In the 1960's, 70's and up until now, my dear parents prepared their chicken the same way as have I. We bought it, washed it, cut it up, cooked it and served to family and friends who never got sick eating it. True we washed our hands and the areas we used because we were clean but not like I see how many are scared especially about getting deathly ill.

My own younger family members use gloves and pans that they throw out after the chicken touches...but they don't wash the chicken first from the packaging, afraid of chicken contamination on their sink. They tell me when they cook, bar-b-que, or bake, then the chicken germs die.

What has happened to the chicken today that these younger people are afraid of the chicken? Funny thing is they love eating fried chicken or chicken kebab when I cook it or when I prep it at my house or theirs. Also, we never used special cleaners to clean up, especially my parents (who were alive and cooking 2 years ago and 4 months ago both gone now) and they even used the same wooden board to cut everything with. I have always used big plates to cut my bread, raw meats and veges up but not my parents.

I do hear about people getting sick, so what has happened or changed with today's chicken?

  • 3
    Honestly, that sounds a bit like overkill... What's changed isn't the chicken, it's the fact that the news goes insane over one event in millions, so people end up being overcautious... and some people just don't like touching raw meat because they're squeamish...
    – Catija
    May 25, 2015 at 17:58
  • 2
    Why did you wash it?
    – Cascabel
    May 26, 2015 at 2:41
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    I see - seems like you're a bit scared of the chicken too, and this is more of a difference of opinion about how to deal with it. Fortunately it's not something that needs to be a matter of opinion: government food safety agencies make science-based recommendations about things like this.
    – Cascabel
    May 26, 2015 at 3:49
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    @user33210 That is gross, but also consider the fries are in at least 350 degree oil for more than 2 minutes. You could probably dump the fries on a toilet seat and cook them without illness. Your over concern is likely the most dangerous habit. Though I agree after touching money, wash your hands. But its not really an issue until they start packaging the food. I don't think there's a single foodborne illness that can survive 350F for more than a few seconds.
    – tsturzl
    May 27, 2015 at 17:44
  • 1
    @user33210 Perhaps the psychological disgust in our society today bothers me to a point where it would be safe to say its a pet peeve of mine. I think there's an over concern in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to food. I think people who handle food improperly should absolutely be reprimanded. However, I feel that what you listed above is overly precautious and somewhat obsessive. You're risk reduction doesn't really provide you any additional safety, as your precautions don't even address the real dangers after the chicken is cooked.
    – tsturzl
    May 31, 2015 at 6:31

6 Answers 6


I don't think much has happened to washing a chicken in itself, rather much more has happened to our knowledge about bacteria, hygiene, and cross contamination.

Most likely, with or without washing, nothing bad is going to happen. But then again: It might. Properly cooking the poultry is going to get rid of the bacteria on the chicken, no washing needed. With washing, bacteria present on the chicken might spread to other parts of the kitchen and ingredients, and some of that might be consumed raw, or not cooked through & through, increasing the risk of contamination.

Personally, I'm not overly worried about getting infected, and I never have been, but I might, you might, and you wouldn't want guests to be. It's risk reduction, rather than anything else.

  • 15
    To be more explicit: washing it doesn't improve safety. There are things that can't reliably be washed off. So if you're worried, the only way to be safe is to cook it properly, and that'll make it safe no matter what. All washing does is introduce a risk of contamination via splatter - maybe it's small, but why take an unnecessary risk? The USDA confirms all this: fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/…
    – Cascabel
    May 26, 2015 at 4:09

I don't see how anything intrinsic about chickens has changed with respect to safety. We know that chickens can carry the salmonella bacteria and that means there's always a risk of a very serious illness when handling/eating raw chicken.

Having said that, being too obsessed with these risks is what seems to be happening to the younger generations.

The correct way of looking at it is this: avoid cross-contamination. That's it. Unless you have a restaurant, then you should really avoid cross-contamination.

  • Don't let the raw chicken come into contact with food that isn't going to be cooked.
  • Don't let food that's going to be cooked after coming into contact with raw chicken remain uncooked for long.
  • Disinfect the cutting board thoroughly.

Oh, and don't keep raw chicken over 5ºC for more than 4 hours, tops.

  • 1
    I wouldn't say this specific case is an example of over obsessing. It's just a matter of not taking an unnecessary risk, with no upside.
    – Cascabel
    May 26, 2015 at 4:10
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    @Jefromi " use gloves and pans that they throw out after the chicken touches..." IMO, that's too much. May 26, 2015 at 9:00
  • 4
    Fair, I read that as laziness or just being grossed out by touching raw meat, but if it's for safety it's indeed overkill.
    – Cascabel
    May 26, 2015 at 14:34
  • @BaffledCook - I kind of wonder if that's convenience packaging that can be used directly to cook, kind of like "take and bake" pizza pans. May 30, 2019 at 20:49

That's ridiculous. Throwing out everything the chicken touches is just plain wasteful. Just don't cross contaminate. You can wash away bacteria, and its dies without a host. Also consider the fact that foodborne illness cannot go through your skin. Exposure to bacteria actually increases your immunity. Poultry might be prone to bacteria, but proper cooking and avoiding cross contamination will prevent illness almost indefinitely. They may as well throw out their plates and silverware, and rub themselves in hand sanitizer, because cooked chicken is no more or less prone to infection than raw chicken, the only difference is the cooking process kills bacteria, which can easily find its way back to the chicken given enough time.

