The Common Step Ina Garten Skips When Preparing Chicken

Ina Garten is famous for her skillet-roasted lemon chicken. When the Barefoot Contessa discusses how to cook this bird, people listen. But when she preps her chicken, Garten skips a step that some find controversial: washing it. Washing your chicken is going to have Garten crying foul, and for good reason. During an episode of Food Network's "Cook Like a Pro," she explained, "I know there's this whole debate about whether you wash the chicken before you do this, or you don't," but the professional chef is on the side of not doing it.

While Garten's culinary muse, Julia Child, did advocate for washing your chicken before cooking, Garten has both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on her side. Both the CDC and USDA say washing chicken — or any meat for that matter per the USDA — can spread germs. Water droplets can splash onto surfaces, kitchen gear, or utensils and contaminate them with harmful bacteria like Campylobacter or Salmonella. The USDA goes on to explain that while washing meat was necessary when people butchered their own poultry, it is a thing of the past. 

Trust your oven

Is there ever a time you should wash your poultry? The answer is no. Wash your hands and the items that come into contact with it before you cook it, but when it comes to the chicken itself, resist temptation and step away from your kitchen sink's faucet. Still, raw chicken and its juices are gross. But don't let that scare you into washing it — instead, let your oven do its job.

The USDA notes that the high temperature needed to cook your chicken will kill any germs. When Garten roasts her bird, she preheats the oven to 425 F and allows it cook for an hour and a half. She knows it's done when the juices run clear. If you have any concerns, use your trusty meat thermometer and insert it into the thickest part of your chicken. If you get a reading of 165 F, you know it has been cooked or roasted to its proper temperature that is safe for eating.