By Frank Lewis
Despite what you might read in your favorite cookbook or go-to online recipe site, food safety authorities are steadfast in their warning not to rinse off raw turkey according to the experts at the Ohio State University Extension Service.
“One thing that has really changed – we used to tell people they needed to wash their poultry before they cooked it,” Treva Williams, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, at the Scioto County office of the Ohio State University Extension Service, told the Daily Times. “Now the research has shown that we actually spread more of the bacteria by washing it. So you should never wash the turkey before you cook it.”
British Food Standards Agency between 2000 and 2003 showed that rinsing off whole poultry, or beef for that matter, does not actually remove all of the bacteria from the surface of the meat and even more important, the act of rinsing off the turkey can actually splatter some bacteria from the surface of the meat all over your sink, onto your kitchen counter and over to anything that happens to be around it.
“We want to make sure the turkey is obviously thawed before we start to cook it,” Williams said. “The reason we do that is if that the center of that turkey is still frozen, it’s not going to come up to temperature quick enough to be safe to eat. It’s not going to cook fast enough.”
Williams said the turkey can be thawed in the refrigerator or in cold water. But if you do thaw the turkey in cold tap water, you need to make sure that the turkey remains wrapped and the water has to be changed every 30 minutes.
“You need to cook it immediately after it is thawed,” Williams said. “Don’t ever put it back in the freezer and re-freeze it.”
If you choose to thaw a turkey in the microwave oven, you must take off all the outside wrapping and if the turkey legs are held together with metal wire, which must be removed as well.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a turkey coop load of tips.
This Thanksgiving more than 46 million turkeys will be eaten. Cooking the Thanksgiving turkey can be tricky, and trying to figure out when the turkey is done is often the hardest task. But, it doesn’t have to be! Impress your family by using a food thermometer to cook like a PRO: Place the thermometer, Read the temperature, Out of the oven.
The FoodKeeper is a mobile application created by FSIS in partnership with The Food Marketing Institute and Cornell University. The FoodKeeper offers storage advice on more than 400 different food and beverage items and can help you decide what you can keep and what you should throw out. It also offers handy guidance on leftovers, which you’ll probably have, a lot of after the big meal. Download the FoodKeeper today on your Android or iOS device.
And when all else fails, there Are Also Real People to Talk to. If you have questions about your Thanksgiving dinner, you can call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) to talk to a food safety expert. The Hotline has been around for 30 years. Last November they received more than 3000 calls mostly about Thanksgiving dinner. You can also chat live with a food safety expert at AskKaren.gov, available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, in English and Spanish.
Even if you need help on Thanksgiving Day, the Meat & Poultry Hotline phone line is available from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.