Does chicken need to be washed before cooking?

Why you shouldn't wash chicken before cooking it

The holidays are a time for feasting, which means they are also a time for food poisoning.

A lot of people automatically think that good food hygiene comes down to washing which may be all well and good for your hands. But should you wash chicken before cooking?

Washing chicken

Washing raw chicken or turkey is risky because it can spread bacteria onto your hands and other surfaces. Worse still, it could spread germs to other food in the vicinity.

Washing poultry is unnecessary, as proper cooking will kill any bacteria on it anyway.

Yet according to a survey by the Food Safety Information Council and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation, 49 per cent of cooks are still taking a risk with washing their chicken before they cook it.

"We are pleased that rates of washing raw whole chicken has reduced from 60 per cent to 49 per cent since we last asked this question in 2011," says Cathy Moir, chair of the Food Safety Information Council.

"But the message is that washing any raw poultry, whether it is chicken, duck, goose or the Christmas turkey, is both unsafe and unnecessary."

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11 tips to avoid food poisoning

  • Wash hands with soap and water before preparing and cooking food, and after handling egg shells, seafood, raw meat and poultry, burgers and sausages.
  • Clean and dry utensils before you start preparing food, and clean them with hot soapy water after use.
  • Don't overstock your fridge, as this won't allow the cool air to circulate freely, meaning perishable food might not be adequately frozen or chilled.
  • Prevent overstocking by making room in your fridge for perishable foods by removing alcohol and soft drinks - put them on ice in a container or the laundry sink.
  • Bird or bits? Think about getting a turkey breast (it's simpler to cook) rather than a whole turkey.
  • Cook poultry until a meat thermometer shows it has reached 75°C in the thickest part of the thigh, and cook any stuffing separately.
  • Cooked egg dishes are simple and nutritious but try to avoid raw or minimally cooked egg dishes, such as raw egg mayonnaise or aioli, eggnog or fancy desserts like tiramisu.
  • Check the storage instructions and best-before or use-by date before removing the ham from its plastic wrap, cover it with clean cloth soaked in water and vinegar so it doesn't dry out, and store it in the fridge at or below 5°C.
  • Phased roll-out: Don't leave perishable chilled foods out for more than two hours.
  • Get it cold, quick: Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible.
  • Get it hot: Always reheat leftovers to 75°C in the centre of the item or the thickest part.

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  • This article is published in partnership with Cosmos Magazine. Cosmos is produced by The Royal Institution of Australia.