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A Game of Chicken: USA v Russia

August 7, 2014

Besides the threat of global thermonuclear war, growing up in the cold war era was a lot of fun. I mean, we had Rocky IV and whole host of Bloom County comic strips that pitted us against the Russians.

It’s hard to put a face on terrorism. These days it seems almost anyone can be a terrorist. Terrorism is all about fear and intimidation. And now that OBL and Saddam Hussein have been killed, the “War on Terror” is missing an iconic villain.

Russians, on the other hand, are easy to find. They are mostly over in Russia. And they have a government. Their military (generally) wears uniforms so they can be identified on the battlefield. They also have a badass for a president. So, it feels a bit like deja vu as relations chill between our two countries.

The good news is that we now and again will get an occasional story about how Russia is totally superior than the U.S. of A. These stories are meant to inspire us and rally Americans everywhere to do better.

Imagine my delight when I read a recent one all about chicken.

So here’s the thousand dollar question. When you buy raw chicken to cook at home, do you wash it before putting it in the oven to cook?

According to a recent study, Russians don’t wash their chickens. They simply take the raw meat and throw it right into the oven. Yeah. That’s how tough they are. Americans on the other hand are so fearful of a little salmonella that we are much more likely to try and wash off what we can’t see, but think will harm us.

This is where things get weird.

As it turns out, the Russians are doing it right. Americans who almost religiously, dutifully wash their raw chickens as they have been instructed to do for years, are the filthy bastards who are doing exactly the wrong thing.

No joke. Here’s the relevant blurb,

Washing poultry is a big food safety no-no because it splashes potential pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter from the raw meat onto other surfaces — and all over your hands and arms.

In all seriousness, I’m sharing this information because I’ve been doing it wrong too. And frankly, I’m thrilled by the realization, because it makes cooking poultry that much easier. I’ve hated the messy task of washing a chicken in the sink and then thoroughly drying it off.

It felt like each raw chicken would take about a half roll of paper towels to thoroughly dry inside and out. And that was the standard Cooks Illustrated demanded for its prized crispy skin slow roasted bird.

Granted, the cooking technique for that succulent delight was never optimized for food safety.

Still, if the food safety patrol is advocating for skipping this wasteful and time intensive step, I’m going to get up on my soapbox and spread the word as far and as wide as I can.

Stop washing your raw chickens.
If you don’t, the Russians will win.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2014 10:26 am

    To be honest, I never really saw the point in washing chickens unless they were slimy or goopy. USA USA USA.

  2. August 7, 2014 11:07 am

    I’m pretty sure that this has been standard operating procedure in most kitchens, and the recommendation of most state health departments, for many years. Washing spreads the bad bugs all around in the sink, especially salmonella.

  3. August 7, 2014 12:10 pm

    Wait a minute. When you wash a chicken, do you do it in the sink and clean the surfaces and hands after? Or do you hold it up in the air and splash water on it? The blurb author evidently assumes the latter. How stupid do they think we are? (Those are all questions.)

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