Water, Lemon Juice, Vinegar, or Nothing: Should You Even Bother Rinsing Chicken?
There's an ongoing debate about whether or not it's safe or even desirable to rinse meat before you cook it. Many fall into the anti-rinsing camp, saying that it's not effective at dislodging bacteria, especially on poultry, as we've discussed before. Meanwhile, some argue that rinsing certain meats, like bacon, could be beneficial since it possibly prevents it from shrinking.
Before everyone owned a refrigerator, cooks would apply an acidic solution because they believed it killed any bacteria on the bird and to impart a little extra flavor. Currently, many folks use this same technique to get rid of any odors, specifically the chilly, overly refrigerated or chlorinated aroma some chickens accrue after being shipped from the farm to the market in air-conditioned trucks.
Over at Chowhound, users point out that rinsing your bird in vinegar or lemon juice can be a test to see if the meat is still good. If the chicken smells "off" even after its vinegar or lemon juice bath, chances are it's not okay to cook.
Carlos Cuisine describes this technique as a common one in Haitian cooking with a few advantages: it tenderizes meat, cuts down on cooking time, and lets you store chicken for a little longer in the fridge if you end up not cooking it the day you prep it.
However, keep in mind that leaving an acid on the surface of the meat will actually lightly cook it and make it tough, so you want to rinse off your acid solution before storing your poultry for any length of time.
And while the FDA currently does recommend against rinsing chicken, a user at Reddit points out that they used to recommend the exact opposite. In fact, most of my cookbooks (especially the ones that were published pre-1980), almost always recommend rinsing and drying meat before cooking it. CNN has a fun history of chicken-washing in famous cookbooks if you want to learn even more.
NPR interviewed food safety researcher Jennifer Quinlan of Drexel University, who says that the practice of rinsing chickens in vinegar or lemon juice doesn't kill pathogens on the bird. She also points out that if your chicken has a chlorinated smell, it's time to get your chickens from somewhere else (that chlorine indicates the birds were dunked in a solution to make them last longer).
Most cooking and food safety experts currently agree that cooking your meat to certain internal temperatures is the best way to ensure all harmful bacteria and pathogens are killed. And while to vinegar rinse or not vinegar rinse your meat remains up for debate, it most definitely has a positive effect on washing your produce properly.
What's your opinion? To rinse or not to rinse?