I’ve noticed that there are two kinds of habits I see whenever I watch my friends cook. During ingredient preparation, I have friends who take out the meat from the fridge and rinse it first before cutting the meat. But I also have friends who immediately work on the meat straight out of the refrigerator â€“ they donâ€™t wash or rinse the meat.
This has left me with a nagging question in my head. Do we need to wash meat we buy at the butcher shop or supermarket?
According to the USDAâ€™s Food Safety and Inspection Service, you donâ€™t really need to wash the pork, beef, lamb, chicken or veal that you buy before preparing or cooking it. Rinsing or washing meat will actually increase the chances of cross contaminating the meat. According to the USDA, any bacteria that is already on the meat when you take it out of the packaging will die when the meat is cooked. But your kitchen sink, the kitchen counter , utensils or even the cutting board may be contaminated with bacteria and this is not subjected to the intense heat that cooking entails. The government agency highly suggests that these items in your kitchen should be thoroughly washed with warm soapy water, rinsed and then either air-dried or wiped dry with paper towels.
Another reason that you shouldnâ€™t wash meat is culinary in nature. Washed meat will retain more moisture and this will hinder the Maillard reaction â€“ the chemical reaction that happens when carbohydrate molecules interact with amino acids, which produce the delicious sear that you see in cooked meat. The sear provides a lot of additional flavors in your dish and on the meat itself. The Maillard reaction happens at temperatures reaching 230 degrees Fahrenheit. Since water evaporated at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, it will prevent the meat from getting hot enough and initiating the Maillard reaction.
So the bottom line is, donâ€™t wash meat. In fact, you should dry the meat with paper towels before you introduce it to a hot pan.