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Science Changed My Mind...About Chicken

by Eric Hall

September 1, 2013

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Donate NPR posted an interesting piece recently regarding the washing of poultry in the kitchen. It turns out I have been doing things wrong in the kitchen - as well as some of the chefs on various cooking shows. The inside of a chicken or turkey should not be washed before cooking. It is OK to pat dry with paper towels. Washing only spreads germs throughout your kitchen while leaving plenty inside to still get you sick if not cooked to the proper temperature.

What was also interesting is the backlash the piece brought about on social media. Although a food safety scientist showed evidence of the germs being spread, no one wanted to doubt the wisdom of Julia Child. This is a classic case of Appeal to Authority. I often talk about this in my blog posts. A person's credentials should absolutely be a factor in trusting what they are communicating. But no matter the expertise of a person, when presented with good evidence which goes against that person, it is important to trust the evidence. Just because Julia Child said to cook something a certain way doesn't mean it is the best way. Such is the case of washing a chicken.

I am not surprised my this revelation, but I am a bit surprised it didn't occur to me sooner. On the show "Mythbusters," Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage placed toothbrushes in a bathroom for a month, and it turned out fecal matter water is ejected from a flushing toilet, which shows moving water is indeed chaotic. In a 2012 study, researchers recommending putting the lid down before flushing as the water was indeed found to spread bacteria. When water is running, droplets are getting spread in a pretty wide area. Something that should have been obvious - I missed it. (Note: I edited the paragraph slightly to make the results of the studies clearer.)

Going forward, no more washing my chickens and turkeys - because I trust the science.

by Eric Hall

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