Take the 2-minute tour ×
Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I don't even remember where I have learned that, but I've always thought it common knowledge: Before a piece of meat gets seasoned, or malleted for tenderizing (sorry, don't know the English word for that), or marinated, or thrown into the pan, or ground, it should be first washed under the faucet, and then patted dry. When I think of it, it also makes sense to me, because the bacteria are always on the meat surface, never inside. So I don't think it is a vestige of the time one got bloodied cuts from the village butcher, but that it applies to the modern meat pieces sold on absorbent pads too.

And then I read this question, which presumes patting (but doesn't mention washing). Most of the answers and comments seem to indicate that patting isn't always considered necessary, and there is no mention of washing the meat or of the dripping water from the washing. In fact, the answers and comments wouldn't make much sense if one assumes that the meat has been just washed.

So is washing compulsory, is it optional but a good idea, is it plain useless, or does it even have disadvantages for the meat?

share|improve this question
3  
Most meat is cooked on high heat, which kills surface bacteria in seconds –  TFD May 8 '11 at 11:00

4 Answers 4

up vote 20 down vote accepted

It's neither necessary nor a particularly good idea; it does little to remove bacteria from the surface of the meat (which you're about to cook, remember) and runs the risk of spraying/dripping bacteria all over the kitchen.

The FSIS has an article on it here:

Washing raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb, or veal before cooking it is not recommended. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces.

The only exception would be something like vac-packed, wet-aged meat where you need to remove the salt, but that's a matter of preference.

I have never washed a piece of meat in my life and I'm still here!

share|improve this answer
1  
I'll often do it to remove the salt/seasoning that comes with most packaged meats, particularly frozen chicken. –  crazy2be May 8 '11 at 17:47
    
You should not forget the water from the faucet is not free of germs either (no holy water). Nor are your hands. So if you get good clean meat, and sniff it before you prepare it, chances are you introduce as many germs as there were on the meat in the first place. If the meat is slimey, smelly, or just plain untrustworthy, the water is not going to make it safe anyway. Meat is somewhat porous. –  Posipiet May 8 '11 at 19:20

I always pat my meat dry but never wash it with water. I believe the rinsing would cause a lot of the blood and meat juices to wash away,leaving less flavorful and less juicy meat. I had a friend who did not like "bloody" meat and she washed it so much it looked pale pink. Needless to say it did not taste very good and had a weird texture.

share|improve this answer
1  
I've never washed meat, but I agree with the odd texture comment. Any water which is absorbed by the meat is going to turn into steam during cooking. Meaning the area around that water is going to be boiled, rather than whatever cooking method you intended. Boiled meat is typically NOT the result you want... –  Scivitri May 9 '11 at 20:25
    
@scivitri, if "any water which is absorbed by the meat is going to turn into steam during cooking" was true, I don't think marinading and basting would be so widespread. –  rumtscho May 23 '11 at 17:19
    
@rumtscho marinades (and things used for basting) don't use water, they use oil. –  Scivitri May 23 '11 at 19:06

I wash the blood off the cryo-vacted scotchies and porterhouse when portioning bulk meats. I also thoroughly rinse the chest cavity of whole chicken and fish frames to remove organs and blood clots.

There is no need to wash meats and seafood you buy ready from a supermarket or butcher (with a possible exception of live Mussels).

share|improve this answer

Sorry, there is no way I would NOT wash chicken before. We have been washing chicken since the beginning of time and all of a sudden chicken juice is spreading everywhere. If you are careful, it is fine. I have been doing this all of my married life and none of us have EVER been sick from cross contamination.

share|improve this answer
1  
What is the benefit of washing? –  Philip Sep 22 at 3:24
1  
Have any of you ever been sick, period? And if the answer is yes, as it undoubtedly must be, then how are you so sure it wasn't from cross contamination? Even if you've truly been fine, it's pretty much rule #2 of food safety that just because something hasn't made you sick before, doesn't mean it's safe (rule #1 being "when in doubt, throw it out"). And you've neglected to point out what you think the benefit of this practice is, which makes this answer not only somewhat dangerous but also unhelpful. –  Aaronut Sep 22 at 5:00

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.