I just read the following in an e-mail newsletter from Cook's Illustrated. I always wash chicken before cooking (and sometimes meats as well), but after reading this, I'm wondering if it's necessary. What do you folks think? A Cleaner Chicken? If you asked me why I wash chicken before cooking it, I would say, "Because my mother always did." Is there any scientific evidence that proves it is better to wash your chicken before cooking? --Jobabes (from our Bulletin Board) Not only is there no scientific evidence to support your mother's practice, science is actually against you on this one. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as food agencies in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, advises against washing poultry. Rinsing chicken will not remove or kill much bacteria, and the splashing of water around the sink can spread the bacteria found in raw chicken. (Cooking poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit effectively destroys the most common culprits behind food-borne illness.) To find out if rinsing had any impact on flavor, we roasted four chickens--two rinsed, two unrinsed--and held a blind tasting. Tasters' comments and preferences were all over the place, leading us to believe that differences in flavor had more to do with the chicken itself than with rinsing. Our conclusion? Skip the rinse. If you can't help yourself, avoid the shower in the sink and try just blotting the chicken with paper towels to remove excess liquid and keep cross-contamination to a minimum.