Whether it’s celery sticks or sushi, eating ingredients without cooking them is making a big splash in the foodieverse. Dozens of trendy new diets espouse the virtues of preparing food without involving the oven, sometimes with seriously dodgy science as a support. But, despite the growing fashion, what is and isn’t safe to eat remains a mystery to many people.
For all sorts of different reasons, some foods can have surprising consequences if they aren’t cooked properly. These can range from mildly disturbing to deadly serious. With this in mind, it pays to know what you absolutely must cook before you eat. Here are seven ingredients you should never ever eat raw.
We’ll start with the obvious. It might be delicious when roasted in the oven or dunked in the deep fryer, but accidentally eating raw chicken is a disaster waiting to happen. Salmonella, E coli and campylobacter bacteria are all commonly found in uncooked chicken breast. Despite the fact that Japanese “chicken sashimi” is becoming increasingly popular, it’s worth remembering that there is no safe form of uncooked chicken meat.
2. Hot Dogs
Though every hot dog is technically “cooked”, almost all food experts agree that it’s essential to reheat them once they’ve been bought. This is because the threat of listeriosis is extremely high from unheated dogs. According to the USDA, dogs should be cooked until “steaming hot” and “refrigerated or frozen immediately" when they come home from the store.
Though they aren’t going to kill you, raw olives are a decidedly unpleasant choice for an appetiser. When eaten straight from the tree, all olives - especially green - are extremely bitter, thanks to the chemical oleuropein. According to “Cook’s Info”, “the only way to remove the bitterness and make them edible is by curing them with either a lye or brine solution”.
4. Cookie Dough
It might be one of the best things on planet earth, but the disastrous reality is that eating raw cookie dough is a horrible idea. Somewhat surprisingly, the problem lies not with the raw egg, which is actually often more safe than you might think, but instead with the flour. Before baking, raw flour can harbour dangerous bacteria such as E coli, leading to nausea, stomach cramps and sometimes far worse.
5. Kidney Beans
They might look like innocent sideshows in a chilli con carne, but kidney beans pack a deadly punch. Rich in a protein known as phytohemagglutinin, the beans are toxic unless properly cooked through, causing food poisoning, diarrhea and possibly death if consumed in high enough quantities.
Though no one in their right mind looks at a raw potato and thinks “yum”, the consequences for eating one can be far worse than a bland mouthful. Raw potatoes are actually rich in indigestible resistant starches, meaning that they don’t break down as they pass through your gut. This can cause bloating and painful gas if you aren’t careful.
As healthy and vibrant as they often look, eating raw sprouts comes with a range of surprising risks. Because they are grown in a moist, humid environment, sprouts are an environment ripe for bacteria, which can cause serious problems when it comes to eating. In many cases, even washing them is not an adequate measure to protect yourself.
There’s a reason why, millions of years ago, our ancestors decided to start putting their food over a fire. You can waffle on about the benefits of raw produce as long as you like, but you can’t ignore the fact that some food needs to be cooked. It might not be trendy, but it is important.