Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Apparently, I've been doing it all wrong

This week, we heard an audio clip on NPR's Morning Editiona belated birthday message from Julia Child, who shared with us that she liked giving her chickens a good wash before cooking them because she thought it was safer.  My grandmother and entire female lineage thought it was safer.  I thought it was safer too.

Image credit: Ollie Bright Art

My friend Susie Q, thought it was safer to wash and in addition, would completely disinfect her kitchen with the appropriate sprays and gloves while wearing a Tyvek suit.  OK, I'm stretching it a little here, but you get the picture.  She hated germs, especially icky chicken germs.

But we've been doing it all wrong, says Drexel University food safety researcher Jennifer Quinlan, agreeing with other food safety experts who say that washing increases the chances that you'll spread the foodborne pathogens that are on your bird all over the rest of your kitchen too.  Some studies suggest that bacteria can fly up to 3 feet away from where your meat is rinsed, even though you can't necessarily see it (Source: NPR's The Salt, "Julia Child Was Wrong).  This, sadly, reminds me of the wisdom of placing your toothbrush far enough away from the commode to avoid, er, contamination from flying germs.

So, could the instructions about not washing your chicken be correct?  Let me ask you this:  how far is your toothbrush from the commode?

I've waffled on the issue of wash/don't wash chicken for a while, trying to get a leg up on my compulsion to make everything clean and to have enough pluck to balance common sense with science.  If I could just stuff my neuroses and make a decision, everything else would be gravy.  But my conclusion remains thin-skinned, about as firm as a boneless chicken breast and has about as much weight as a dumpling.  Thinking about it too much just makes me feel fried, and more than once, I've realized the wrong decision about washing my chicken could land me in the soup. 

So, next time I'm all in a stew about whether to wash my chicken or not, I think I'll just wing it.  Thank heavens I've still got a little backbone.

And maybe one day, I'll see you in the ER.

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