Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Foods we Rinse

What do you rinse? Turns out I rinse all the wrong foods. Essentially, if you're going to cook it, you don't need to rinse it - any bacteria will be killed by the heat. If you're eating it raw, like veggies and lettuces, you should rinse. Other things, like rinsing starch off potatoes or rice, is a matter of personal preference, not health or hygiene.

Here's what I have been rinsing - and not rinsing - in the Pinch kitchen:

Rice: hardly ever, but like potatoes, below, the final, cooked product (for white basmati) is a little nicer when I've rinsed it first.
Lentils: never, and I have yet to find a rock in my masoor dal.
Lettuce:  sometimes, depends on the variety.
Potatoes: hardly ever, but I prefer how my oven fries taste when rinsed after cutting. But then they need to be dried well, and this is a a time sink, so I rarely do it.
Poultry: always. I buy organic, skinless, boneless chicken breasts and they feel slimy or slightly sticky out of the bag.
Fish: always, for approximately the same reason as chicken, above.
Beef: don't cook it often, but never rinse it. It doesn't feel like it needs rinsing the way chicken and fish do.

The foods I do rinse (fish, chicken breasts, even my Thanksgiving turkey) are foods that for which rinsing is not recommended on account of cross-contamination and the thing about killing them with heat. Why is it I have an easier time eating a dead salmon than the dead bacteria coating her lovely body?
See Safe Food Handling, from the USDA

The thing I'm most lazy about is lettuce. My feeling generally is, if it's got dirt on it, I'll wash it. I forget about bacteria on veggies because it doesn't gross me out the way bacteria on fish and poultry do. But it's bacteria all the same. It's hard to believe, in the age of antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizers, that a little water could rinse dangerous bacteria off our salad greens.


Unknown said...

The rice/dried beans debate is interesting. I always rinse dried beans of all kinds. I did once find a small pebble, but mainly I worry about them picking up dust on their way to my table. I guess I should feel the same way about rice, but I don't. When preparing it to be sticky, for Asian food, I rinse it, per a Mark Bittman recipe I clipped ages ago. Otherwise I don't rinse.

Adair said...

Hello. I am a Registered Dietitian and have done a lot of work in the field of Food Safety. I cringed inside when I read that you rinse your poultry... Here is why:

According to the The Partnership for Food Safety Education (, rinsing poultry is not a safety step.

Instead, cooking poultry to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees F is what will kill pathogens that could cause illness.

Rinsing raw poultry spreads those pathogens - in your sink and around your kitchen!

I agree that chicken usually feels slimy and slightly sticky out of the bag. Perhaps choosing a grass-fed or free-range or a fresher cut of poultry would fix that problem?

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