Consumer Reports: Poultry cooking safety tips

If you're cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving, there's one thing you should not do.

Thanksgiving will soon be here and that means many will spend hours preparing a turkey dinner.

Often, home cooks give their bird a wash or rinse in the sink before it hits the oven. That might sound like a good idea, but you may be doing more harm than good.

It's the first step many people take when cooking poultry: washing or rinsing it to remove slime or blood. People think it's a proper safety precaution.

But Marina Ferro doesn't do that, and on Thanksgiving Day, when she's cooking several turkeys, she skips the rinse.

"I don't like washing a turkey because I'm very scared of contamination" Ferro said. "I don't like to put it in the sink, I don't like to splash anything because it just gets everywhere."

According to Consumer Reports and a USDA study, Marina has good reason to be concerned. The truth is, rinsing won't make your poultry any safer.

"Rinsing raw poultry won't remove salmonella or other harmful bacteria that can cause illness, only cooking it to an internal temperature of 165-degrees can do that," said Consumer Reports Health and Food Editor Trisha Calvo. "What rinsing will do is increase the chances of cross contamination in your kitchen."

So what does Marina do when it's turkey time? First, she wipes it with a damp paper towel, then, "I season it the way I want it, then it goes into the oven," she said.

That's a safer way to do it, and it's part of Consumer Reports' recommended way to safely prepare raw poultry.

First, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water, and do that every time you touch raw poultry.

If you want to remove that raw slime, pat the bird with a damp paper towel, discard it, and wash your hands immediately.

And be careful with utensils and cookware. If they touch raw poultry, they need to be sanitized before touching any other foods.

"My favorite part of Thanksgiving, being with the family. Sharing stories. Just being together," Ferro said.

And not worrying about cross-contamination in the kitchen.

Remember, sanitizing your cooking area is important, too. Even if you don't wash your poultry, it's a good idea to scrub your entire work area when you're done cooking.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2019 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumerreports.org