cooked turkey and all the fixings

Extension experts talk turkey about safety, cooking techniques, side dishes, carving, leftovers, nutrition and more at our comprehensive website, Turkey for the Holidays. It is also available En Español.

According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, washing raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb, or veal before cooking it is not recommended. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces.

Some consumers think washing removes bacteria and makes their meat or poultry safe. However, some of the bacteria are so tightly bound that you could not remove them no matter how many times you washed. But there are other types of bacteria that can be easily washed off and splashed on the surfaces of your kitchen.

Failure to clean these contaminated areas can lead to foodborne illness (a.k.a. food poisoning). Cooking (baking, broiling, boiling, and grilling) to the right temperature kills the bacteria, so washing meat before cooking is not necessary.

Using a food thermometer is the only sure way of knowing if your food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy foodborne bacteria. Cook all raw poultry to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer before removing from the heat source.