Julia Child was the first chef to gain a celebrity-like status. Her hit television show, “The French Chef,” was on the air for ten years. She inspired many with great recipes and cooking tips that everyone could use in their own kitchens at home. One of the tips she shared with viewers was to wash raw chicken before cooking, in theory, to remove any unwanted bacteria. However, this precaution is not a safe food handling practice.
Many of us wash raw chicken before we cook with it, usually in our sinks under cold running water. Recent research conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has deemed this an unsafe practice, and it may cause a host of other health hazards in our kitchens. Rinsing off raw chicken actually spreads bacteria over our sinks and countertops, and some tests showed that bacteria can be transported up to three feet away from the sink. The result is a cross contamination nightmare and one that puts our health at risk.
Salmonella is the bacteria most often in question when it comes to raw chicken, and it can make people very sick. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and body chills. A foodborne illness like this sickens millions of people every year and, in extreme cases, can cause death.
Proper food handling of raw meats, not just chicken, is key to making sure that no one is exposed to harmful bacteria. Cross-contamination due to improper handling of raw meat is often what makes people sick. Restaurants and food preparation facilities must follow strict guidelines to avoid the spread of bacteria into their product. In our homes, we must take similar precautions. The safest way to handle chicken is to make sure that it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. It is best to take the temperature at the thickest part of the chicken to ensure that it is thoroughly cooked.
Be sure to properly clean any surfaces that have come in contact with raw meat in order to prevent the spread of bacteria to any other food or surfaces in your kitchen. Understanding the best practices for handling our food will help us put healthy and delicious meals on our tables.