Two famous chefs once had a great televised debate: on an episode of the PBS series Julia & Jacques Cooking At Home, Julia Child insisted that chicken be washed before it’s roasted, but her co-host, Jacques Pepin, disagreed by saying, “the heat [of the oven] kills all the germs.”
That debate was resurrected last night on another TV show—Food Network’s Cook Like A Pro—where chef Ina Garten came down on the side of Pepin. (Our apologies to Ms. Child.)
In the episode, as the Barefoot Contessa prepares a whole chicken, she retells the great chicken debate and says there is no need to wash a chicken before placing it in the oven. (In fact, science is on her side: washing a chicken can actually spread, rather than reduce, harmful bacteria from the bird.)
The Cook Like A Pro chicken-themed episode is full of other useful chicken tips, too. Garten walks viewers through preparing a roasted chicken with radishes and makes hand-shredded chicken breast for a classic Waldorf salad. Plus, Garten also shares an updated spin on her truffled chicken liver mousse—a dish she says she’s been making since the 1970s.
Beyond not rinsing your bird, Garten reveals that the juiciest chickens are often the smallest. When you select your chicken at the store, she instructs viewers, try to purchase a chicken that weighs five pounds or less. Why? “They’re a little more tender, and [if they weigh more than] five pounds, they don’t tend to roast as easily,” Garten shares.
When it comes to selecting chicken for salads, Garten says she most often uses bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. To buy the best breasts, Garten says to look for a pair or triplet that’s close to the same size. This helps ensure they cook more evenly and finish at around the same time.