Thanksgiving turkey: What the CDC says not to do before cooking a bird

Correctly preparing your Thanksgiving food will keep your family safe this holiday

If turkey is the star at your 2021 Thanksgiving table, you’ll want to take necessary steps preparing the dish with your loved ones' safety in mind.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says you should not wash or rinse a turkey before cooking as poultry juices can contaminate other foods, utensils and countertops if spread in the kitchen.

In a 2020 survey, 78% of participants reported washing or rinsing turkey before cooking, according to the CDC. "Old recipes and family cooking traditions may keep this practice going, but it can make you and your family sick," the CDC states on its website.

Wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling poultry. Use a separate cutting board and wash any dishes or utensils the turkey touches.

THE MOST POPULAR THANKSGIVING SIDE DISH IN EVERY STATE

A turkey should also never be thawed by leaving it out on the counter as it can become unsafe to consume at certain temperatures due to bacteria growth with the "danger zone" between 40°F and 140°F.

Instead thaw in the refrigerator in a container; in a leak-proof plastic bag in a sink of cold water (change the water every 30 minutes); or in the microwave by following the microwave oven manufacturer’s instructions.

More on the CDC’s safety tips for holiday meal prep:

-Use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing’s center reaches 165°F to avoid bacteria-causing food poisoning. 

-Set the oven temperature to at least 325°F. Place the completely thawed turkey in a roasting pan that is 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep. 

-Use a food thermometer to make sure the turkey has reached a safe internal temperature of 165°F. 

-Refrigerate leftovers at 40°F or colder as soon as possible and within 2 hours of preparation.

-Reheat all leftovers to at least 165°F before serving.

4 SMART TIPS FOR THANKSGIVING TRAVEL

Read how long you can safely keep your Thanksgiving leftovers here.