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We understand the instinct. Poultry sometimes feels like it could use a little wash ― it can have a somewhat slimy quality to it. But whatever you do this Thanksgiving, absolutely DO NOT wash your bird.
According to the USDA, rinsing your turkey will not get rid of unwanted bacteria ― that is virtually impossible. Actually, washing it can increase the chance of spreading bacteria. This is because water that splashes from the bird onto countertops or other surfaces spreads the bacteria and creates a real possibility for cross contamination.
“The risk of cross-contamination through washing poultry is far greater than shoving it in the oven without washing it, which makes the risk almost zero,” Fergus Clydesdale, head of the food science department at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, told The New York Times.
The best way to get rid of bacteria on turkey is to cook it. And to be sure to wash your hands well after you handle it. The USDA recommends washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap, under warm water. If any surface of your kitchen comes in contact with raw poultry, like countertops and sinks, wash the them with hot, soapy water. Just never wash the bird.