Julia Child famously believed in washing raw poultry before cooking it, but experts are now saying rinsing won't actually kill any bacteria. In fact, according to The Department of Agriculture, washing any raw meat before cooking it actually increases the chances of spreading food borne illnesses. Don't rinse the bird.
While you should definitely keep rinsing your fruits and vegetables with cold water, raw poultry, meat, and eggs shouldn't be rinsed. Washing raw meat doesn't actually kill any of the harmful bacteria. During the process of transporting raw meat to the sink and then splashing cold water over it, more germs are actually spread to your hands, kitchen countertops, cutting boards, clothing, and other work surfaces. This increases the risk of contracting salmonella, e-Coli, and Campylobacter; a bacteria that causes foodpoisoning.
Foodborne illness affects about 48 million Americans every year!
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention 128,000 of those American are hospitalized and 3,000 die. Taking the proper precautions to protect yourself while cooking at home is important, but washing raw meat won't help. If you're worried about bacteria lingering on meat that isn't washed you really shouldn't be. Harmful pathogens are killed off during the cooking process.
The most effective way to make sure you kill all bacteria is to invest in a good food thermometer. Cooking meat to the right temperature will make sure it's safe to the eat. Those pesky pathogens can't survive in high heat. Poultry should be cooked to about 165 degrees, ground meat should be cooked to 160 degrees, steaks, chops, roasts, smoked ham, fish, and shellfish should be all be cooked to 145 degrees.
Don't follow the internal temperature guidelines in your favorite cookbook either! A study from North Carolina State University actually found that about ⅓ of the recommended temperatures in cookbooks were wrong. Instead, follow the guidelines above from the U.S.D.A and to check for any updates.
Remember, those recommended temperatures are the internal temperature of the meat you're checking for, not the temperature you're setting the oven to. To properly check the temperature of your meat insert the food thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, away from the bone and areas with high fat. Make sure you clean the thermometer with hot, soapy water every time you use it.
Another important step in preventing foodborne illnesses is to separate raw poultry and meat from fresh vegetables and fruits. You'll definitely want to use two separate cutting boards for meat and fresh produce to avoid cross-contamination. But it's also important to keep them separate in your fridge and grocery bags. Soak any cutting boards and utensils used to prepare raw meat and poultry in hot soapy water after using them.
Mid-adult woman rinsing tomatoes in sink with colander. Getty Images
When it comes to your fruits and vegetables, it's important to keep rinsing them. According to the FDA, it's actually easier to contract a foodborne illness from raw lettuce than it is from properly cooked meat. If you're buying pre-packed vegetables that are labeled "pre-washed" there's no need to rinse them again. If your produce hasn't been washed yet, the best way to rinse them is with cold running water. The FDA actually advises against using detergents or soaps, because they leave a residue and aren't proven to be more effective than cold water.
Is it safe to brine your poultry?
If you're a fan of brining poultry before cooking it, go right ahead. Soaking raw poultry in water isn't as dangerous because there's less splashing involved. Fill the water bowl, and then carefully place the raw meat inside, making sure not to splash water to your countertops and always wash your hands before and after handling the meat.
You also want to make sure you treat the water like it's contaminated when draining it because it is. Pour the entire contents down the drain, disinfect your sink with a cleaning spray, wash your hand for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, and make sure the bowl you used is cleaned well.