Stop trying to wash raw chicken, or in the case of Thanksgiving, turkey.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a warning after a new study revealed in August that rinsing raw poultry puts people at risk for spreading germs that cause food-borne illness.
The USDA study found that "of the participants who washed their raw poultry, 60 percent had bacteria in their sink after washing or rinsing the poultry. Even more concerning is that 14 percent still had bacteria in their sinks after they attempted to clean the sink."
Further, it concluded that "26 percent of participants that washed raw poultry transferred bacteria from that raw poultry to their ready to eat salad lettuce."
When the CDC tweeted a similar warning in May that washing raw chicken was bad, some home cooks were shook.
Don't wash your raw chicken! Washing can spread germs from the chicken to other food or utensils in the kitchen. https://t.co/QlFpd1alG3 pic.twitter.com/bLB1ofcuh7— CDC (@CDCgov) April 26, 2019
So "GMA" spoke to a chef and educator from the Institute of Culinary Education, Palak Patel, to understand the best practices for poultry prep.
Breaking it all down
Why is it unsanitary to wash a raw chicken?
Washing raw chicken can cause bacteria on the chicken to splash and cling to clean surfaces, including your hands, causing cross-contamination. Cut out any steps of washing chicken from the recipe entirely.
Just cooking poultry thoroughly eliminates harmful bacteria and pathogens.
What's the safest way to handle raw chicken?
The safest way to handle raw chicken is to prevent raw poultry and its juices from touching other foods, especially fruits and vegetables.
Before and after handling raw poultry, be sure to wash your hands, surface, knives, tools and cutting boards with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds.
Where chicken is placed in the fridge and freezer is important as chicken juice has a tendency to leak outside of its container. This can cause contamination if it comes into contact with your produce or cooked food.
Place chicken package in a bag or remove and place it in a container. Alternatively, place it on a plate, then cover it -- and always store it on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator.
How can you ensure a raw chicken is properly cleaned and sanitary?
After buying chicken, store it at a proper temperature in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf. If the chicken is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and not on the kitchen counter. At room temperature, chicken and raw meat can develop harmful bacteria.
Use thawed chicken within 48 hours and do not put it back into the freezer after defrosting.
Pre-prep all ingredients, including chopping and pre-heating pans, before handling raw chicken.
Pro Tip: Invest in two separate cutting boards, one for meat only and another for produce. Use tongs to handle raw and cleaned tools for cooked meat.
Don't wash the chicken, but wash your hands before and after handling chicken. Limit handling raw food as much as possible during prep and cooking.
We didn’t mean to get you all hot about not washing your chicken! But it’s true: kill germs by cooking chicken thoroughly, not washing it. You shouldn’t wash any poultry, meat, or eggs before cooking. They can all spread germs around your kitchen. Don’t wing food safety!— CDC (@CDCgov) April 29, 2019
Once the chicken is cooked, the risk of food poisoning is gone, but if there is any cross-contamination during cooking, there is still a risk for illness from consuming the raw produce.
It's not safe to refreeze chicken that has been defrosted.
The best ways to safely cook chicken
To cook chicken evenly, prepare a chicken breast by pounding it to achieve even thickness. Place chicken breasts on a sheet of plastic wrap, cover them with another sheet of wrap and give them a few whacks with a kitchen mallet, focusing on the thicker end. There's no need to beat them thin, just even them out a little.
Start with patting chicken dry -- you'll get a much better sear and a better chance of getting that nice golden color. Dry surfaces ensure a seal from the outside to keep juices inside, keeping the chicken juicy.
Rely on a proper thermometer. An under-cooked breast isn't safe, but an overcooked isn't tasty. Use an instant-read thermometer to make sure the thickest end gets to 155 degrees. Carry-over heat will take it to 165 degrees, which is safe, without drying them out.
Pro tip: A digital thermometer reads temperatures accurately and removes any guesswork.
Marinating chicken breasts overnight is the best way to add flavor. Then, sauté them in a skillet.
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are very common because they are easy to handle and require very little cooking time. They don't have much taste, though, so add a marinade beforehand or surround them with lots of flavor after they're done cooking.
Simple chicken recipes home cooks can master
Dry Brine Chicken Breast
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
4 chicken breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper for cooking
2 tablespoons olive oil
Place your chicken breasts on a wire rack over a sheet tray and sprinkle generously with salt and sugar. Leave them uncovered in the fridge overnight.
The next day, brush off any excess dry brine and pat them off with paper towels.
Season with salt and pepper, place in a very hot pan with a bit of oil.
Once browned, flip and transfer them into a hot oven (about 350°F) to finish cooking to reach an internal temperature of 165°F, keeping in mind carry over cooking will continue once you remove the chicken from the oven.
Remove chicken around 160°F and finish cooking on the counter.
1 to 1-1/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup sliced shallots
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard, smooth
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Remove chicken breasts from package and sprinkle with salt. Remove the tenderloin from each breast and set aside. Cut each chicken breast into three pieces, approximately the same size. Coat with just a little olive oil.
Place the breast pieces between two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper and use a mallet, empty wine bottle or rolling pin to pound the chicken pieces to an even thinness of about 1/4 inch. Repeat with the tenderloin pieces.
In a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan, heat the olive oil on medium high to high heat. Stir in the butter. When the butter is foamy, add the chicken pieces to the pan. Do not crowd the pan -- if necessary, work in batches.
Lightly brown chicken on one side, turn over and brown the other side. Do not overcook the chicken. The pieces are thin, and they will cook quickly. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and set aside while you make the sauce.
Add sliced shallots to the pan. Lower the heat to medium. Stir to coat with the remaining fat in the pan. Cook until softened, about five to six minutes.
For the sauce, add white wine to the pan and increase the heat to high. When most of the wine has evaporated, add the water, the mustard, and the dried thyme. Simmer until reduced by half.
Reduce the heat to low. Add the chicken back to the pan and coat with the sauce. Remove the pan, taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt if necessary.
An earlier version of this story was originally published on May 14, 2019.