Why You Shouldn't Wash or Stuff Your Turkey

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – There are a lot of ways Thanksgiving can go wrong, and most of them involve the turkey. And some turkey-related mistakes can be more egregious than others if your improper cooking technique results in dangerously undercooked food. Raw poultry products can, of course, introduce salmonella, which can be downright deadly to any guests who are very young or very old.

NSF International, a public health nonprofit, has released a list of tips for avoiding this kind of disaster. Some of them are better known, such as making sure you thaw the turkey properly and using a thermometer to make sure it has reached the proper internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

But others may come as more of a surprise. For instance, stuffing, despite its name, should not actually be stuffed inside the turkey to cook.

“Since it’s difficult to cook stuffing evenly when it’s packed inside a turkey, consider cooking stuffing in a separate casserole dish,” says the organization in rundown of Thanksgiving safety tips. “If you do choose to stuff, wait to do so until right before putting the turkey in the oven.” To further minimize the chances of food-borne illness, it says that you should only use stuffing with pre-cooked meat and vegetables if you intend to cook it inside the turkey.

Another surprising tip? You shouldn’t actually wash the turkey before putting it in the oven. After all, any bacteria on the outer surface of the bird will be killed by the heat of the oven soon after it begins cooking. And trying to wash a giant bird in the sink will likely result in raw poultry juices – and the bacteria therein – splashing all over you and your work surfaces.

Here are the 10 turkey safety tips provided by NSF International.

1.    Don't let uncooked turkey sit at room temperature.
2.    Don't attempt to thaw a frozen turkey quickly by letting it sit overnight on a kitchen counter – refrigerate or thaw under cold water or with a microwave.
3.    Don’t wash your turkey.
4.    Never place an uncooked turkey directly on the counter.
5.    Don’t forget to wash your hands.
6.    Use a thermometer to check for doneness, even if the turkey has a pop-up timer.
7.    For optimum safety, don’t stuff your turkey.
8.    Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers immediately.
9.    Properly reheat before you eat.
10.    Sanitize your dishcloths or sponges on a regular basis, or use disposable cloths.