May We Recommend: Drying Meat Before Cooking It | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

May We Recommend: Drying Meat Before Cooking It

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My mother in law was always scrubbing: sheets, clothes, furniture, even the food that she prepared. The salads were thoroughly washed, as were the meat and chicken she cooked for her family. She wanted only the best for them, and cleaning her meat was her way of giving them that. Or so she thought. Today’s chefs would disagree, for reasons of health and for reasons of taste.

The United States Department of Agriculture does not recommend washing meat or chicken before cooking because it spreads bacteria to the sink, sponges, dish racks, any of the surfaces the meat and its juices touch. So, while the home cook may think he or she is keeping the family safe from bacteria by thoroughly rinsing meat before preparing, the opposite is actually true.

If you want to get rid of the bacteria lurking in the chicken or beef, cook it until the right temperature. Beef and veal need to have a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit while all poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, wings, ground poultry, giblets, and stuffing) should have an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a food thermometer to check.

And then there’s the question of taste. If you want your chicken skin crisp, or your steak nicely browned, you want them thoroughly dry before cooking. According to Morgan Bolling, Senior Editor of Cook's Country magazine at America's Test Kitchen, “A drier surface results in better, quicker browning. And if you’re cooking skin-on chicken, it yields crispier skin.”

The meat experts at her publication suggest drying chicken by patting it with paper towels, discarding those towels, and then thoroughly washing your hands. While you don’t have to be as thorough with the interior of a whole chicken, you should discard any pooling juices from inside the cavity of the bird before cooking.

Same goes for beef. As Bolling explains, “Dry beef thoroughly before broiling, searing, or grilling. A drier surface means better char and better flavor for steaks. We suggest using vegetable oil when searing or broiling steaks as it helps promote browning.”

While it may seem counterintuitive, experts advise you to stay away from water if you want beef or chicken that is at once healthy, crispy, and juicy. For a perfect roast chicken recipe, that yields the moistest bird with a delicious skin, read on.

Weeknight Roast Chicken

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