Should You Wash Your Chicken Before Eating It?

Folks, we’ve all been there. You’ve brought home a clear plastic container with two plump chicken breasts from the supermarket. You perforate the taut plastic wrap with a knife, or perhaps the tines of a fork if you’re feeling adventurous. You pull out the two perfect, pink, slimy hunks of poultry, and they’re positively dripping in that weird slimy juice that chicken exudes when its been sitting on a shelf longer than five minutes.

What do you do? Do you give it a quick rinse under the tap, or do you hurl it straight into the pan, as if God himself has compelled you to do so?

Turns out this is a weirdly common question. There are shitloads of posts on Reddit from the past few years featuring people asking precisely the same question. The argument for doing it mostly hinges on ‘ew, slime!’ and the argument against it involves something about a lethal salmonella outbreak. So they’re pretty balanced, really.

So what’s the answer to the eternal question “should you wash chicken?”

No. You should not do this. As you’re almost certainly aware by this point in your life – with access to on average much more information than the average medieval peasant – raw or undercooked chicken carries a bunch of nasty bacteria like salmonella and campylobacter. The short story is that it doesn’t really do anything, and unless you’re keen on getting pointless blisters there’s almost zero chance the water you’re running it under will be hot enough to kill any bacteria, anyway.

But the worst part is that your clumsy washing of the raw chook is likely to fling bacteria all around your kitchen – both through your awful splashing, and through a process called aerosolisation. It’s basically the same reason you don’t just chuck recently contaminated knives directly back into the drawer like an animal. (If you do this, I can’t help you.)

If you don’t believe me, here’s a visualisation from an actual university. It’s extremely weird that this person is putting an entire raw chook under the tap, but you gotta do what you gotta do.