Cooking Turkey Update

Pamela Schmutz
Home & Garden Information Center

Two new recommendations for preparing turkey for the Thanksgiving meal were given last year by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). FSIS no longer recommends washing raw meat and poultry, including raw turkey, before placing it in the oven. The reason for this change in recommendation is that cooking the turkey will kill any surface bacteria that might be present. The risk of cross contamination from rinse water being splashed around the sink and onto the kitchen counters or other foods is eliminated.

FSIS has also standardized the recommended minimum internal temperature to safely cook all poultry. Previously, different minimum temperatures were given for the breast and other parts of the turkey. Turkey, and all poultry, is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing, and the thickest part of the breast. Although the turkey will be safe if cooked to this temperature, for reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook turkey to higher temperatures.

For information on safe ways to thaw, stuff, cook and store turkey, see HGIC 3560, How to Cook Turkey. Information is given on how to roast, smoke, microwave and deep fat fry a turkey.

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