Back in my grandmother’s day, raw chicken and other poultry were always washed in the sink and then soaked in saltwater before cooking. Soaking the poultry in saltwater—also known as brining—was the method used to drain blood from the poultry. A secondary benefit of the brine was a more flavorful and tender piece of chicken. So, what could be wrong with this preparation method?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the common practice of washing raw poultry before it’s cooked puts you and your family at risk for foodborne illness. When washing raw chicken in the sink, there is a risk of bacteria being left in the sink, scattering on kitchen countertops and nearby food.
In a recent study, the USDA found 60% of people who washed raw chicken before cooking it had bacteria in their sink. Even more concerning is that 14% still had bacteria in their sinks after they attempted to clean the sink. More than 25% of participants who washed raw poultry transferred bacteria from that raw poultry to their ready to eat salad lettuce.