I still listen to a lot of punk rock and I don’t really like being told what to do. I’m not sure many folks do. The approach I use is to provide the best available evidence culled from the literature to help eaters calculate the risks and benefits of food choices. Present the info in a compelling way and then step back to let the individual do their thing.
Hopefully the choice results in the least amount of barf. Eating has risks, whether it’s raw oysters, sprouts, or Thanksgiving dinner. USA Today’s Elizabeth Weise deconstructs the risks associated with cooking turkey and all the fixin’s:
Step away from the sink, and no one will get hurt.
You don’t need to wash your turkey before you roast it, and doing so can be dangerous. A British study found that washing poultry in the sink can spray bacteria up to 3 feet away. And with one in 50 turkeys estimated to be contaminated with salmonella, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food-safety inspectors, you don’t want a mist of turkey juice on your relish platter.
Given this contamination rate, the chef’s job is to keep the raw turkey juices away from anything that isn’t going to be cooked to 165 degrees, the temperature required to kill disease-causing bugs (the ones of interest in poultry -ben). Unfortunately, too many people start their feast preparations by plopping their turkey in the sink and giving it a good wash. There’s no need to do that. It’s a holdover from long ago when poultry routinely arrived with bits of blood and pinfeathers still attached. Cooks were instructed to wash the carcass well and use tweezers to remove any feathers that didn’t get plucked. With today’s modern processing, none of that is necessary. You just want to get the turkey into its pan and into the oven with as little dripping and splashing as possible.
If it’s a lack of refrigerator space that’s impeding your thawing, Doug Powell, a food-safety scientist at Kansas State University, notes that in any Northern climate, you can simply put the turkey outside in the garage in a closed cooler to keep out pets and vermin. His department wrote a paper on the topic and found that as long as the temperature is below 40 to 45 degrees it’s perfectly safe.
Then there’s the big question of whether it’s safe to lick the beaters when you’re making dessert. According to the Food and Drug Administration, approximately one in 20,000 eggs is contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis, the most common type of illness-causing salmonella. Benjamin Chapman, a(n assistant) professor of food safety at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, says he’s content to “let others make their own risk decisions.”
But for himself and his family, the answer is no (at least when I’m around and influence the decision – ben).
Check out these videos for risk-reduction steps:
Thawing the Turkey
Turkey Preparation and Preventing Cross-Contamination
How to tell when the turkey is safe to eat
Handling the Leftovers