When using garlic or onions - is it redundant to rinse them in water, being that you take off multiple layers before preparation?

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    Can such a question be answered globally, or is there to much difference in local food safety standards (eg, one country might allow different treatment of their whole garlic, making it safe/unsafe to use unrinsed)? ... Also, the title is misleading, since there are eg salmonella risks with some non-onion non-garlic vegetables that have no bearing here... – rackandboneman Dec 19 '16 at 8:58

While I don't always practice what I preach, in the interest of food safety, I would recommend rinsing any vegetable or fruits before peeling.

The reason for this is that when you cut into an unwashed vegetable or fruit, any contaminants on the outer surface are transferred to the part of the item you are going to eat.

While it doesn't happen often, some foods have been contaminated by E. coli, salmonella, pesticides, fertilizer residue, etc., when not rinsed first. In the worst cases people have become ill from it.

Garlic may be the exception as the outer peel is usually removed by hand before doing anything to the individual cloves. (Except when roasting and the top is cut off.) Onions could also be an exception if you are able to remove all of the outer peeling so that your knife will not go through it when cutting the onion.

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    I don't understand why you "would recommend rinsing any vegetable or fruits before peeling" specifically, rather than before or after peeling. (Rinsing after peeling has the added benefit of rinsing away remnants of peel.) – msh210 Dec 18 '16 at 21:23
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    @msh210 I answered the way I did because the question specifically asked about rinsing before peeling. To your point, rinsing afterward is a good idea for some items, and not necessary for others. – Cindy Dec 18 '16 at 22:08
  • (re your comment) Reread the question. I, at least, didn't understand that it was asking about rinsing before peeling specifically as opposed to possibly after. – msh210 Dec 18 '16 at 23:45
  • @msh210 - In the question, the part: "is it redundant to rinse them in water, being that you take off multiple layers..." very strongly infers that the question is about 1) rinsing them before peeling, and 2) perhaps even rinsing them at all. – Kevin Fegan Dec 19 '16 at 18:31
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    Even if you're removing the outer peeling by hand, you ought to wash the vegetable. Your hands are just as capable (perhaps more so) of transferring bacteria from the outer to the inner layers. – Benjamin Dec 19 '16 at 19:35

It is absolutely important that you rinse fruits and vegetables before consuming them raw, even if you are going to peel them!

I know this seems counter-intuitive to many people, since the "bad stuff" on produce (primarily bacteria—the pesticides and other residues aren't going to make you sick, they just aren't very appetizing) is on the outside, and you are simply going to peel it away. The problem is, during the process of peeling and/or cutting the item, it is almost inevitable that you introduce some of the bacteria from the outside into the fleshy interior—the part you are going to eat!

Is it necessary? Well, you probably aren't going to die if you don't do it. Only a tiny amount of bacteria will be introduced into the flesh of the fruit/vegetable by this process, so the chances are relatively low that it will make a healthy person extremely sick. If anything, you can expect mild food poisoning symptoms—perhaps so minor that you hardly even notice anything awry.

It also isn't particularly necessary to rinse produce that you're about to cook. Onions and garlic are both sometimes eaten raw, And beyond the vegetables mentioned explicitly in the question, there are cucumbers, carrots, etc., all of which are frequently consumed raw.

As someone with training in food microbiology, my family sometimes thinks I'm over-cautious. But it never hurts to be safe than sorry, especially when you're buying commercial produce. You don't have to scrub it if you're going to peel it, but if you have running water available (and most of us do!), it is always a good idea to rinse your fruits and vegetables thoroughly, while rubbing between your fingers.

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    Just to be clear... you're suggesting rinsing before peeling for garlic and onion too? Those seem really painful to peel wet. – Cascabel Dec 18 '16 at 20:43
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    Eating onion raw is not all that uncommon, I have seen quite a few restraints that garnish salads with some fine slices of raw onion. – Vality Dec 18 '16 at 21:19
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    Raw onion is also routinely used on sandwiches, burgers, etc. – Makyen Dec 18 '16 at 22:14
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    "while practically no one eats onions raw" - Come again? I use raw onion in guacamole all the time. – aroth Dec 19 '16 at 12:07
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    One more about raw onions... they are quite commonly served diced (raw) on things like hot dogs, bratwurst, and other similar (sausage) sandwiches. Also, in my experience (which seems opposite to yours on this point), serving raw garlic is much less common than raw onions (I wouldn't say eating either of them raw is rare). – Kevin Fegan Dec 19 '16 at 18:41

It is redundant to rinse then peel garlic or onion. On the other hand, I do rinse carrots, cucumber and potatoes before peeling. The difference being that you actually remove the outer casing when peeling garlic or onion. With other vegetables you just shave off the very outer layer, often times not thoroughly.

