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Do Not Wash Chicken Before Cooking!

A question from a reader:

Marinating chicken…contained in a bag, in a baking dish to catch any drips

Is it best to wash the chicken off after removing from package or not? I hear conflicting advice on this. Some say to wash off any germs from packing and some say it’s doesn’t matter b/c the germs are cooked off.

Should I wash chicken?

No! Please, no. Do NOT wash poultry before cooking. (Or any other meat for that matter.) Washing chicken doesn’t rinse away bacteria; it splashes it around. The bacteria is still on the chicken…and now it’s been sprayed onto the sink, countertops, arms, clothes, and anything else nearby. The safest thing to do is take chicken directly from its packaging to the stove.

Now, I don’t take chicken directly out of the package and to the stove. I usually have to mess with it first – seasoning, cutting it up, that kind of thing. I treat chicken juices like a biohazard – because they are, until they’re cooked – and try to contain the mess as much as possible. Here are the steps in my chicken cooking process:

  • Remove the chicken from its packaging on a plastic cutting board (if I’m going to cut it) or a rimmed baking sheet (if I’m going to dry brine it)
  • Cut up the chicken (if needed), pat the chicken dry with paper towels (if needed), and season the chicken
  • Any marinating, brining, or dry brining happens in a deep bowl, baking dish, or baking sheet – to catch any drips
  • When it’s time to cook, transfer the chicken from the cutting board to the cooking surface (Pan, grill, Instant Pot)
  • Put the cutting board (and any utensils that touched the raw chicken) in the dishwasher
  • Wipe the sink, countertops, and any chicken juice spills with bleach wipes
  • Wash my hands with soap and water
  • Get back to cooking with cooking with a fresh set of utensils (tongs, usually)

I know this is almost a religious war for people, but…if they’re rinsing their chicken, they’re doing it wrong. Please, don’t wash your chicken!

Food Safety Resources:

Washing poultry can spread pathogens [Barf Blog] – Food safety experts

Don’t Wash Your Chicken [Drexel University]

What do you think?

Questions? Leave them in the comments section below. (Note: all comments are moderated, especially for topics like this one.)

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Filed under: Ramblings


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.

1 Comment

  1. Razzy 7 says

    EXCELLENT post, Mike. I recently read the same things you did about not washing your chicken and am following those recommendations. The only time I diverge is when I have a whole chicken. Sometimes there’s some yucky stuff (lung tissue?) inside the chicken that I want to remove. I try to be careful not to splash everywhere and spread any bacteria that might exist.

    I wasn’t aware I could purchase bleach wipes, but I’ll look for them at my supermarket. Those would be very useful to me, especially since there’s no dishwasher 🙁 in the apartment in which I now live.

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