There’s probably nothing in our kitchen that my mother won’t wash thoroughly before cooking or feeding it to us. From fruits and vegetables to lentils and pulses–there’s hardly anything that doesn’t fall in her wash-before-use radar.
Even washing raw chicken is a part of her prep and this habit has been passed on to us too. However, there’s a downside to this seemingly-hygienic practice.
According to the American Center for Disease Control (CDC), washing raw chicken can have some serious health repercussions.
“Washing raw chicken before cooking can increase the risk of food poisoning from bacteria like campylobacter jejuni, salmonella, clostridium perfringens, and staphylococcus aureus present in the chicken,” explains N. Vijayashree, chief dietitian at MGM Healthcare in Chennai.
You see, while you’re washing the chicken, juices from the meat containing these bacteria can spread in the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils, and countertops according to the CDC website.
In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture calls this “cross-contamination” and strictly warns against washing raw chicken.
“Water droplets carrying this bacteria tend to travel in all directions and only a few campylobacter cells are enough to cause food poisoning,” explains Avni Kaul, nutritionist and founder of NutriActivania.
Wondering how you should clean the chicken before cooking it?
The heat from cooking and boiling the chicken is enough to kill harmful bacteria. However, if you’re still paranoid, you can try some alternate cleaning methods too.
Vijayshree suggests using salt, vinegar, or lemons to clean the raw chicken. “Scrub the surface of the chicken with a half-cut lemon. You can also rub salt on the chicken and leave it covered in a clean utensil inside the refrigerator for an hour,” she says.
Additionally, using traditional Indian spices like turmeric, which possesses natural antibiotic properties, also eliminates bacteria. In fact, Kaul recommends freezing the raw chicken as it can help maintain hygiene.