Several months ago, a SeedtoSpoon reader wondered if she should rinse raw chicken prior to cooking. I was taught to do so, and so was she. But we both wondered if we weren’t, in fact, spreading around possible contamination. I didn’t have a definitive answer for her, until now.
In characteristically exhaustive form, Cook’s Illustrated tackles this issue and many others in “Keeping a Cleaner, Safer Kitchen” in the February issue. Their advice? Don’t wash raw meat or poultry. The exception is when the meat has been brined, in which case it does need a bath. If you rinse, make sure to clean the sink and counter with hot soapy water. I use a paper towel to do this, so I can throw it away and prevent cross-contamination.
In addition, at least twice a month I disinfect my sponge — whether or not I’ve used it to clean up raw meat — by boiling it for 10 minutes. Cook’s Illustrated says 5 minutes is fine, but in Denver water boils at a lower temperature due to the altitude, so I add the extra minutes for good measure.
If you’re curious about the science behind this, here are two good links: the USDA’s sheet on High Altitude Cooking and Food Safety and High Altitude Cooking, with a helpful chart listing the boiling point of water at various altitudes.