AskNadia: Why You Should Not Wash Chicken Before Cooking it

Dear Nadia,
I heard washing packaged store bought chicken, and other raw meats are unsafe before cooking.

Sacramento CA

Dear SK,

I was trained to wash all the foods we consumed before cooking them. But, according to the FDA, uncooked chicken, red meat and seafood should not be washed before cooking. However, whole fruits and vegetables should be washed before consumption.

Cross Contamination

The biggest concern for washing red meat, seafood and poultry before cooking is the preparation process. If you use one cutting board or one surface to prepare all your meals, juices from the uncooked meat that touch the preparation area will contaminate other foods. Especially, the ones that are not going to be cooked.

It is recommended to use two separate cooking boards. One for meats and one for fruits and vegetables to prevent cross contamination.

Aerosolization of Bacteria

If you ever have seen the Dustin Hoffman movie “Outbreak,”
Showing how airborne infections occur, you will understand how washing a chicken under water has a similar effect.  The airborne Salmonella or Campylobacter bacteria from chicken spreads as the invisible water drops spray the raw meat and becomes bacteria carriers; contaminating everything from, the cooking area, food, sponges your skin, the clothes you are wearing to fruits and vegetables.

Julia Child

I wonder how Julia Child, a famous French Chef from the 1960’s and a television host on PBS has influenced our cooking hygiene. She was the first Chef to have a cook book and television show that demonstrated how to prepare fresh meals.

Today’s celebrity Chef’s credit Julia Child for promoting healthier meals by buying fresh ingredients and cooking at home.

Living in China influenced Julia’s appetite for fresh ingredients. A practice that crossed international waters to influence millions of Americans in preparing meals as she became our first celebrity Chef.

When you think about it, Julia Child was decades ahead of her times by promoting less fast food and more fresh home cooked meals.

Washing poultry before cooking it is something she always recommended. When Julia was criticized by the American community, for going against the FDA’s pro no washing raw meat policy, she responded by saying, “I just think it’s a safer thing to do,”

Misconception About Killing Bacteria

90% of our population wash their chicken before cooking it. This most likely is a  tradition that is influenced by our pop culture and passed on from one generation to anther.

Some people believe if they salt the meat or put lime to marinated it, that this will kill the bacteria.  Others believe organic chicken is safer to wash and do not need to apply the FDA no washing rule.

In these circumstances, the FDA rule still holds. It doesn’t matter if it is organic chicken, pork, beef, fish or poultry, the rule still stands. Don’t wash raw meat before cooking it because of the cross contamination health hazard.

Cooked Meats

Meats that are cooked at high temperatures, 165 degrees or greater, kill bacteria and parasites.

Padding raw meat with paper towels to reduce moisture before cooking is an acceptable habit and browns the meat more quickly.




Drexel University

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Nadia was not only born into a family with diabetes but also married into one. She was propelled at a young age into “caretaker mode,” and with her knowledge of the scarcity of resources, support, and understanding for people with diabetes, co-founded Diabetes Interview now Diabetes Health magazine.

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