When it comes to your Thanksgiving turkey, a Kansas State University food safety expert has two tips that could help keep your holiday meal safer:
Don’t give your turkey a bath and always take your turkey’s temperature.
Washing the turkey before popping it in the oven may be something you saw your mom, or grandmother, do, but Doug Powell, professor of food safety, said it’s a practice where mom really didn’t know best.
“Washing the bird has long been disregarded because of the food safety risk of cross-contamination,” he said. “Do not wash that bird — you’ll spread bacteria everywhere.”
Studies have found food poisoning bacteria like campylobacter or salmonella are common on poultry carcasses and can easily be spread by the splashes from washing the bird, Powell said.
That means the sink, countertops, water taps and anything else in the vicinity — including other food — can become cross-contaminated. Washing hands after handling and preparing the bird also is a must.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) found that bacteria already present on poultry can travel up to three feet from where meat is washed.
Once the unwashed bird is in the oven, Powell said cooks should do themselves a favor and rely on a good thermometer to let them know when the main attraction is ready.
Turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Just checking to see if the juices from the bird run clear when the bird is pricked isn’t an accurate indicator of its doneness.
“Color is a lousy indicator of safety,” Powell said. “No matter how you cook your bird, the key is to use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer to verify safety.”
To help keep food borne illness from spoiling the Thanksgiving holiday, check out food safety info sheets, prepared by Powell and Benjamin Chapman, a food safety specialist and assistant professor of family and consumer sciences at North Carolina State University.
•Don’t wash raw poultry
•Wash and dry hands after handling and preparing poultry as well as following dishwashing.
•Clean and sanitize utensils and work surfaces after preparing raw poultry
•When drying hands, use clean or one-use towels.
•Cook your turkey to an internal temperate of 165 degrees.
•Refrigerate leftover turkey within two hours of taking it out of the oven