Should You Wash Chicken Before Cooking? Here’s What Dr. Oz Says

Find out the safest way to prepare dinner.

By Brittany Leitner
raw chicken

People usually have their own rules when it comes to handling chicken. I'll never forget the night I was cooking and made the mistake of touching raw chicken, my faucet, and then the chicken again in front of my roommate. She shrieked in horror and accused me of spreading Salmonella across our home. I quickly appeased her by rubbing down the sink with anti-bacterial wipes, but I started to wonder if I really needed to wash chicken before cooking it? And if so, should I avoid touching all the surfaces in my kitchen until I've wiped my hands clean of the raw meat? Is it really that serious?

Apparently a lot of people have wondered this as well, because it's one of the first things the hosts of the radio show The Breakfast Club asked Dr. Oz when he stopped by. And they were definitely surprised by what Dr. Oz had to say. Here's everything you need to know about washing chicken and cooking chicken, and how you can avoid spreading Salmonella in your home.

What does water do to your chicken? 

According to Dr. Oz, washing chicken before you cook it is unnecessary at best. At its worst, you're providing a clear pathway to spreading Salmonella by holding your meat under your kitchen faucet. "When you wash your chicken, you spray Salmonella all over the kitchen... when you splash water on your chicken, it goes outside the sink." He also adds that it's a virtually useless step since you're not going to kill any bacteria living on your chicken with water anyway. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees. In an article titled, "Chicken and Food Poisoning," the CDC clearly states that you should never wash raw chicken and even echos Dr. Oz's sentiments: "During washing, chicken juices can spread in the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils, and countertops."

Dr. Oz says that popping your chicken in the oven or on a hot skillet is the only thing you need to do to prevent ingesting bacteria. Let the oven do the work for you, and skip the unnecessary step of washing your raw meat.

What should you wash?

It turns out my roommate was right to call me out on touching parts of our kitchen with my "chicken hands." The CDC says you should never place cooked chicken on a surface, plate, or cutting board that previously held the raw chicken. It also advises to not only wash your own hands after you've touched them but wipe down any surface at all that may have encountered the chicken in any way. 

What to look for at restaurants.

Chicken should always reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit when prepared properly, so don't hesitate to send it back if you suspect it wasn't cooked all the way through. 

I clearly remember this happening to me when I was little and ordered chicken tenders at a chain restaurant. The breading on the outside was cooked to a crisp golden brown, but on the inside, the chicken was close to raw! I was absolutely shocked, but thank goodness my mom noticed and flagged down the waiter right away. 

The moral of the story is, just because you're out to eat doesn't mean you can trust that everything was cooked properly. Always cut into your meat before taking a bite, and make sure to examine its coloring and temperature. If the meat appears clear or slimy, definitely send it back. According to the USDA, it's possible for fully cooked chicken to still have a pink-ish tinge to it, so your best bet is to check the internal temperature, or send it back for a check if you're still not sure.

For more Dr. Oz wellness tips, recipes, and exclusive sneak peeks from The Dr. Oz Show, subscribe to the Dr. Oz newsletter.

Related:

What You Need to Know About Salmonella

The Chicken Buyer's Guide

What's Really Inside American Chicken

Article written by Brittany Leitner