Cooking Chicken? Skip This Step That Could Make You Sick

woman looking quizzically at a package of raw chicken with a faucet running in the background

You Should Never Rinse Raw Chicken, And Here’s Why

Like you, I want to keep my family healthy by keeping my kitchen and the food I prepare there as free from bacteria as humanly possible. We all know that in handling raw chicken, there is always a chance of cross-contamination, and none of us want that!

Because I was getting mixed signals about how to treat raw poultry, I decided it was high time I did some research to find out the truth about washing raw chicken.

Related: Do You Know Which Foods You Should Be Washing?

What I found surprised me, and I’m sharing it with you today so we can all avoid food-borne illnesses from improper handling of poultry. This post will tell you about the bacteria that can contaminate raw chicken and how to prevent cross-contamination and keep a safe, healthy kitchen.

package of raw chicken with a faucet running in the background

The Risks Of Rinsing Raw Chicken

Sometimes a recipe will call for rinsing chicken, and you may have even heard a celebrity chef or two advocating rinsing chicken. But the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration says that rinsing raw chicken can actually do a lot more harm than good!

Related: Should You Rinse Rice? The Answer Is Surprisingly Important

Raw chicken can carry bacteria that can make you sick (like Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Clostridium Perfringens), but rinsing the chicken won’t do you any good. Any bacteria present in the chicken would be present throughout, so rinsing the outside only spreads the bacteria into your sink rather than getting rid of it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, washing chicken can actually spread germs around your kitchen. Bacteria can end up all over your sink, kitchen towels, and even the walls and floor where contaminated water may have splashed or dripped.

Related: 9 Food Safety Mistakes That Will Make Someone Sick

The best way to avoid illness caused by bacteria in raw chicken is to cook it thoroughly (see tip #7 below) and follow standard food safety procedures. Here are some specific tips you should follow when when storing, handling, and preparing raw poultry to prevent cross-contamination and possible food poisoning.

woman scrubbing a cutting board with soap

8 Food Safety Tips For Raw Chicken & Poultry

  1. Place chicken in a disposable bag before putting it in your shopping cart or refrigerator to prevent cross-contamination from the juices getting on other foods.
  2. When storing raw chicken in your fridge, put it on the lowest shelf to prevent any juices from dripping down onto ready-to-eat foods.
  3. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw chicken.
  4. Use a separate cutting board when working with raw chicken.
  5. Likewise, don’t put cooked food or fresh produce on a plate, cutting board, or other surface that has previously held raw chicken.
  6. After preparing chicken, wash your cutting board, utensils, dishes, and countertops with hot soapy water before using them for anything else.
  7. When cooking chicken, use a food thermometer to make sure it reaches 165°F, the recommended internal temperature for poultry. (Get my free printable guide to meat temperatures here!)
  8. Refrigerate or freeze leftover chicken within 2 hours under normal conditions, or within 1 hour if the food is exposed to temperatures above 90°F.

Related: This Is The Best Way To Cook Chicken Breast (And I’ve Tried Them All)

Following these simple rules will keep you and your family happily enjoying safe, delicious chicken!

What’s your family’s favorite chicken dish?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Food & Recipes

  • I wash it all – meat, poultry, fish – as I don’t like the taste of unwashed meat. I can always tell when someone hasn’t washed it first. I make sure to put down disposable barriers like paper towels and waxed paper, to help contain the juices. The last step in my kitchen, no matter what I have been cooking, is to clean and disinfect all surfaces. I don’t know if we have just been lucky, but we have followed this for decades and never gotten sick.

  • I do rinse my chicken and have been doing so for many years. I pick out packaged chicken in the store and immediately put them into doubled plastic bags and tie them off before putting them in the cart. I always carry hand sanitizer so I use hand sanitizer immediately after handling the packages. I also strongly suggest using disposable vinyl or nitrile gloves when handling the packages and chicken when you get home. I use them during the entire process of handling the chicken from rinsing, cutting them or pounding them thinner for various cooking recipes and putting them in storage bags. If I am rinsing and freezing them for later use they are put in plastic freezing bags of two each, especially when I buy them on sale or large quantities.

    For rinsing, my method is to fill one side of the kitchen sink 1/2 to 2/3 full with water, and I place the chicken package in the other side sink. With gloves on I slit through the plastic bags and the package plastic wrapping just enough to open the package and slowly pull out a chicken part, and immediately drop them into the water, one by one. I put that slit package (that is full of watery chicken residue) into a doubled plastic grocery bag and tie that off for immediate disposal. With this method none of that residue ever gets outside of the packaging or on surfaces.

    I put wax paper all over my counter. I lift a chicken part out just above the water, allow it to drip off and then wrap it in a paper towel and put it on the waxed paper. I don’t have to pat each one dry, the paper towel does that work for me. Once they are dry enough I unwrap them and put them back on the wax paper. I prepare them by cutting, pounding, etc. and then put them plastic bags for freezing or later use that day.

    Everything used is completely disposable except the utensils used to prepare the chicken. I use Clorox Bleach Cleaner spray to clean the sink and area area around it, countertop used under the wax paper and utensils. With my method I have never had a problem or medical condition caused by raw chicken, and I feel more confident in buying, storing and cooking chicken.

  • My 2 cent’s worth. Wash away too many germs and bacteria and the body forgets how to fight them when needed. This doesn’t mean having a dirty kitchen, just no need to go overboard.

  • Common sense tells you to sanitize anything raw meat comes in contact with. Make a mixture of 1 cup water, 1 cup rubbing alcohol (no less than 70%), and 1 cup white vinegar in a spray bottle. Thoroughly clean all surfaces. So if you prefer to rinse your chicken, rinse away! More importantly use common sense in your home!

  • Unwashed chicken has an unpleasant flavor to me. I put chicken into a ziploc bag or a sealed lidded container to shake it. Then gently rinse under running water and set on a plate in the sink to pat dry with paper towels. I think it is a good compromise, no one has ever gotten ill. Knock on wood.

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