You don't really need to clean chicken before cooking it(and can be more harmful, see comments). The concern that you sink will become contaminated is silly. You should just be sure to wash your sink and the countertops surrounding. Any organic matter will be a breeding ground for bacteria. If I put an infected bird in your sink, you'd likely be able to wash the bacteria out of your sink if you rinse with soapy hot water. They should consider cleaning what ever their chicken touches rather than throwing it away. I guarantee you that they achieve no benefit by taking these precautions. Wash your hands, wash your pans, and wash your counter tops. You'll be fine, and less wasteful.

There is no difference in the bacteria in chicken today vs chicken 30, 40, 50 years ago. Its probably not that they are young but simply squeamish or germaphobic. I've had food poisoning before from chicken, and its usually because it sat out too long after being cooked. In fact all foodborne illness I've had has been after the food was properly cooked and sat out in the "danger zone" too long. Given that people who ate this food an hour or so before I did had not become ill, though others who ate it after sitting out had become ill. Likely a stomach virus.

Addition(May 31, 2015):

A few people mentioned the decreased standards of the chickens living quarters. This makes the assumption that someone is buying a certain brand of chicken. Typically factory farms supply large food distribution companies nationwide(assuming the US), and therefore have a larger demand. I'm not saying it's morally just, but rather that typically your store bought whole chicken isn't from a factory farm. If you're worried about this, you should go to a butcher as they usually source from farms near by to avoid the large and unnecessary cost of sourcing produce from long distances. I cannot speak for every grocer, but from my own experience I typically see local/state brands. I grew up in and around farming communities most of my life and know that many of the companies that source produce in this state buy the produce from farmers who are sole proprietors, rather than what basically is a franchise owner for a factory farm. There's a big difference.

As far as genetically modified chickens, this is both irrelevant and some what naive in my opinion. We've selectively breed these chickens to carry more meat on their breasts. My aunt has a hobby farm and has raised these chickens. They are dumb, clumsy and mature quickly; therefore leading very short lives. It might seem cruel, but it's not a new practice either. In South Asia they've breed a domestic duck called the runner duck, which is flightless, therefore easier to raise. They're unable to walk, and unable to swim. Making it easy to keep them couped. These ducks were first bred in the late 1800's. So to claim that this is a new practice is simply not true. To say "genetically modified" is somewhat misleading, because it's not as if we have genetically engineered these chickens in a lab. They've simply been breed to our desirable traits. Again, this isn't to say I'm trying to justify it, but simply that it's irrelevant in both the sense that it has nothing to do with the cleanliness of the animal, and there's nothing to prove that selectively breed animals produce any harmful effects but on the contrary there's hundreds of years of history where humans have eaten animals who were selectively breed. Selective breeding is, in fact, part of what makes a domestic animal domesticated. If you own a dog, it was selectively breed to show traits desirable to humans.

Again, none of this is to imply any sort of moral justification, but that's completely irrelevant to this matter any how as we're supposed to be answering a question with facts and actualities, not skepticisms and one-off studies which cover a broad topic which likely doesn't even apply to this circumstance. What you provided may be educational and relevant in a loose context, but this isn't the place. It's simply irrelevant.

  • 1
    Washing provides no benefit and some amount of risk. It's the splatter, not what runs down into the sink. And it's not just a bunch of paranoid people making it up: fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/…
    – Cascabel
    May 31, 2015 at 16:10
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    I don't get it. I've mentioned nothing about this. I simply stated that a sink can be washed out, nothing directly regarding whether or not to wash the chicken.
    – tsturzl
    Jun 1, 2015 at 16:41
  • "worrying about your sink becoming contaminated is absolutely stupid."
    – Cascabel
    Jun 1, 2015 at 16:45
  • 1
    In regards to the ability to clean your sink. I think you're misinterpreting. It implies nothing about actually washing the bird, but simply stating the fact that it can be washed.
    – tsturzl
    Jun 1, 2015 at 16:46
  • You'll also find that I infact stated "Wash your hands, wash your pans, and wash your counter tops"
    – tsturzl
    Jun 1, 2015 at 16:48

I'm surprised so many people think we're eating the same poultry today that we ate 50+ years ago. Not only have the birds been genetically altered for maximum profit (large breasts, for instance) but they're dosed with antibiotics daily from the time they hatch. Additionally, meat processing is dramatically different. Today the poultry industry processes birds at such a rapid rate that inspectors for the USDA reportedly cannot begin to do their jobs properly. Workers report instances where bowel material comes in contact with parts intended for consumption. And no amount of cooking can compensate for tainted meat. I think kitchen sanitation is paramount, cooking to 185 degrees mandatory and still we take our chances eating today's chicken. I do eat it - and I not suggesting otherwise. But I am suggesting best practices and careful consideration when preparing meals for the very young, elderly or infirmed.


Today's fryers spend their entire short lives on antibiotics, increasing the likelihood that whatever germs their little corpses carry may be antibiotic resistant.

Today's fryers are raised in environments harsh and dirty enough that feeding them antibiotics all their lives is a good business investment.

Food paranoia is becoming the norm. Many adults have never produced any of their own food, and find the topic somewhat mysterious. Lots of people have never been around chickens, let alone raised and butchered them.

That wooden cutting boards are full of germs is now something that "everybody knows," probably because it was good filler for the press after some study or another came out.


From what I understand, the reason people are advised to be even more careful with chicken than with other meats, is that chicken tend to be very heavily treated with antibiotics for its entire life, which has lead to a lot of antibiotic resistant bacteria in it. This report claims that half of the samples they tested contained such strains of bacteria. Additionally they found harmful bacteria on most of the samples they tested. Of course, the bacteria still have to get from the chicken to you, so if you are careful with your hygiene (for instance, don't put your fingers in your mouth right after handling raw chicken), I believe you shouldn't be at much risk, as several of the other answers here point out. Throwing away all utensils which have touched the chicken definitely seems like overkill.

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