To wash or not to wash raw chicken?
Chicken is a staple ingredient in so many menus. When prepared properly it is a nutritious and delicious food, but, when prepared incorrectly it can make people incredibly sick! For vulnerable people such as our elderly residents and young children, food born illnesses are even dangerous. In Australia, 49% of people report washing raw chicken before cooking it. With almost half, including professional chefs and home cooks, washing raw chicken, is it actually safe to do so? Our food safety experts and Dietitians dive into this topic further to find the answer once and for all.
There is a common belief that washing raw chicken is an effective way to remove any potential bacteria on the meat and therefore reduce the risk of food poisoning. Washing raw chicken has even been promoted for food safety in the past. Historically, many recipes had washing chicken as a listed step to do before cooking. Most of us, grew up with the idea that you should be washing raw chicken. But it is safe to do so? The answer is simply, no.
Stop washing raw chicken!
According to the world health organsiation, washing raw chicken is not safe. Washing or rinsing raw chicken doesn’t remove the risk of Salmonella, and other harmful bacteria that live on raw chicken. In fact, it worsens the risk it by helping the bacteria spread around the kitchen.
When washing or rinsing raw chicken with water, this provides an easy way for bacteria to travel throughout the kitchen. Even if you are being very careful, tiny droplets will contaminate the kitchen sink, bench tops, the person’s clothes, and any surrounding equipment, utensils and other food. Cooking chicken thoroughly kills Salmonella and other harmful bacteria, not washing or rinsing it beforehand.
If you’re one of the 49% who wash chicken, what to do to now?
Firstly, stop washing raw chicken.
Trust yourself in your cooking process, chicken it will be safe to eat if cooked right. (See below)
If you find a step in an old recipe stating to wash raw chicken, cross it out and move onto the next step.
All in all, chicken is a fantastic ingredient. When prepared safely it is something that can be enjoyed on a regular basis.
How do you cook chicken carefully
While chicken is such a simple and versatile ingredient, it’s also one of the riskier food items in the kitchen. This is because chicken needs to be stored and cooked very carefully to reduced the risk of food born illnesses. This might seem like a lot of work but don’t let it discourage you. Following all these steps will actually add very little time to your meal preparation and chicken is such a wonderful nutritious ingredient.
Here’s our Food Safety tips to store, prepare and cook chicken.
Storing Raw Chicken
Raw chicken should never be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, and on a hot day, this time is even less.
Refrigerated chicken should be stored at below 5°C
If you’re freezing, ensure your freezer is set to below -20°C.
Raw meats, poultry, and fish should be stored on the bottom shelf in the fridge to prevent cross contamination. If the meats are stored on the top shelf there is a chance some juices containing harmful bacteria could drip down onto other produce and contaminate that food.
Chicken should be thawed in the refrigerator to ensure it remains cold during thawing (<5°C) which helps to reduce bacteria growth while thawing.
Never re-freeze thawed chicken.
Wash hands well with soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
Make sure to use different chopping boards, plates and utensils for raw and ready to eat foods.
It is essential to make sure raw meats, like chicken, are kept away from other ingredients. Poultry has a higher fluid content than other types of meat, which means juices tend to spread further.
Using colour-coded chopping boards reduces the risk of cross contamination. Print our Colour-coded chopping board poster to ensure all staff are aware of what colour to use.
Wipe down benches after preparation of raw ingredients and use separate cloth for dishwashing.
When cooking the chicken, whether you are roasting, baking, frying or boiling, you need to ensure the chicken has reached the right temperature. The internal and external parts of the chicken must reach 75°C.
Don’t guess the temperature or go by a visual glance. Always use a Food thermometer.
The safety and most effective way to ensure the chicken has been cooked is always to use a food thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken.
When the chicken is cooked, the juices from the meat should run completely clear, there should be no hint of pink to the juice.
Don’t forget to wash your hands with warm water and soap, thoroughly clean your dishes, and sanitise and surfaces around the cooking area such as bench and stove tops.
But what about leftovers?
Any leftovers should be stored in the fridge or freezer at the same temperature as raw chicken.
Food must be reheated quickly to a core temperature of 75°C or more.
Food must not be cooled, and then reheated a second time.
Reheated food must be served on the day it has been re-heated.
Cooked refrigerated chicken must be used within a day if serving within Aged Care, Childcare or to someone who is pregnant or immunocompromised.
Nutritional benefits of eating chicken
Chicken is an excellent source of protein which helps up maintain or build muscles and improve our strength, balance, and coordination. Protein is also important for maintaining a healthy immune system, giving us energy, and helping us feel full at the end of a meal.
Chicken is also rich in essential vitamins and minerals that play a role in overall health, for example:
Iodine which helps our thyroid to produce hormones that regulate our metabolism
Iron which is important to produce haemoglobin, the protein in our red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body
Zinc which is important for our immune system, wound healing, blood clotting among other functions
Vitamin B12 which is necessary for red blood cells, DNA, brain and nerve cells
Chicken is also such a versatile ingredient it can be used in so many different meals.
Here are some of our favourites:
Chicken mince rolled into meat balls and used in spaghetti Bolognese.
Chicken kebabs served with roasted or salad vegetables.
Shredded chicken with avocado, tomato, and spinach on toast as a super filling breakfast or lunch meal.
Diced chicken breast cooked into a veggie packed rice or noodle stir-fry.
Still thinking, who gives a toss about Food Safety?
It’s time to talk to our food safety experts. Creating a food safety culture is what we do best. We specialise in working with food premises that prepare and serve food to vulnerable Australians. This includes Aged Care Homes, Childcare Centres and Early learning Centres, and Hospitals. We have a range of Food Safety services and products to help everyone prepare and serve delicious and nutritious food.
Talk to our team today!