Preparing the ingredients for your Thanksgiving feast is an hours-long process. You’ll want to scrub potatoes, soak the broccoli in salt water, re-wash the pre-washed lettuce. Because washing fruits and vegetables is the right way to avoid unwelcome bacteria, it only makes sense that you should wash your turkey as well, right?
It turns out washing your turkey is not the proper way to avoid bacteria. In fact, it’s actually making the situation a whole lot worse.
Why is washing a turkey so dangerous?
It may seem like a clean process, but washing a 15-pound turkey causes a lot of splashing near the kitchen sink. The backsplash coming off the turkey could mean contamination of food that will be placed on the counter later. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), any raw poultry can cross-contaminate other food with harmful bacteria, and even cause food poisoning.
But your Thanksgiving turkey doesn’t have to put the family at risk.
Here’s what to do instead
It’s important to make sure your turkey is handled safely. The CDC makes the following recommendations:
- Wash your hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling the turkey. Use this expert-recommended technique.
- Use a separate cutting board for raw turkey and follow guidelines for cutting board care.
- Never place cooked food or fresh produce on a plate, countertop or other surface that previously held raw turkey.
- Wash cutting boards, utensils, dishes and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing the bird.
It’s also smart to keep raw turkey away from other foods you are buying at the grocery store, and keep it separate from other foods when defrosting in the refrigerator. If you’re still itching to clean your turkey before roasting it, patting it dry with paper towels will also work.
Make sure to cook the turkey safely
It’s simple—cooking the turkey to the right temperature is the best way to keep people safe from food poisoning. Use a meat thermometer to make sure turkey is cooked to an internal temperature of 165° F, which is high enough to kill the germs that would make people sick.
Still have questions about the bird? Follow our step-by-step guide to cooking a turkey!