When it comes to the foods we eat, when is it appropriate to know which foods you should wash and which foods you shouldn’t wash?
There are many different people and machines that handle our food before it arrives in the supermarket. On occasion, some of these products have been sprayed with harmful pesticides or preservatives that we cannot eat.
On the contrary, there are also foods that many people think it wise to wash, however, this is not actually the case when you talk to professional chefs.
Foodborne bacteria like Salmonella, Norovirus, E. Coli, or Listeria find many different ways to grow or loiter on the foods we like. However, there are some basic rules to these bacterias that if followed, will make food preparation and cooking safe for everyone.
1) Never Wash – Chicken: Believe it or not, many people think that rinsing off their chicken before cooking to remove any present bacteria is a good thing, but this process is actually very wrong. Any water that drips off the chicken onto the floor, or the counter, or your hands, or anywhere for that matter will add pollutants wherever they go. Salmonella, which commonly grows on chicken, is a bacteria that is destroyed when the chicken reaches 165 degrees F. It’s crucial to have the food cooked to this temperature before consumption. Therefore, rinsing your chicken will do you no good other than to add bacteria to places it doesn’t need to be.
2) Never Wash – Eggs: Eggs contain their own protective layer that isolates any bacteria away from the inside of the egg. Think of it as nature’s very own Tupperware. Washing your eggs will actually remove the protective layer on the outside, risk your eggs of going bad faster, and you risk contamination. Many farmers actually put the eggs through their own cleaning process before sending them out into supermarkets, so by washing them again, you’re interrupting this process.
3) Never Wash – Fish: Much like chicken, washing raw fish will not eliminate the bacteria, it will only spread it to other surfaces. A wet, dripping raw slice of fish added to your cutting board will ensure that you ruin your cutting board as well by introducing bacteria into the cracks. This will also rob chicken of its ability to hold flavor. Cooking your fish to the appropriate temperature will ensure that any bacteria is killed off.
4) Always Wash – Dried Canned Foods: Foods like kidney beans, canned corn, canned potatoes, canned peas, or canned tomatoes contain preservatives and brines that may be harmful to the human digestive system. Consuming these brines can make you sick, and they should always be rinsed off. Other canned goods like sauces, baked beans, or soups are safe to consume. It’s always a good practice to wash off the can before you open it.
5) Always Wash – Fresh Fruits and vegetables: Many fresh fruits and vegetables (yes even the ones with a skin) may contain pesticide sprays, preservative sprays or plain old dirt from the farm. You should always try to wash off your fresh fruits before cutting them, slicing them, peeling them or chopping them. Even foods with thick outer layers like onions can benefit from a nice wash.
6) Always Wash – Lettuce: Lettuce leaves are especially tasty to insects like Aphids, so farmers have little choice but to spray them with a pesticide to eliminate this from happening. Pesticides can make you sick, and may even help harbor additional bacteria such as Listeria or E. Coli. Investing in a salad spinner is a great way to remove all that moisture from your lettuce after it’s been washed.
All in all, if you follow basic food safety tips in the kitchen, you should be able to keep any harmful bacteria out of your stomach. When in doubt, try to wash your food before consuming it. However, please don’t go too extreme and wash something like your loaf of bread. Nobody likes soggy bread.