Food safety rules sometimes sound a little extreme — who washes all of their produce, really? Let he who has never saved leftovers that sat at room temperature for more than two hours throw the first stone. But the UK is celebrating Food Safety Week, and this new tip is easy: don't wash your raw chicken before cooking it.
Raw chicken contains a common bacteria called campylobacter. It causes campylobacteriosis, which involves all those horrible food poisoning symptoms you've come to fear: diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps/pain, and fever. I've had real food poisoning just one time, in 2006, but even just remembering it makes me a little sick. Trust me, if you haven't had the pleasure: do anything you can to avoid this.
Actually, not washing your chicken makes sense, if you stop to think about it: chicken is teeming with germs, and while washing removes relatively few of them, it's a very effective method for spreading those germs to the sink, your hands, and all the surrounding surfaces and items. You can pat the chicken dry if you want it to turn out crispier, but use paper towels, trash them promptly, and wash your hands as soon as you're done.
Here is a helpful photo of what not to do:
In case that wasn't clear: when it comes to washing chicken, just say "HELL NO." For more details on why, and for general chicken handling instructions, try the Food Standards Agency site. And enjoy your lack of food poisoning!