The contaminants that arrive with poultry into our kitchen can be serious business. A microorganism called Campylobacter and our old friend salmonella combine to cause close to 2 million cases of food-borne illness in the U.S. each year. The way to reduce the threat they pose is not by rinsing raw poultry, but by thoroughly cooking the birds you prepare.
Yet many of us continue to rinse. In fact, according to the NPR piece, about 90 percent of cooks rinse raw poultry. We do it because our mothers taught us the technique, not because we’ve really thought about it. And rinsing is reinforced by some cookbooks and by reruns of Julia Child, the famous “French Chef” of public television who rinsed her birds as we all watched.
Habits can be tough to change. But now is the time to stop rinsing your chickens and turkeys. Just thoroughly cook your birds. It’s easier than rinsing, and safer as well.
Dr. E. Kirsten Peters was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.