Recipes & Cooking
To wash, or not to wash: That is a question that has puzzled many home cooks. Here, food safety experts identify foods you should wash every time.
“Wash anything with a rind—even if it’s not one you’re going to eat—before you cut into,” says Colene Stoernell, MS, RDN, LD. That’s because fruit rind and skin carry bacteria, pesticides, and any other germs that are picked up during processing, packing, and shipping. Also, your hands are likely not the first to touch the food once at the store, so wash off any germs they might be carrying. Learn how to avoid the foods that food safety experts never eat.
Even though grains are boiled in water or broth until tender and fluffy, they require an earlier round of rinsing, says Caitlin Hoff, a health and safety investigator. “Grains like rice, quinoa, or barley should be rinsed thoroughly with cold water before cooking to remove excess starches, dirt, and germs,” she says. “This will also give you fluffier rice.” Plus, quinoa has a natural coating of saponin on each seed. (Saponin is a substance that gives quinoa a bitter taste if it’s not rinsed off, which is why many companies pre-rinse their quinoa before packing.) “Most brands claim they are pre-rinsed, but it’s an easy just-in-case action that you can take to ensure that your quinoa tastes delicious every time you make it,” Hoff says.
“My clients are surprised when I tell them to wash melons before they cut them—and to avoid pre-cut melons,” says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD. “People do not immediately think about washing the rind of their melons before cutting them, because they only eat the inside.”
Salmonella and listeria can live on the rind of the melon, and when it is cut, the bacteria can touch the edible part and be ingested when you bite into it. Use a scrub brush to thoroughly clean the melon rind. “Many establishments do not make it a habit to wash the melon before cutting, and there is no way to ensure its safety, which is why I advise against buying pre-cut melon,” she says.