Don’t Rinse Your Turkey!
Video by New Mexico State University Media Productions and Learning Games Lab
Before you put that giant turkey in the sink, STOP! Rinsing your bird before baking won’t reduce your chances of foodborne illness.
In fact, if you rinse the turkey, you have a greater chance of getting sick because of cross-contamination.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture study observed people who self-reported they rinsed poultry before cooking.
What they discovered might make you look at your kitchen a little differently!
The task was simple: prepare the poultry as you normally would and make a salad. When scientists tested the environment after participants washed the poultry and prepared a green salad, they found so much contaminated water had splashed around the sink, counters, and utensils in the kitchen that these home cooks and their families were at risk for getting sick.
Here’s part of the findings:
“In the observational study, 60 percent of the participants who washed their raw poultry had bacteria in their sink after washing or rinsing the poultry. Even more concerning is that 14 percent still had bacteria in their sinks even after they attempted to clean or sanitize the sink.
If you wash your produce after washing meat or poultry, you risk splashing foodborne illness-causing germs onto your ready-to-eat foods. Researchers found that 26 percent of participants that washed raw poultry transferred bacteria from that raw poultry to their lettuce. If this were at home, they would have put that contaminated food directly into their mouths.”
So, what’s the best way of dealing with raw meat or poultry in a safe way?
- Prepare raw foods, such as salad or fruit, or side dishes first, before preparing any raw meat or poultry.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after handling food, especially raw meat or poultry.
- Clear away unneeded items in the area where you’re going to handle raw meat. For example, if you are preparing meat or poultry near the sink or on the kitchen counter, put away any decorative items, bottles of soap, dish towels, dish-drying racks, or other dishes so they don’t get any liquids splashed on them.
- Clean and sanitize all surfaces that may have been contaminated by raw meat or poultry.
- Cook all meat and poultry to a safe internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer to kill any illness-causing bacteria.
Need more turkey tips? For thawing tips, roasting recommendations, and a chart of cooking times per pound of turkey, check out the USDA brochure, “Let’s Talk Turkey.”
Subscribe to Extension for Real Life
Fill in the information below to receive a weekly update of our blog posts.