Don’t Wash Your Turkey — and Other Thanksgiving No-nos
With more than 46 million turkeys cooked this holiday, there is no better time to remind people about proper food handling practices to keep their families safe.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is reminding cooks not to wash their raw turkey. Apparently, it's a thing some people do.
Chris Bernstein, director of Food and Safety Education at the USDA, said washing the bird can have detrimental impacts on the health of the entire meal. It can increase the risk of cross-contamination all around the kitchen.
More than half a dozen surfaces the USDA sampled around the kitchen had higher contamination rates after people washed poultry.
The study found that 25% of side dishes had bacteria from poultry, which the USDA believes was a result of washing poultry.
Don't stuff it!
Another turkey tip is to avoid stuffing the turkey before cooking, which increases the cooking time.
A turkey is not done until it reaches 165 degrees in several places: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh and the innermost part of the wing.
Stuffed turkeys also should reach 165 degrees in the center of the stuffing.
Don't splash and dash!
Bernstein said running hands under the faucet and shaking them off is not enough.
Bernstein said it is imperative to scrub hands for a full 20 seconds with soap and water, then dry them either on a cloth or a disposable paper towel.
Always sanitize and clean kitchen surfaces after handling any raw meat or poultry.
When it comes to leftovers, Bernstein said they should be stored in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking and should be OK to eat until Monday. However, if Monday rolls around and there are still leftovers, pop them in the freezer.
For any turkey preparation questions, go to www.foodsafety.gov. There is also a Meat and Poultry hotline set up for any Turkey Day emergencies. That number is 1-888-MPHOTLINE.
Bernstein said the most common question that comes across the hotline on Thanksgiving morning is from people who still have a frozen turkey and don't know what to do. He said the turkey can either be thawed in the microwave or put in a cold water bath that's changed every 30 minutes until thawed. A partially thawed turkey can be cooked in the oven as long the cook remembers to pull it out after 45 minutes to remove the gizzards and neck.