Skip To Content
  • Poll badge

We Asked Experts Whether Washing Raw Chicken Was Legit Or Useless

We talked to the USDA, a germ expert, and a prominent NYC chef.

Hello! My name is Michelle and I'm a writer for BuzzFeed Food. On a recent scroll through the comments on one of our videos, I noticed a ton of people said they washed their chicken before cooking it.


This was shocking to me, as I had never even considered that store-bought, packaged chicken might need washing. I've never done it. (And FWIW, I've never had a problem!)

Curious writer (and self-conscious person) that I am, I decided to poll the BuzzFeed community to see where I stood on the practice.

Results were split. Most people said no, but a significant number said yes — they do, indeed, rinse their raw chicken before cooking it. 😯

So who's actually in the right, hygiene-wise? To get to the bottom of this question, I decided to ask the experts.


I turned to three of them: a USDA rep, a germ expert and health professor, and an NYC chef from a fancy restaurant that churns out chicken all day, every day.

First up? USDA spokesperson Marianne H. Gravely. She said that the department "falls squarely in the 'don’t wash your chicken' camp."

According to the USDA, you should not wash raw poultry or any other meat, because you may spread potential bacteria in the poultry juices to other foods, utensils, and surfaces.

And in fact, washing it isn't even getting the bacteria off your chicken. Even though you may think that washing your chicken removes bacteria or harmful slime, "some of the bacteria are so tightly attached that you could not remove them no matter how many times you washed it," Gravely told BuzzFeed Food. Fortunately, cooking the meat is generally enough to kill any present bacteria. To be absolutely sure you've killed ALL the bacteria, you should use a food thermometer to make sure your meat has reached an internal temperature of 165°F.

Sounded fair, but I wanted another opinion. So I turned to a second source: germ expert and associate professor of environmental health at the University of Arizona Kelly Reynolds.


Her take on the practice? Don't do it. 😯


"Washing chicken does not remove any pathogens," Reynolds said. FYI, pathogens are the germs that cause disease, since not all germs make you sick.

She also agreed with the USDA rep, and said that poultry splatter might contaminate your hands, elbows, and sink, which studies prove contains some of these bad-for-you germs. "We’ve done studies on packaged chicken from a wide variety of grocery stores, and more than half of the chicken we looked at tested positive for some pathogen," said Reynolds.

But! I wanted to know, what if you washed the chicken using really hot water?

Nomadsoul1 / Getty Images

According to Reynolds, hot water wouldn't make a difference. That is, unless you boiled the chicken for a couple of minutes. And at that point, you're basically just cooking it, not merely "rinsing" the chicken in water.

Okay, fine, but what about a vinegar and salt soak? I hear that's more effective than using plain water.

Nomadsoul1 / Getty Images

"Those sound like great ingredients for a marinade, but the soak would not kill pathogens," Reynolds said. In terms of being effective enough to reduce the germ count so it’s not a risk for you, vinegar will not do the trick.

So, is there any advantage at all to washing chicken?

Harpo Studios

Though Reynolds admits that she herself washes her chicken from time to time ("I know I'm not supposed to, but I don't like that slimy layer"), she insists that, honestly? It's all in our heads. "It's a practice we all should get away from."

Now, reformed germophobe that I am, I decided to check one last source: a chef from NYC's Le Coq Rico — for a less clinical reference point. And, you guys, not even a chef at a fancy French chicken restaurant recommends washing chicken.

@chefwestermann / Via, @lecoqriconyc / Via

According to Chef Antoine Westermann, "In France, we do not believe in washing chicken with water, as it takes away the taste of the skin. When you are cooking the chicken, the bacteria is cooked out."

So there you have it: According to an NYC chef, washing your chicken before cooking it is not only taking away from your chicken's flavor, it's also unnecessary.

And if a few experts aren't convincing enough, perhaps this very official packaging label is?

@kirstenjk / Via
  1. Will you continue to wash your chicken?

Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Will you continue to wash your chicken?
    vote votes
    vote votes
    Never have, never will.
    vote votes
    I used to, but I'm stopping ASAP, fam.