Frozen and thawed turkeys should not be washed prior to cooking, as this can cause harmful bacteria to spread around the food preparation area, says the United States Department of Agriculture. Rather than washing the turkey, properly thaw it prior to cooking, and cook the turkey to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent foodborne illnesses.
In order to create a safe cooking environment and prevent foodborne illnesses:
- Wash hands
- Wash food preparation surfaces
- Keep the bird frozen
- Thaw the turkey properly
- Cook the turkey thoroughly
- Store leftovers properly
While the turkey does not need to be washed, thoroughly wash hands with soap and warm water before and after handling the raw turkey.
Thoroughly clean the cooking environment both before and after preparation by wiping down surfaces with soap and hot water or a mixture of bleach and water.
Keep the turkey frozen if it is purchased more than 1 to 2 days before cooking.
Properly thaw the turkey before cooking it. For best results, thaw the turkey in the refrigerator, allowing 24 hours of thawing time for every 5 to 6 pounds.
Roast the turkey until the center of the breasts and thighs reach an internal temperature of 165 F.
Refrigerate or freeze leftover turkey before it sits out for 2 hours or more. Use the leftovers within 3 to 4 days.