I’ve always rinsed raw meat and poultry before cooking (especially chicken or turkey…inside & out) and I know more than one person who crumbles apart ground beef, ground turkey and even separates bacon slices to rinse before frying.
Why take this extra step and is it even necessary?
We’re working off the theory that by washing meat products first, we’ll flush away any surface bacteria that may be present. Sounds smart right! Well, not so fast.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), this isn’t a recommended practice:
Washing raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb, or veal before cooking it is not recommended. Some consumers think they are removing bacteria from the meat and making it safe.
For safety, use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature.
- Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts, and chops can be cooked to 145°F.
- All cuts of pork should reach 160°F.
- All poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F.
What’s the problem? Instead of going directly from package to pan, the product is being handled longer and the danger of contaminating multiple surfaces increases. You’re handling it in the sink, touching faucets and taps which are all now contamination points when they have no need to be (including any splashes that land outside the sink area).
These contamination points are now primed and ready to be transferred to other food items as you are prepping them either by direct contact or transferred by your hands. Instead of concerns about surface bacteria, there is now a greater possibility of E. coli (Escherichia coli) and salmonella contamination to other food items (these can live on surfaces even after being wiped clean if done improperly).
Since you’re heating the product to safe temperatures regardless of whether you’re rinsing it off first or not, any bacteria present will be killed by the heat. Many also insist that some of the flavor is being flushed away when it’s first washed and just isn’t necessary.
Knowing how easy it is to cross contaminate, I always give my hands a good scrub with soapy water along with all surfaces before I bring out the next food item to prep…so I don’t know if that danger is reason enough for me to stop a decades long practice (which is now a mind game for me since I don’t consider unwashed meat clean enough to cook).
Oddly enough, I don’t feel the need to do this with hot dogs, bacon slices, ground beef or turkey…but will rinse poultry, beef cuts of all kinds, pork chops, sausage links. Why I will for some cuts and not for others, and be fine with it, I have no explanation.
When it comes to determining whose logic is the best bet, mine or the USDA’s, even I hesitate to ignore their advice. I’m curious, are you a raw meat rinser and will you continue to do so even knowing it’s not recommended? Or is it time to break this habit and trust that the high heat from cooking will kill off anything nasty?