How to Wash a Chicken: Step-by-Step Guide

Washing a chicken might seem like a simple task, but it requires a lot of care and attention to ensure that you do not contaminate the bird or your kitchen. In this article, we will guide you through the process of washing a chicken in a safe and effective manner.

Is it Necessary to Wash a Chicken?

Before we dive into the process, let’s answer this commonly asked question. The short answer is no, it is not necessary to wash a chicken. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises against it. Washing a chicken can actually spread harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, to your kitchen surfaces, utensils, and other foods.

However, if you still prefer to wash your chicken, it is important to do it safely and correctly.

What You Will Need

Before you start washing your chicken, make sure you have the following items:

  • A cutting board
  • A large bowl or sink
  • A clean towel
  • A thermometer
  • Dish soap (optional)

Step-by-Step Guide

Follow these steps to wash your chicken:

  1. Remove the chicken from its packaging and place it on a cutting board.
  2. Remove any visible fat or feathers with a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp knife.
  3. Check the chicken’s cavity for giblets or any other internal organs. Remove them if necessary.
  4. Rinse the chicken under cold running water. Be sure to rinse the cavity as well.
  5. Pat the chicken dry with a clean towel.
  6. Sanitize your sink or bowl with hot, soapy water.
  7. Fill the sink or bowl with cold water.
  8. Place the chicken in the water, breast side down.
  9. Gently agitate the water to loosen any dirt or debris.
  10. Drain the water and refill the sink or bowl.
  11. Repeat steps 8-10 until the water runs clear. This may take several rounds of washing.
  12. Remove the chicken from the water and pat it dry with a clean towel.
  13. Check the internal temperature of the chicken with a thermometer. The thickest part of the chicken should reach a temperature of 165°F (74°C).
  14. Dispose of the water and disinfect your sink or bowl with hot, soapy water.
  15. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.

Additional Tips and Precautions

Here are some additional tips and precautions to keep in mind when washing a chicken:

  • Wash your hands and any utensils, cutting boards, or surfaces that come into contact with the chicken with hot, soapy water before and after handling the chicken.
  • Do not let raw chicken come into contact with other foods, especially those that will not be cooked, such as salads or sandwiches.
  • Do not use hot water to wash the chicken, as it can cause the bacteria to spread more easily.
  • Do not use soap or any other cleansers to wash the chicken.
  • Do not reuse the towel that you used to pat the chicken dry.
  • Do not stuff the chicken before cooking it, as it can increase the risk of bacterial contamination.


While washing a chicken is not necessary and can even be dangerous, it is still a common practice in many households. If you choose to wash your chicken, make sure to follow the steps and precautions outlined in this article to ensure that you do it safely and effectively. Always prioritize food safety to protect yourself and your loved ones from harmful bacteria.

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