Despite what Julia Child might have told us during the height of her authority on all things related to home cooking, we should not be washing our raw poultry — especially not in the kitchen sink. To ensure your family enjoys Thanksgiving without any gastrointestinal interruptions, Food Safety News has compiled a guide to Thanksgiving food safety, starting with one of the most important tips of all: Don’t rinse your turkey Rinsing raw poultry isn’t a very effective way to clean bacteria from your meal, but it is a great way to spread bacteria around your kitchen. Washing poultry aerosolizes bacteria and splashes it around onto anything within several feet of your sink. Let the cooking process taking care of the bacteria. Plus, from a cooking perspective, you’ll want the turkey skin dry to be crispy when cooked. Stay smart about preparing the turkey Never thaw a turkey at room temperature. If you’ve purchased a frozen turkey, thaw it in the refrigerator or in a pan of cold water, changing out the water as often as every half-hour. Start the thawing process at least 24 hours before you plan to start cooking. If you bought a fresh turkey, keep it in the fridge until it’s time to cook. If you decide to cook the turkey while it’s still frozen, you’ll need to cook it for 50 percent longer than the advised time. Avoid cross-contamination by using a separate cutting board and knife for trimming the turkey. And be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling the turkey and before touching anything else in the kitchen. Turkey cooking times The bigger the bird, the longer it’ll need to cook. Here are approximate cook times for turkey in an oven at 325 degrees F: Unstuffed 4 to 6 lb. breast …… 1.5 to 2.5 hours 6 to 8 lb. breast …… 2.5 to 3.5 hours 8 to 12 lbs. ………….. 2.75 to 3 hours 12 to 14 lbs. …………  3 to 3.75 hours 14 to 18 lbs. …………. 3.75 to 4.5 hours 18 to 20 lbs. ………… 4.25 to 4.5 hours 20 to 24 lbs. ………… 4.5 to 5 hours Stuffed 8 to 12 lbs. …… 3 to 3.5 hours 12 to 14 lbs. …… 3.5 to 4 hours 14 to 18 lbs. …… 4 to 4.5 hours 18 to 20 lbs. …… 4.25 to 4.75 hours 20 to 24 lbs. …… 4.75 to 5.25 hours You’ll have to check for yourself to ensure that the bird is fully cooked in this amount of time. Turkey is safe to eat once it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature at the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. Trust a good thermometer over your eyes. Meat can appear cooked even when it hasn’t reached 165 degrees F, and it can sometimes appear pink well past that temperature. Cook stuffing just as thoroughly If you’re stuffing your turkey, combine the ingredients and perform the stuffing just before you plan to stick the bird in the oven. Aim for about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. Because it comes into contact with raw poultry, stuffing also needs to be cooked to a minimum 165 degrees F. If the turkey is done but the stuffing isn’t, remove the stuffing and bake it separately in a greased casserole dish. Store leftovers promptly Don’t leave dishes sitting at room temperature for more than two hours after taking them out of the oven or refrigerator. Refrigerate any foods made with perishable ingredients such as meat, milk or eggs. This includes pumpkin pie. When storing leftovers, portion them out into shallow dishes so that they cool rapidly in the refrigerator or freezer. Cut breast meat into smaller pieces. Wings and legs can be left whole. When thawing frozen leftovers, use the refrigerator, cold water, or the microwave, rather than leaving frozen food out on the counter. Food safety resources For more information about how to safely handle, serve and store your holiday food, call 1-888-SAFEFOOD (FDA), 1-888-MPHOTLINE (USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline), email, or visit For some statistics, history, and FAQs about our native bird, visit the National Turkey Federation website.

  • Jeffrey

    Am I reading this correctly??? Do not rinse your turkey before cooking it? Is that correct???

    • Marco Corona

      Yes…for exactly the reasons mentioned in the article. You’ll find the same tip on all reputable websites. The same safe advice goes for chicken, too.

      • DAllen

        48 years of rinsing the turkey and no one ever got sick….still gonna do it

        • genebob

          Your correct, I guess they think your going to rinse your turkey with the water at full blast and soak your counter and anything within 10 feet…Oh and then soak your veggies in the same sink you just used.

      • Scott

        The Splendid Kitchen is pretty goddamn reputable and she mentioned rinsing the turkey on today’s show.

        • Randy Lyons

          “she” may be reputable as a cook, but is she reputable as a food safety expert. Food safety is about reducing the risk. For those who do wash their poultry, you will know it creates a mess in and around the sink. It also gets on your clothes. Too many people also use the same cloth or rag to clean up around the kitchen and never chamge them. Most people only clean up and fail to sanitize their surfaces. With proper handling, most poultry will cause no prblems or issues (even if some of the recommendations are not followed). However, there are pathogens that are hardier and more dangerous than others and we just do not know which bird will have those pathogens. This is why we should be taking every precaution all the time. Especially when we are serving at risk populations like the young, old, pregnant and the immuno-comprimised. What you do with your food is your business and you can assume the risks. However the science on this subject matter is correct.

          • Garbo99

            Methods of raising, packing and distributing chicken and turkey have changed a lot in all those years. Bacteria have become more resistent to sanitizers and medicines so hazards have increased. Our scientific knowledge has improved. It’s not the same old same old… Heed the advice and keep your families safe.

          • Scott

            “you will know it creates a mess in and around the sink. It also gets on your clothes. Too many people also use the same cloth or rag to clean up around the kitchen and never chamge them. Most people only clean up and fail to sanitize their surfaces.”

            So really it’s associated actions, not the rinsing itself. Any reputable peer reviewed paper would note that a failure to sanitize associated items would cause rinsing to precede a number of associated transmission vectors, not the rinsing itself. As for aerosolizing pathogens, gentle rinsing can function as a workaround.

  • Amorette

    We had to run water into the insides to thaw them enough to get the innards out. I didn’t want to cook a turkey with the neck and bag of gizzards still inside. I have a clever idea! CLEAN up after having the turkey in the sink.

  • MalikaBourne

    Great tips! Who wants to get food poisoning at grandma’s house? I sure don’t. I am passing this on as a public service. TY!

  • Lynn

    Do you mean don’t wash inside and outside??!

  • juni

    i have rinsed my turkey out for 35 yrs i have yet to kill anyone

  • S.Nagiah

    “…. in a pan of cold water, changing out the water as often as every half-hour.” C’mon! Is it practicable?