Should you wash meat before cooking it?

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Should you or shouldn’t you wash raw meat before cooking it? Depending who you ask, you might get different answers. Some believe it’s unnecessary; other’s think it improves food safety. Here’s what you should know about washing meat.

Does washing raw meat make it safer?

According to the USDA, it’s not recommended to wash any raw meat before cooking. Not only does it not remove all bacteria, it also causes the bacteria on the meat to get on the sink or other surfaces that get splashed in the process of washing. 

All in all, washing meat doesn’t improve food safety, rather it increases your chance of cross contamination of bacteria associated with proteins.

How can you safely handle raw meat?

Overall, you should be very careful to limit the contact of raw meat with surfaces and other food items whether you’re a home or a professional cook. Here are a few specific tips:

  • Always wash your hands before and after handling raw meat to avoid cross contamination.
  • Make sure that you’re cleaning your work space as you go.
  • Use different cutting boards for raw meat and other foods. 
  • Don’t use the same utensils, such as knives, for raw meat and other food. 
  • Don’t bring ready-to-eat food into contact with raw meat (if the food will go on to be cooked at temperatures that will kill the bacteria, then that’s safe). 

Chef David Brue is the assistant director of hospital nutrition services at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.