Q: I’ve read in multiple places that you should not wash raw chicken as it spreads contamination even up to 3 feet from sink, yet many recipes say to wash the bird thoroughly inside and out.
A: There are thousands of home cooks in America who rinse chickens in their sinks every day, to no ill effect. What matters is the condition of the chicken, and how it was packaged — and to some extent, how cooks clean their own kitchens. Rinsing does not get rid of bacteria, but cooking does.
Home cooks might be rinsing to remove the liquid that comes with some of today’s vacuum-packed birds (believing it makes their chicken have better flavor), or they might do it simply because their mothers did so, and having learned the method, generations have survived since. The FDA does not recommend that we rinse chickens at home, due to possible cross-contamination.
Q: We received an electric countertop pressure cooker over the holidays and I used it for the first time to make a pork chile verde. I have been under the impression that things like stews were better using a natural pressure release — which basically means waiting for the pressure to drop.
However, after 30 minutes of cooking at pressure, another 30 minutes went by and the pot still had pressure. I gave up and did a manual release at that point. Is there a rule of thumb for when to use natural release vs. manual release?
Does natural release always mean waiting however long it takes, or is there a point at which it doesn’t make a difference if you finish it off with a manual release?
A: A natural release is especially good for large cuts of meat. Quick release is good for delicate foods you don’t want to overcook, such as chicken breasts, and for foods that foam (oats, beans) or are primarily liquid (soups, stews) that can bubble up during a rapid pressure change.
America’s Test Kitchen limits natural release to 15 minutes and then does a quick release to eliminate the remaining pressure.