While it’s normal for us to simply run everything we buy from the supermarket under the faucet, we should really stop doing that with raw meat – and that’s not just about hygiene as it is about quality implications.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s beef, pork, turkey, chicken, fish or lamb – once you remove the meat from its packaging you should resist the urge to wash it, even if it’s glistening. You may think you’re cleaning the meat, but you’re actually making the problem worse. Here’s why:
Rinsing Increases the Risk of Cross-Contamination
Meat is a breeding ground for bacteria like Campylobacter and Salmonella, which can cause food poisoning.
According many advisory boards, washing raw meat actually increases the risk of cross-contamination. Not only does it not remove all bacteria, it causes bacteria on the meat to go everywhere else – on your clothes, the sink, the kitchen counter, and everywhere that gets splashed in the process of washing.
Don’t worry about having bacteria in the meat – they’ll die during cooking. But you can’t say the same for your sink, counters or cutting board – you should ideally wash them with hot, soapy water after being in contact with meat to be on the safe side.
Make sure meat is cooked at the right temperature
If you’re cooking ground meat like beef or pork, it’s never safe to serve medium – this is because the process of grinding can introduce potentially harmful bacteria into the ground meat. Dishes with ground meat should reach an internal temperature of 165ºF.
However, if the fresh meat is a slab of steak (for roast or chop) then you can get away with medium-rare – or 145ºC. For safety and quality, allow the meat to rest for at least 3 minutes before carving or consuming.
No need to soak in salt water
Some people like soaking meat in salt water – but this is mostly all about flavour and not really about food safety.
Rinsing ruins the quality of the meat
If you’re cooking steak, then you’ll probably like it to have that seared look – it’s created via the Maillard reaction, which happens via an intricate chemical process. This actually gives the coveted brown colour to the meat, along with its complex flavours.
The Maillard reaction begins at 230ºF, and if you wash your meat, the water in the meat turns into vapour at 212ºF. This means the meat won’t get hot enough to allow the Maillard reaction to occur because you’ll need to cook all the water off before the meat can brown.
Don’t wash eggs either
We know the knee-jerk reaction to seeing eggs dirtied by mysterious dots or spots is washing them – after all, they’ve got a shell to protect them, right? However, you shouldn’t wash eggs because it can remove the protective coating that is applied during commercial processing.
This also applies to farm fresh eggs, because eggs are laid with a natural coating on the shell called “bloom,” which helps to prevent bacteria from permeating the shell.
What to do with raw meat?
If you really need to clean up excess moisture from your meat, simply wipe (or dab) it away carefully with paper towels. And always remember to wash your hands afterwards.