Should you wash raw meat before cooking?

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Spring is here! As our days are getting longer we want to grill out. Nothing tastes better than a juicy steak or pork chop hot off the grill. Should you wash the raw meat before grilling? For years, it was customary and even recommended to wash raw meat prior to cooking. The idea was that bone chips and bacteria could be washed safely down the drain.

The USDA no longer recommends washing raw meats:

" Some of the bacteria are so tightly attached that you could not remove them no matter how many times you washed. However, there are other types of bacteria that could splash onto the surfaces of your kitchen. Failure to clean these contaminated areas (sinks, counter tops, cabinets, etc.) can lead to foodborne illness. Cooking (baking, broiling, boiling, and grilling) to the right temperature kills the bacteria, so washing food is not necessary."

Always observe these food safety rules when handling raw meat:

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats, wash cutting board, utensils, and counter tops with hot, soapy water.
  • Cutting boards, utensils, and counter tops can be sanitized by using a solution of 1 teaspoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water.
  • Marinate meat and poultry in a covered dish in the refrigerator.

Safe cooking temperatures:

Poultry Products

165° F

Ground Meat

160° F

Prime Rib

130° F

Steak, roast, chops

140° F

USDA safe minimum cooking temperatures

To Safely Marinate Foods:

Marinate in a non-metal container in the refrigerator.

Do not marinate more than 24 hours. (Meat will become mushy if left too long.)

Save some unused marinade to baste food during cooking.

Throw away any leftover marinade.


Marinated Lemon Thyme Chicken or Pork

4 skinned chicken pieces (pork chops)

2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix oil, lemon juice, thyme and garlic. Place chicken/pork in shallow container and

cover with mixture. Let sit in refrigerator 30 minutes. Preheat grill or broiler. Cook

chicken/pork until tender and reaches an internal temperature of 165o F (chicken) or

140o F (pork). Serves 4.

Mexicali Marinade

1/3 cup oil 1 teaspoon chili powder

2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 teaspoon sugar

1/3 cup cider vinegar 1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup apple juice 1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a small saucepan, heat oil and cook garlic 2-3 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients

and heat through, stirring until smooth. Cool in refrigerator. Excellent for tenderizing

less expensive cuts of meat, pork or veal. Marinate strips/cubes of meat 2 hours, chops

or ribs 3 hours, and steaks at least 4 hours prior to cooking. Always marinate foods in

the refrigerator turning meat occasionally.

*recipes from Wellness Ways, University of Illinois Extension