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Should You Wash Chicken Before Cooking It?

Packaged meats aren’t particularly appealing, often bearing witness marks of the journey they’ve been on from farm to fridge in the form of gloopy residue. Tempting as it is to clean it off, should you wash chicken before cooking it? 

The science says you could be making things worse.


Why is raw chicken dangerous?

Raw chicken is a good friend of Campylobacter and Salmonella, two kinds of bacteria that are among the most common causes of food poisoning. Chickens, among many other animals, can show no signs of illness and yet be carrying Campylobacter. The bacteria, alongside Salmonella, is found inside the chicken in places like the intestine, but when these animals are slaughtered, it can spread across the meat.

All sounds a bit icky, so…

Should you wash chicken before cooking it?

No, you should not wash chicken before cooking it. The Centers For Disease Control And Prevention states that “raw chicken is ready to cook and doesn’t need to be washed first”. 

Bacteria lingering on the meat’s surface will be destroyed in the process of cooking, which is why eating raw chicken is never a good idea – no matter how many times some guy hoofing the pink stuff online tells you it’s fine.


Not only is washing chicken unnecessary, but you run the risk of making your chance of infection higher by splashing all that uncooked chicken juice around your sink – something that already happens if we handle chicken and don’t wash our hands properly.

Are there really that many people washing chicken?

Washing chicken before cooking is such a widespread and potentially dangerous culinary behavior that scientists even tried to tackle the issue head-on.

“We wanted to know what effect an educational intervention would have on getting people to stop washing poultry before cooking, and what effect any resulting change in behavior might have on reducing contamination in the kitchen,” explained Ellen Shumaker, corresponding author of the study and an extension associate at North Carolina State University. “We also wanted to get a better idea of how, if at all, washing poultry actually led to increased contamination in the kitchen.”

Participants were challenged with preparing a chicken salad using meat contaminated with a harmless strain of E. coli. The test kitchen was then swabbed to see how far the bacteria had spread. It revealed that when it comes to handling meat, the real crux is remembering to wash your hands, as both the washers and non-washers in the study were found to have contaminated the kitchen surfaces.


In the study, 35 percent of participants washed or rinsed their chicken. As for the motivation behind chicken scrubbing, 30 percent of participants reported that they did it to remove blood and slime, and 19 percent did it because their family members wash their chicken.

Want to stay healthy? Save yourself a job, and water, and just cook the damn chicken.

All “explainer” articles are confirmed by fact checkers to be correct at time of publishing. Text, images, and links may be edited, removed, or added to at a later date to keep information current.  

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