Washing chicken before cooking it may seem hygienic. Researchers say, however, that professional chefs and home cooks have it all wrong.
If germs were visible to the naked eye, the eye would see that washing poultry only splashes bacteria on to human skin and to everything else nearby: work surfaces, countertops, kitchen towels, cooking equipment, and clothing.
One of the types of bacteria the practice spreads is Campylobacter.
Campylobacter is a spiral-shaped type of bacteria that contains at least 16 different species, including C. coli, C. jejuni and C. upsaliensis.
Campylobacter is the culprit for most food poisoning cases in a number of countries. Exposure to it may lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhoea and vomiting, as well as some other serious health problems, as any certified food handler would know.
Neither cold water nor fruit acids will kill Campylobacter. The only way to get rid of it is to cook the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 75 degrees Celsius. Whether it is slow-cooked, fried, grilled, or baked, it is the exposure to high heat that kills all the bacteria.
In addition, take raw poultry straight from the package and into the cooking pan. Experts advise cleaning up any splashes in the countertop or sink as well, and wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. If you need to cut the pieces, designate a cutting board and run the board into the dishwasher in a hot cycle.
A safer way to remove the slimy coating from the chicken is to wipe it gently with a paper towel, and properly throw away the paper towel.
The new research may have shattered everything you thought you knew about poultry preparation. But not washing is important, if you want the people eating your food to stay safe. On the upside, it cuts out a step, and you almost do not have to touch it now. It’s a win-win situation.