The USDA is offering tips on washing turkeys this holiday season. You shouldn’t rinse the turkey before you cook it; but what if you plan to brine the bird?
There has been a controversy about washing poultry before cooking for some time. Food safety experts do not recommend washing raw meat and poultry in your kitchen sink, simply because bacteria are loosely attached to the skin and flesh. When water hits the meat, bacteria can aerosolize and float around the kitchen.
Water can splash the pathogenic bacteria up to 3 feet away from the sink. That area includes your face and hands, countertops, other towels, and the rest of the sink. Researchers at Drexel University have shown that it’s best to transfer meat and poultry straight from the package to the pan. The heat used in cooking will kill any bacteria, but only if the foods are cooked to safe internal temperatures.
The USDA does not recommend washing a whole turkey before cooking. Unfortunately, many recipes for brining turkeys before cooking call for them to be rinsed before it goes into the oven. So if you are going to brine your turkey this Thanksgiving, you can minimize the risk of cross-contamination by following these steps.
Before you rinse the turkey, remove dishes, dish drainers, dish towels, sponges, and all other objects from around the sink area. Cover the area around your sink with paper towels. Put the roasting pan next to the sink, empty and ready to hold the turkey.
Then clean the sink with hot soapy water, rinse it well, and fill it with a few inches of cold water. Use cold water to rinse the turkey cavity, running the water very gently to avoid splashing. Make sure that the water is coming out at the neck cavity; if it isn’t, the neck or giblets are still in there and should be removed.
There is no need to scrub or rinse the rest of the turkey. Hold up the turkey so it drains into the sink, and put the turkey in the roasting pan.
Remove the paper towels and throw them away. Clean the sink and the area around the sink with hot soapy water, and wash your hands thoroughly.