Don’t Wash Your Thanksgiving Turkey, CDC Warns

22 November 2021

With Thanksgiving almost here, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released tips on the safest way to prepare your turkey.

First of all, you should not wash or rinse your bird. It might seem counterintuitive, but washing turkey can spread germs and bacteria all over your kitchen.

“Federal food safety councils have advised against washing turkey or chicken since 2005, but some habits are hard to break,” the CDC said, citing a 2020 survey that found 78% of respondents had rinsed or washed their turkeys.

“Old recipes and family cooking traditions can keep this practice going, but it can make you and your family sick. Poultry juices can spread around the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils and countertops.

Then don’t think about thawing your frozen turkey on the counter. When a turkey is left at room temperature for more than two hours, its temperature becomes unsafe and can reach “the danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the CDC.

Instead, thaw the turkey in a container in the refrigerator; in an airtight plastic bag in a sink of cold water (making sure to change the water every half hour); or microwave, if you have one large enough to accommodate a turkey.

Other cooking tips from the CDC:

Keep it clean. Wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds after handling the turkey. Use a separate cutting board for raw turkey and never place other food on a plate or cutting board that has contained raw turkey. Wash cutting boards and utensils in hot, soapy water.

Cook your stuffing well. Whether you’re cooking it inside the turkey or in a pot, use a food thermometer to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are cooking it in the turkey, wait 20 minutes after taking the poultry out of the oven to remove the stuffing; this allows it to cook more.

Use a food thermometer on your turkey. The thawed bird should be placed in a roasting pan inside an oven set to 325 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Even if your turkey has a pop-up temperature gauge, use a food thermometer and make sure it is at least 165 degrees at the thickest parts of the breast, thigh, and wing joint. Let your turkey rest for 20 minutes before carving it.

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