Why You Really Don’t Need To Wash Raw Chicken

Washing raw chicken doesn't do anything to kill germs.

Do you need to wash raw chicken before cooking it? It is a question that has been asked and answered many times throughout the years, yet the debate still rages. And why not, when professional and well-respected chefs such as Julia Child and Jacques Pepin can't even agree? Child insisted that chicken should be washed before cooking, while Pépin disagreed, explaining that the heat from the cooking process would kill off any germs. So which way is correct?

uncooked chicken
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Checking The Chicken Facts

The USDA confirms that Pépin was right; there is simply no need to wash chicken. You may think you are washing germs off the poultry but, in reality, you are just splashing and spreading those germs around your sink and countertop areas.

Much of the chicken purchased at the grocery store is already carrying Campylobacter or salmonella bacteria, which can cause severe cases of food poisoning. Neither hot water nor a fruit acid wash will kill those bacteria; they can only be eradicated by thoroughly cooking the poultry.

Cooking Chicken Safely

When cooking, always use a meat thermometer and allow the internal temp of your chicken to reach 165 °F, the safe, desired degree of doneness according to Food Safety and Inspection Service guidelines. Regardless of whether you boil, roast, grill or fry your chicken, and regardless of whether it is bone-in or boneless, skin-on or skinless, the bird must reach this internal temperature in order for the bacteria to be killed off and for you to feel good about serving the poultry to your family and friends. After all, food safety is a huge part of being a good Southern hostess.

How To Avoid Cross Contamination

If you are put off by the sliminess of raw chicken, you can pat it down and dry it off with a paper towel – then promptly throw that paper towel in the trash. Remember to prep the chicken on a washable surface. Despite the science that supports not washing chicken, some cooks still prefer to do so, either out of habit or because that is how they were taught.

If you choose to rinse the chicken take the necessary steps to disinfect any surfaces the splashing liquid may have come in contact with: countertops, sink, nearby dishes, your clothes, etc. And always wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw meat or any food or tool that has come into contact with it.

Recipes For A Chicken Dinner

Now that we can all agree on the best approach in treating raw chicken prior to cooking, how about some suggestions on how best to prepare that bird? It goes without saying that our priority may very well be to lay out some fried chicken in the typical Southern tradition. But there are many other approaches to consider. Here are some of our favorite recipes for a chicken dinner tonight.

Orange-Rosemary Roast Chicken
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Orange Rosemary Roast Chicken

The flavors here include briny, nutty, bright, and sweet. This uncomplicated sheet pan roast results in the most tender chicken. This recipe masterfully balances savory and sweet. A combo of potatoes, orange slices, and rosemary roast together while you crisp the chicken skin in a cast-iron skillet on the stovetop. 

Chicken-Mushroom Skillet
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kathleen Varner; Food Styling: Maggie Ruggiero

Chicken-Mushroom Skillet

Oyster and cremini mushrooms give this chicken dish savory flavor with meaty texture. The best part? Extra calories here are not on the high side. One tip: Don’t be tempted to stir the mushrooms too much as they are cooking. Let them sit, undisturbed, for three minutes in the hot pan so that they brown nicely.

Curried Chicken Pot Pie
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Curry Chicken Pot Pie

A chicken pot pie is always pleasing, whether you serve it for Sunday dinner or a weeknight meal. Stash one in the freezer and you have a supper go-to on a day when you are simply out of steam. For a golden crust and piping hot center, don't forget to fully defrost the frozen pie in the refrigerator for 24 hours. This will prevent the edges from burning before the filling cooks through.

Mama's Fried Chicken
Southern Living

Mama's Fried Chicken

We cannot help ourselves! Mama's Fried Chicken is our most shared fried chicken recipe of all time. Fried chicken is an irresistible delight when done right, and this recipe will take you back to the days when your mother used to fry her famous chicken for Sunday dinner. This Southern classic is simple in its perfection. 

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