If you’ve been online in the past year, you’ve probably come across an article by the USDA warning people about washing chicken. The internet has been in an uproar about whether it is necessary or not since it’s something they’ve seen their parents and grandparents do forever.
In this post, we’ll discuss what that article really means, and what is the best way to wash chicken if you just can't fathom not washing it.
What Science Says
According to the USDA, washing chicken is not necessary anymore. In the past, when persons butchered their own meat, or when food safety standards were not as they are today, it was a necessity. However, with modern food safety systems where washing is a part of the process, it may do more harm than good.
The reason behind this is cross-contamination. Many of us do it without even realizing it. A simple example of cross-contamination is when you realize you forgot a seasoning, and quickly open your cupboard to find the container. Sure, you washed your hand before handling the chicken, but did you wash them again between rubbing the seasoning in and reaching for that other bottle? Now, all the germs from the chicken are on the cupboard and the seasoning bottle. This increases the risk of foodborne illnesses. Additionally, any water that splashes off of the chicken onto your counter contains contaminants.
The USDA had also concluded in their study that most persons do not sanitize these surfaces properly, and end up putting themselves and others at risk.
So, why do some people still insist on washing chicken?
Why Some People Still Wash Chicken
Well, some persons prefer to follow tradition and should take extra precautions when doing so.
In this case, the CDC advises that you wash your hands with soap and warm water for a minimum of 20 seconds. Wash your hands before and after handling meat, if you have to go to the bathroom, after you’ve finished in the bathroom, before and after handling pets, and before and after sneezing. If you have to pause to help your child or a sick person with something, a hand wash is necessary, no matter how minor it may seem to you. Just one drop of contaminated water can expose your family to illness.
In USDA observational studies, it was concluded that participants failed to wash their hands up to 75% of the time it was necessary. What’s even worse is that up to 99% of the times it was done, it was done incorrectly. Those who washed their hands either failed to do it for at least 20 seconds or forgot to wet their hands before applying soap.
Another way cross-contamination may happen is through the handling of packaging materials. Ensure you wash your hands after discarding packaging and never reuse them.
You must also always clean and sanitize any surface the chicken or its juices may have come in contact with. This includes your sink, countertops, utensils, cutting boards, containers, knobs, cupboards, and whatever else you can think of. You will need hot, soapy water, paper towels, and a disinfectant.
Cleaning involves removing anything visible such as specks of blood, dirt, chicken skin, water, and so forth. Use the hot, soapy water to wipe them down with single-use or paper towels. This is not enough to kill the germs present but helps to contain the spread.
Since certain bacteria can live on surfaces for up to two days, sanitizing and disinfecting are key to preventing illness. Bleach is your best friend, and commercial sanitizers are ideal for killing germs that cause food-borne illnesses.
How To Wash A Chicken Safely
Different people use different methods to wash their chicken. Today, we’re going to show you the traditional method versus a cool hack that saves time and prevents cross-contamination.
You will need:
- The chicken
- White distilled vinegar (or lime juice)
- Disposable gloves
- A large bowl for washing
- A large bowl for seasoning
- Antibacterial hand soap
Step 1: Add 1 part distilled white vinegar (or lime juice) and 4 parts water to a large bowl in your sink. If you don’t have white vinegar, you can use apple cider vinegar
Step 2: Put on your rubber gloves. This will prevent bacteria from going on your hands, and under your fingernails. They are especially useful if you have any small cuts on your hands that can get infected.
Step 3: Gently place the chicken inside of the bowl, and rub the water into the chicken. Be careful not to let the water spill onto other surfaces. Let it soak for about 15 minutes, turning at the 7-minute mark.
Step 4: Pour the water from the bowl, then turn on your kitchen faucet. Let the bowl fill twice as you wash the chicken with plain water to remove the rest of the vinegar.
Step 5: When finished, add the chicken to your seasoning bowl and proceed to clean your workstation.
Step 6: Wash the tainted bowl with hot soapy water and a little bit of bleach. Disinfect all surfaces and remove your gloves.
Step 7: Wash your hands with antibacterial hand soap before touching anything with your bare hands.
You will need:
- The chicken
- Extendable And Adjustable Over The Kitchen Sink Colander Food Strainer
- 360 Kitchen Sink Faucet Aerator Extension Sprayer
- Disposable gloves
- Seasoning bowl
Note: While people use vinegar to kill bacteria on chicken, the only true way to do so is to cook your chicken thoroughly. If you still wish to use vinegar, you may soak it for 10 minutes before beginning this process.
Step 1: Start by putting on your gloves and placing your meat into the colander. This eliminates the need for a bowl and washes and removes liquid at the same time.
Step 2: Turn on your 360 extension sprayer. This easy-to-install faucet cuts down on cleaning time by delivering powerful spraying power. Let the water run for about 5 minutes while turning your chicken, and your chicken should be good to go.
Step 3: Place your washed chicken into your seasoning bowl and proceed to clean your colander. Wash in some warm soapy water with bleach before placing it in your dishwasher.
Step 4: Disinfect your sink.
Handling Raw Chicken And Other Food Items
If you’re making a meal, you should always prepare your other food items before your chicken. Sure, you’re already going to take the proper steps to avoid cross-contamination, but this is just another safety measure.
Let’s say you’re preparing greens and potatoes to go along with your chicken. While these items cook faster and it may seem logical to prepare them while your chicken is being cooked, you’d be surprised how much cross-contamination may occur. The bacteria may not only be present on your hands, but can also be on your countertop, cutting board, sink, and utensils.
It’s always much safer to prepare produce and vegetables first, as they are less likely to contain harmful contaminants. This doesn’t mean you do not need to wash them. Clean them with plain water, and scrub if necessary. Never use soap or any chemicals that can leech into your food and make you sick.
How To Know If Your Chicken Is Safe To Consume
Washing your chicken is not the only way to get rid of bacteria and germs. It is not even the most effective method.
The only way to be sure your chicken is safe to consume is by cooking it to the right temperature. For chicken and ground meat, this ideal internal temperature is 165℉, or about 75℃. This temperature is high enough to kill anything that may cause illness.
This is not the same for all meats. For beef, veal, pork, and lamb, the ideal minimum temperature is 145℉. The same is true for fish and seafood.
Your thermometer must be inserted into the center of the meat, not on the outside as this will give incorrect readings.
The USDA recently published a study on why washing chicken is not necessary, making it the topic of debate for many months. While many persons have disregarded their publications, it is important to bear what was said in mind to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.
Prevent cross-contamination as much as possible by paying attention to your actions. Clean and sanitize all surfaces that have come in contact with the raw chicken thoroughly. Remember to wear gloves when possible, and wash hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with antibacterial hand soap.
If you are planning to prepare other foods with your meat, do so first. This will prevent spreading harmful germs and bacteria to other foods. Wash them under running water, without any soap or chemicals that can leach into food.
When your chicken is finished cooking, the only way to be certain that it is safe to eat and bacteria-free is to check the internal temperature. The ideal internal temperature for chicken is 165℉.