Should You Clean a Turkey Before Cooking? The Answer May Surprise You!

If your roasted turkey begins by thoroughly rinsing the bird, its time to take a second look. It turns out, giving your turkey a pre-oven bath can do far more harm than good. There’s only one time you should ever rinse your bird, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Rinsing a raw turkey more than once won’t be able to eradicate all the bacteria, and doing so could splash and spread dangerous bacteria throughout your kitchen! Read on to find out more, and the safest way to do it.

Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, and of course, delicious food. But before you start prepping your turkey, there’s an important question you need to ask yourself: should you clean it first?

The answer may surprise you. According to the USDA, you should never wash a raw turkey before cooking it. In fact doing so can actually increase your risk of foodborne illness.

Why You Shouldn’t Wash a Turkey:

There are several reasons why washing a turkey is a bad idea:

  • It doesn’t remove bacteria. Washing a turkey with water won’t remove all the bacteria that may be present. In fact, it can actually spread bacteria around your kitchen, contaminating surfaces and other foods.
  • It can increase your risk of foodborne illness. When you wash a turkey, the water can splash and spread bacteria to your hands, clothes, and kitchen surfaces. This can contaminate other foods and utensils, increasing your risk of getting sick.
  • It’s not necessary. Cooking the turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F will kill any bacteria that may be present.

So what should you do instead?

Instead of washing your turkey, simply remove it from the packaging and pat it dry with paper towels. This will help to remove any excess moisture, which can help the skin to crisp up in the oven.

The One Exception:

There is one exception to the “no washing” rule: if you’ve brined your turkey. Brining involves soaking the turkey in a saltwater solution, which can leave it with a salty taste. To remove some of the salt, you can rinse the turkey under cold running water before cooking it.

Here are some additional tips for safely handling and preparing your turkey:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after handling the turkey.
  • Use separate cutting boards for raw and cooked meat.
  • Cook the turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F.
  • Let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your Thanksgiving turkey is both delicious and safe to eat. So skip the washing and enjoy a stress-free holiday feast!

Additional Resources:

Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

How do you clean a turkey before cooking it?

Well. you dont! Just like with other meat, the USDA recommends skipping washing your turkey before you cook it. Unless you’ve brined it—more on that below—there’s no need to rinse your turkey whether you’re roasting, frying, or smoking it. Any bacteria are eliminated when a turkey is cooked, but cleaning a turkey before cooking it allows for risky cross-contamination. Instead, take your turkey straight from the package to the roaster. To achieve crispy skin, all you need to do for “cleaning” is remove the giblets and neck from the cavity (saving them for giblet gravy, naturally!). Then, pat the turkey dry with a paper towel.

When should you rinse a turkey?

The only time you should ever rinse your bird is if youve brined it first. This is to remove some of the salt from the turkey. Youll want to do a little prep first, though, to minimize the spread of bacteria. The USDA advises “to prevent splashing, remove any other food or objects from the sink, cover the area with paper towels, and use a slow stream of water when rinsing brine off of a turkey.” Before moving the bird to a roasting pan, make sure to rinse the bird’s exterior and interior cavity with cool water and hold it up to remove any remaining water. Then, toss the paper towels in the trashcan and thoroughly disinfect your sink and surrounding countertop. Finally wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap.

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