I have never rinsed garlic or onion that I intend to peel, nor have I ever seen anybody do it. I will brush off soil stuck on them, but I never see that on onions or garlic from the grocery store. I suppose in some parts of the world rinsing garlic and onions would not be uncommon. If I ever saw it, I would wonder if they really have reason to believe their garlic or onion is that dirty, or if it's just a cultural quirk.

  • "It is redundant to rinse then peel garlic or onion." - source? – Mateusz Konieczny Dec 22 '16 at 11:25

I rinse home grown garlic before peeling, but not bought garlic or onions. This is because my soil is very sticky, and so much clings to the outer skin that it otherwise gets everywhere when preparing it. If it's very dry, just brushing the dirt off also works.

If you do rinse a garlic bulb and don't use it all, you need to make sure it drys out properly and quickly, otherwise it will spoil.

  • I agree with your answer, and especially appreciate the part about making sure to dry garlic that I'm not going to use right away. I only rinse the peeled clove if I've used the same knife to cut other veggies, but I frequently wash my hands during the food preparation process. I'll be more vigilant to make sure the garlic's dry before storing it for future use! I've probably helped a clove spoil before its appointed time by storing it wet! – Sue Dec 18 '16 at 21:33

The obvious is if you don't plan to peel.

I know this is extreme and I don't rinse garlic but even if you peel by hand you get cross contamination as you have handled the peel and peeled garlic. If you peel then cut one at a time that is a bit of cross contamination. A better practice would be to hand peel all then wash your hands before cutting. You could also then rinse the peeled garlic.

According to this reference, unrefrigerated foods with peels (like onions and potatoes) are excellent bacteria incubators when peeled but not so while in peel.

My take away: you may not need to wash room temperature sold produce with peels before or after peeling, but you must consume them without delay.

  • I'm pretty sure the quote in the page you linked doesn't mean fruit and vegetables sold at room temperature are safe to consume as-is, it means they're safe to consume in general when handled properly. It's being used to dispel the notion that onions and potatoes are more dangerous than spoiled mayonnaise. Basically all fruit and vegetables are sold at room temperature, and in general you're definitely supposed to rinse them: fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm194327.htm – Cascabel Dec 19 '16 at 1:01
  • @Jefromi Nevertheless, the quotation applies. There are perishable fruits and vegetables sold in a refrigerated case, and non-perishable sold at room temperature. Every item sold in the non-perishable stand has a peel. Those need not be washed but must be consumed once peeled. Some perishable have peels (like cucumbers), and those must be washed prior to peeling. – bishop Dec 19 '16 at 1:10
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    Not so sure about that. Tons of stores sell cucumbers unrefrigerated, for example, and you say they need to be washed. I'm pretty sure you're supposed to wash apples and pears even if you're peeling them, and they're sold unrefrigerated too. – Cascabel Dec 19 '16 at 1:24
  • @Jefromi. Touche. Points taken and post edited. – bishop Dec 19 '16 at 3:03

Living on an ocean going boat, where water is at a premium, unless your veggies come covered in what cows leave behind, then the answer is probably no. If you have particularly dirty veg, which is to eaten raw, then yes, but on the whole, boiling/steaming/microwaving will kill virtually everything. We live in a society that is a bit mamby pamby and a bit of dirt wont hurt you - most of the time! Oh, and after over 100,000 ocean miles in a small boat without using refrigeration I do know a thing or two about this - we do not use any tins or packets onboard.

  • Hello, and welcome to Stack Exchange. While interesting, this doesn't answer the question. – Daniel Griscom Dec 20 '16 at 20:00
  • Well, it's an answer - it says "probably no" - it's just not a well-supported one. – Cascabel Dec 20 '16 at 20:41

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