Should you wash poultry and other meats before cooking?

Dear Dr. Mo: My question is simple and yet kind of age old – should I wash poultry (and other meats for that matter) before cooking? I’d traditionally say yes, but when I think of it, I’m not so sure.

No need to wash it but handle it with care

No need to wash it but handle it with care

Dear reader: Contrary to popular belief, my answer has to be NO – you should not wash or rinse any raw meat prior to cooking. This is not just a matter of preference – it is really ill-advised.

Let me quickly explain why:

Washing raw meat and rinsing its juices only splashes any existing bacteria on that piece of meat all over your kitchen sink, utensils and nearby surfaces – this is termed “cross-contamination” and does very little to protect your health – quite on the contrary, this cross-contamination can easily cause a foodborne illness.
In addition, there are some bacteria so tightly attached to the meat that you would not remove them no matter how long or vigorously you washed it.

So how to be safe then?

1. Handle meat and meat only before you washed your hands to handle anything else.

2. Use always the same cutting board to prepare the meat – those colourful boards are handy: I use green for veggies and red for meat.

3. The best and safest way to sterilize any meat and make it safe to eat is of course, cooking, baking, frying, broiling, grilling etc. at the right temperature and for long enough – high temperature kills all the microorganisms that can cause us to get sick.

Time to say goodbye to the grandmas practice (at least as far as washing the meat is concerned).

Bon apetit.

Yours in health,

Dr. Mo


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