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October 9, 2013

Refrain from rinsing raw poultry

Cooking is a necessity, but it’s also cultural. The way we cook says a lot about the societies we live in and the traditions that influence our families.

I know that a lot of what I do in the kitchen is an echo of what my mother taught me. When I crack an egg into a mixing bowl, I scoop out that last little bit of raw egg white in the shell with my finger and scrape it off on the edge of the bowl. My mother grew up in the Great Depression and learned not to waste food. Some of her habits have been passed down to me even though I grew up a full generation later in relatively easy circumstances.

When I start to cook a chicken or turkey, I also do what my mother showed me. Step 1 for me is cutting open the plastic wrap the bird comes in and discarding it. Step 2 is to reach inside the cavity of the fowl to remove the package of giblets. (I cook those pieces in a saucepan with a bit of water as a treat for my faithful mutt, Buster Brown, who deserves a bit of payback because he keeps me company in the kitchen while I labor there.) Finally, in Step 3, I hold the bird over the kitchen sink and rinse it inside and out in cool water running from the faucet.

It’s that last step that has now been called into question in my mind. According to a news story from NPR, there’s no good reason to rinse poultry prior to cooking. Beyond that, there’s really every reason to refrain from rinsing birds because tiny droplets of water bouncing off the carcass spread microorganisms to everything around your sink for a distance up to 3 feet. Some of those droplets get on you, some on your kitchen counter and some on any dishes that may be in the vicinity of the sink.

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