'd rather not wash those bacteria into my sink, where it may not get hot enough to completely kill them.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:28 AM on April 6, 2009

i do lots of the time, mostly because it makes it less slimy. very scientific of me, i know.
posted by domino at 7:29 AM on April 6, 2009

Any chance he was brought up in a kosher- or I suppose halal?- home? It's pretty standard to rinse kosher chicken, because part of the process involves brining, and that leads to very salty (but delicious!) chicken.
posted by charmcityblues at 7:33 AM on April 6, 2009

I don't as a general rule, but I have. I've only ever done it if the chicken seems a bit slimy to me. I don't know why it sometimes is slimy, because I've never used past-the-expiration-date chicken, ever. It doesn't happen often, either.

Now I have to wonder why chicken occasionally gets slimy.
posted by cooker girl at 7:35 AM on April 6, 2009

Nope. But we get our meat/poultry fresh from the butcher.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:36 AM on April 6, 2009

I always wash my chicken, but I do in fact always brine my chicken. I don't keep kosher, but its the way I was taught to cook chicken and if I do it any other way, it tastes weird.
posted by strixus at 7:38 AM on April 6, 2009

I rinse if it's slimy (I find pork chops are the worst for this), or if I need to pat it dry for some reason. I find it easiest to rinse and pat seems to come out drier.
posted by cabingirl at 7:41 AM on April 6, 2009

I do. For reasons of (possibly sometimes imaginary) slime. I never thought it was saving me from salmonella or anything.
posted by t0astie at 7:41 AM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There's an anecdote I have read a number of times about this: when Jacques Pepin and Julia Child were cooking a chicken on an episode of their show, Julia washed, or said something about washing the chicken. Jacques said he never washes the bird, and when Julia said she did it for hygiene, Jacques said something like "If whatever is on the chicken survives the heat of the oven, it deserves to live." I wish I could find a Youtube of it for you.
posted by synecdoche at 7:42 AM on April 6, 2009 [7 favorites]

I have always thought of that as an old-timey thing to do. Perhaps back in the day doing so was necessary in order to wash off the last of the feathers or something, or even just that some may think it's more sanitary (there's a lot of squeamishness about raw chicken in general).

I don't usually rinse chicken unless it has been brined or I am planning to pat it dry with paper towels. As was mentioned before, it seems to be a lot easier to pat it completely dry of some of the surface sliminess is washed away (and I usually only encounter that with skin-on chicken).
posted by DrGirlfriend at 7:49 AM on April 6, 2009

I will rinse out a whole chicken for roasting, mainly to make sure everything's out of the cavity. When I buy parts, I don't bother to rinse.
posted by trip and a half at 7:51 AM on April 6, 2009

Always rinse. Some of that is for slime management and some of it is to help get rid of the nasty bits (veins, tendons, et al.) that I trim away before cooking.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:53 AM on April 6, 2009

Best answer: synechdoche, that's my favorite Jacques Pepin quote, and it's at about 1:15 in this video. It gets better every time I see it. "Oh, I think that's a very French thing to do." "Julia, I live in Connecticut..." I stopped washing my chicken (and, by the way, splattering chicken-infested water all over my kitchen) the day I saw this for the first time -- and yet, I live.
posted by range at 7:57 AM on April 6, 2009 [5 favorites]

Always. After reading about what happens in chicken plants, especially.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:57 AM on April 6, 2009

And whether or not you do it, I'm sort of surprised you are surprised: almost every chicken recipe starts with "rinse the chicken."
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:00 AM on April 6, 2009

I always do - the chicken is super slimy, and I usually wash it off in water with vinegar.

I'm also the crazy guy who washes his fruits and vegetables.
posted by EastCoastBias at 8:08 AM on April 6, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for everyone's insight. Your answers/reasons are more comprehensive than my own thoughts on food safety.

CharmCityBlues - he was not raised Kosher

FWIW, when cooking a whole chicken I see reasons to wash the chicken (somewhat), and do so when brining.

CunningLinquist - I rarely follow a recipe when preparing chicken, so I never see the "wash the chicken" part of the instructions. Good to know it is there, but it is probably not something I will normally follow.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 8:09 AM on April 6, 2009

Best answer: I've never rinsed a chicken or chicken parts unless I've taken it out of the freezer and I want to thaw it quickly, or if the meat is slimy (very very rare, and would cause me to be suspicious of the meat). I think the risk of spreading chicken water around (which if not cleaned up may become a massive salmonella breeding ground) is much greater than the risk of eating any bacteria that manage to live after the cooking. Furthermore, I highly doubt a simple water rinsing would be strong enough to get rid of any serious bacteria, at least not at temperatures that wouldn't cause part of the meat to start cooking, or without any type of soap which may affect the flavour.
posted by Meagan at 8:18 AM on April 6, 2009

I was taught how to cook by my mother, who was raised in a kosher household, and was taught to always rinse chicken.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:29 AM on April 6, 2009

