Thanksgiving is almost here and many of us will be having turkey dinners to celebrate the holiday. That also means many people will be preparing turkeys at home . . . hopefully safely.
One thing that is NOT safe to do is washing or rinsing your turkey. Many people still believe that they should rinse raw meat under running water before cooking it. Perhaps they think this will rinse away any bacteria on the meat. However, what is really happening is the spread of raw meat juices and potentially harmful microorganisms into the sink, faucet, dishcloths/towels, surrounding countertop and any food that is in the splash zone. You can see a great animation of this from Drexel University.
To keep things simple, your turkey should go from package to pan. The less handling done with the bird, the less chance there is for raw turkey juices to be spread. Once the turkey is in the oven, wash all surfaces that may have had contact with the turkey with hot, soapy water. For added safety, you can sanitize these surfaces with a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach to one gallon of water.
Properly cooking your turkey to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit will destroy any bacteria present. You may choose to cook the turkey to a higher temperature for doneness. Use a meat thermometer to test the temperature of your turkey in the innermost part of the thigh and the thickest part of the breast.
For more information about preparing your holiday turkey, check out these USDA resources: