CDC Says Not to Wash Your Chicken, and the Internet Is Confused
I’m no iron chef, but there are a few kitchen do’s and dont’s that I’ve learned mostly through trial and error. First, don’t just put a frozen piece of meat in a dry frying pan and expect it to not eventually set off the smoke alarm in your tiny apartment. Second, seasoning can compensate for a complete and total lack of culinary skills. Finally, and most importantly, to avoid foodborne illnesses, wash that damn chicken.
Welp, it turns out that last part might isn’t true after all, at least according to a little organization called the Centers for Disease Control. In a recent tweet, the CDC advises that washing a chicken will only end up making it more likely to spread bacteria, and it’s caught the internet off guard.
The CDC’s website goes into further detail about what’s on your chicken and why you shouldn’t rinse it off. “Raw chicken is often contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria and sometimes with Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens bacteria,” it reads. “During washing, chicken juices can spread in the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils, and countertops.”
So in essence, washing your chicken is just a convenient way to spread salmonella to whatever else is in your kitchen or sink at the time. And if you’re still thinking that washing other meats before cooking them makes sense, you’re wrong again. According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, washing meat before cooking doesn’t really do anything productive at all.
“Some consumers think they are removing bacteria and making their meat or poultry safe. However, some of the bacteria are so tightly attached that you could not remove them no matter how many times you washed,” a USDA explainer from all the way back in 2013 reads. “But there are other types of bacteria that can be easily washed off and splashed on the surfaces of your kitchen.”
Though the case for not washing raw chicken sounds logical enough, it still sparked something of a debate on Twitter. Some people out there definitely seem repulsed by the unwashed masses.
Others seemed shocked to learn that washing chicken was even a thing.
Eventually, even the CDC had to jump in to reiterate their point.
So what should you do instead? Basically, isolate raw chicken to prevent it from basically touching anything, ever. The CDC advises using a separate cutting board, washing your hands with soap and hot water before and after handling raw chicken, and making sure that other foods or anything you’re eating off of don’t come into contact with that raw chicken.
Maybe this whole saga has taught you to stop washing your chicken. Maybe it’s taught you that there are weirdos out there who wash their chicken. Either way, knowledge is power.