This warning applies to most raw meats and poultry. Everyone worries about foodborne illness and cross-contamination. Depending on the cooking tips you received when you learned to cook, you may have had this drilled into your head to some degree.
Well, when is it safe to rinse or wash a turkey?
And why would you want to wash any raw meats?
You think that washing the meat removes the bacteria and makes your cooking safer.
You aren’t just washing bad bacteria down the drain when you rinse or wash raw meats. You’re really spreading bad bacteria around your kitchen. Water can splash that nasty bacteria up to 3 feet away from your sink even when you’re careful. And you are touching that meat too.
Worse yet, no matter how careful you are at washing your hands after touching your turkey or other meats, you can still spread the bacteria by accidentally touching many other items in your kitchen. Like cross-contaminating a:
- Refrigerator door handle,
- Cooktop range,
- Dishes, pots, and pans,
- Cooking utensils or silverware,
- Table tops,
- Your cell phone, tablet, or even your laptop cover or keyboard!
And if you’re putting together a big holiday feast, that’s a lot of possible foodborne contamination.
How Should You Handle Raw Meats?
Just move your meats from package to roasting pan. You avoid any messes and the heat of the oven or even your crock pot will kill bacteria.
And What Is the Exception To The Rule? Brining
After brining is the only time you are safe from foodborne illness when washing raw meats like turkeys. This is necessary because you have to rinse off the brine before cooking or roasting. But ONLY then.
Safety Tips If You Are Brining Your Meat
Because this is still a lot of food handling, take these precautions to reduce the risk of cross-contamination or foodborne illness.
Do your bird or other meats last. When you handle meats sooner, the USDA has even reported that 26 percent of people transferred the bacteria to their lettuce!
Take These Safety Measures During Washing
Once you’ve finished other food tasks, also take care of those dirty dishes you’ve left in the sink or on the counter. Wash them and get them off the counter and out of the sink.
Then clean the sink. Use hot soapy water and rinse well. Starting the rinsing process with a pristine and clean workspace increases safety.
And that should include clearing the counter of other, more permanent, items that you might not think of as a source of cross-contamination. Items like dish towels and sponges, knife blocks or knife holders, vases or containers you use to hold spatulas or cooking utensils, and anything you might handle should be cleared away.
Just you, the roasting pan, and the bird or other roasts.
Best Process To Follow For Safe Handling of Raw Meat
- Lay down a bed of paper towels to catch splatters from bacteria-laden water.
- Put the roasting pan close so you don’t drip a bunch of water around.
- Rinse with cold water. Not hot. Put a few inches of cold water in the sink and place the meat there. Gently (to avoid splashes) run the water to clean out the cavity and on the surface.
- When you’re done, hold it up and let it drain. Place it carefully on the roasting rack. Do not plop it down.
- Don’t forget to clean up your mess. Paper towels need to go into the trash right away.
- Then before you touch or do anything else, wash your hands, the sink, and countertop again with hot soapy water.
- For an added touch of safety, use sanitizer to finish off your cleaning job.
These safety tips for handling raw meat will help you even if you aren’t roasting a turkey, chicken, pork, or beef. Think of that bacteria as a serious enemy and take precautions so you win the battle.