Health experts recommend that you do not wash your chicken before cooking, as this can spread harmful bacteria. But if you are among the relatives 70 percent of people who do, according to a survey of U.S. grocery buyers, there are ways to make it safer.
Instead of urging people not to wash chicken, says mathematician Scott McCall of Bozeman State University in Montana, the purpose of a study published in March Fluid physics was to “recommend how to do it safelyor more carefully. ”
Researchers placed raw chicken under running taps and monitored the spray of water and bacteria to nearby surfaces. The results have changed dramatically depending on several factors.
The biggest effect was the height of the crane above the chicken. If the water falls 40 centimeters (about 16 inches) before it hits a chicken breast or thigh, the germs travel farther than taps just 15 centimeters (about 6 inches) above the chicken.
In tests involving taller taps, water droplets exploded more than 22 centimeters into the air, polluting much of the area. In the lower cranes, the droplets sprayed at a height of only about 5 centimeters and there were relatively few signs of contamination, reaching nearby surfaces.
Researchers also found that if they clicked on a faucet, the initial burst of water sent a contaminated spray. Turning it on gradually reduces scattering.
The susceptibility of the chicken was also important. The water hitting the chicken creates a small hole in the soft surface that shoots the spray farther than it would if the chicken did not deform. Maintaining reduced water pressure reduces the formation of dimples and the subsequent spread of microbes.
Raw chicken can be contaminated by salmonella and other bacteria that can cause foodborne illness (SN: 09.08.10). Even minor spraying will contaminate sinks with germs that can spread from other foods and hands, says food safety researcher Ellen Shoemaker of the University of North Carolina at Raleigh, who is not part of the study.
However, reducing spraying can still be part of what Shumaker describes as a multifaceted approach to keeping germs in the kitchen. “We know there will always be people who always wash” poultry, “she said.