If you’re prepping a Thanksgiving meal for family and friends this year, you’ve surely got a lot on your plate — and it’s not just those delicious side dishes. So here’s one very important pro tip: Don’t wash your turkey before cooking it.
We know, it’s counterintuitive. Tradition tells us to wash all poultry, including Thanksgiving turkey, prior to putting it in the oven, but trust us… you’re doing more harm than good by doing so, and it actually makes a ton of sense. We’ve all done it thinking we’re rinsing away bacteria on raw poultry, but it’s really not such a good idea at all.
Common thinking is that washing off the bacteria makes for a safer and healthier Thanksgiving meal, but the United States Department of Agriculture says that rinsing the bird actually increases the chance of spreading bacteria as it splashes onto kitchen surfaces including the sink, faucet, and countertops.
All the way back in 2004, Fergus Clydesdale, head of the food science department at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, told The New York Times that cooking the turkey properly is more than enough precaution to kill illness causing bacteria. He said, “The risk of cross-contamination through washing poultry is far greater than shoving it in the oven without washing it, which makes the risk almost zero.”
Another pro tip: make sure you adequately wash your hands when handling raw poultry. It should go without saying, but using soap and hot water and thoroughly washing hands, including underneath fingernails, is the best way to prevent cross-contamination of icky issues like salmonella from spreading.
Make sure that you’re also properly sanitizing all surfaces including cutlery and cutting boards with hot, soapy water.
A little bit of prep goes a long way when celebrating Thanksgiving this year, and the only thing guests can complain about is their delicious turkey coma.