Should you Wash a Turkey before Cooking?


Should you Wash a Turkey before Cooking?


According to the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) “One common mistake that consumers make in the kitchen is washing or rinsing their meat or poultry before cooking it.”[1]

Should you Wash a Turkey before Cooking?

Should you Wash a Turkey before Cooking?

Do NOT Wash a Turkey before Cooking

Washing a raw turkey is not only risky, but also totally unnecessary.
Although Mom or Grandma probably taught you to always wash poultry before cooking, and it was a good idea decades ago, this is no longer the case! The modern food safety system cleans meats and poultry during processing, making an extra cleaning not only unnecessary but also dangerous.

The first danger with washing a turkey before cooking is the potential spread of dangerous bacteria. If a large turkey is held under running water in the kitchen sink the chance of bacteria from the poultry juices being spread to not only the sink, but the faucet, the countertop, any nearby utensils and/or foods that may be in the general area becomes a scary scenario. This is true even if you sanitize the sink afterwards. If you miss cleaning any of these surfaces where bacteria may have splashed, then food borne illness is sure to follow the meal. It’s basically cross-contamination gone wild.

Recent USDA research has found that washing or rinsing meat or poultry increases the risk for cross-contamination in the kitchen, which can cause foodborne illness. It’s time to leave this habit in the past and make washing meat and poultry as outdated as not wearing a seatbelt.[2]

The second danger with washing turkey (or any other poultry or meat for that matter) is if someone decides to use a soap or other cleaner in the process. This would contaminate the food with chemicals and render the food unsafe to consume.

Keeping a Raw Turkey Safe

So, how do you keep yourself safe from the bacteria that is so often associated with raw turkey and other poultry and fresh meats?

  • Prepare raw foods, such as salads, prior to opening the turkey.

  • Clean and sanitize hands, all surfaces and all utensils immediately after preparing the turkey and placing it into the roasting pan.

  • Proper cooking is the best way to ensure a safe meal.
    Turkey must cook to an internal temperature of 165°F. This temperature is what ensures that the meat will be safe to eat.

  • Should you Wash a Turkey before Cooking?

    For Additional Information

    For proper cooking temperatures of other proteins, see our internal temperature post.

    To find out how long turkey lasts, visit our turkey page.

    To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

    SEARCH Eat By Date

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