The most important time to rinse is prior to putting it into a marinade. To the extent that there are dangerous germs on the chicken they tend to be one the exterior and rinsing should reduce the load substantially. Don't rinse and they will now be on a marinade which will help carry them into the meat where they are less likely to get killed during cooking, especially if you tend to cook your chicken on the less well done side. On the other hand, acidic marinades should kill germs. Even here though the increased risk of cross infection from splashing rinse water all over the place probably outweigh the likely mild benefits of rinsing.
posted by caddis at 8:30 AM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I always rinse it. If you're not worried about salmonella contamination (which you should be), then how about the person who handled the chicken before you did? A stray hair, a bit of an unclean butcher knife and consider that most people purchase their poultry from supermarkets where the staff isn't as trained, sanitary or concerned about you personally as one might find at the butcher shops of decades ago.
posted by eatdonuts at 8:45 AM on April 6, 2009

Best answer: I always rinse the chicken when I am going to bread it or otherwise coat it. Makes it easier, in my opinion, for the breading to adhere.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 8:52 AM on April 6, 2009

Always. Or at least I always intend to; I imagine my beloved has seen me absent-mindedly chuck a piece of chicken straight from the package to the frying pan at least once just because I'm a giant spaz.

In part, because there might be crud there, even nonharmful crud, and I limit my crud intake to Dairy Queen. Even if it's not going to kill me, why eat residue of liquid chicken feces if I don't have to?

In part, because even if any bacteria might be killed in the oven or pan, that doesn't mean that all the toxins they might have produced were fully denatured or otherwise made harmless.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:52 AM on April 6, 2009

Best answer: From Cooks Illustrated:
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.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:52 AM on April 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

But my husband can't stop himself from rinsing nonetheless.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:53 AM on April 6, 2009

Even if it's not going to kill me, why eat residue of liquid chicken feces if I don't have to?

Exactly. Like I said, I always used to ignore to rinsing, at least when using just parts, but then I saw a documentary about chicken plants and bleccch. I'm not worried about bacteria, I'm just trying to wash away those images.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:04 AM on April 6, 2009

If you do wash it, you might want to dry it, or let it dry, especially if you want crispy skin.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:12 AM on April 6, 2009

Same as trip and a half, I only rinse whole chickens before roasting, to clean out the cavity. Other than that, no.
posted by Joh at 9:22 AM on April 6, 2009

wife of Taurid always does. She says she doesn't know what the places are like that the chicken was processed in and it only takes a second or two to do. She also pats it dry afterwards. You never know if a small feather or two is on there....or something else.
posted by Taurid at 10:27 AM on April 6, 2009

I rinse all meat because I don't like how the slimy-ness feels, but also, because I picture that whoever packaged it, or whoever manually put the fish on ice before I bought it could've had dirty gloves on, or dropped it on the floor and not cared, or anything - it's like washing fruit. It's not so much chicken-bacteria I'm trying to rinse off, but possible dust/dirt from wherever it was before it got to my fridge.

And always pat dry with a paper towel to make the outside crispy when cooking.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 10:34 AM on April 6, 2009

Having read a little about how meat is processed in the US, I rinse chicken when I remember. The sink should be empty, and I rinse the sink out when I wash my hands thoroughly after handling chicken.
posted by theora55 at 10:50 AM on April 6, 2009

Rinsing chicken makes absolutely no sense to me and I've never done it. Washing hands requires soap and warm water for about 20 seconds. I can't imagine why a quick rinse would remove bacteria on raw meat when this doesn't work for your hands. The cooking process is what actually kills bacteria.
posted by ob at 11:56 AM on April 6, 2009

[Aside: thanks, Range, for the link to the video! I could watch these two forever.]
posted by synecdoche at 2:49 PM on April 6, 2009

I do, even though I know it's not logical. I have mild germphobia and rinsing the chicken just makes me feel better.

But lately I get around the germphobia by rarely cooking chicken.
posted by sugarfish at 3:49 PM on April 6, 2009

Well it looks like you got your answer, but I just wanted to pipe in to say that I definitely learned something today. I always rinsed my chicken, but when thinking about it logically it makes no sense at all. And ew chicken water bacteria all over the sink. Yuck.
posted by radioamy at 5:16 PM on April 6, 2009

Reading this question made me realize that sometimes I wash it and sometimes I don't. I don't wash other meats. When I do wash it, it seems to be for no good reason except habit; my mom always washed it.

However, I did want to say that I wash the frozen ones because it thaws them faster and gets all the excess liquid off when I dry them after; otherwise all the ice crystals coating them melt and it's gross and slimey. I almost never wash unfrozen meat.
posted by Nattie at 5:51 PM on April 6, 2009

No, you do not need to rinse your chicken. If there's that much of a fear of contaminated meat you shouldn't be cooking with it to begin with.

The only times you need to rinse chicken (or any meat) is when you are working on extremely French preparations that require absolute pristine perfection--e.g. lack of colour--in the final dish.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:39 PM on April 6, 2009

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