Enjoy food of the holiday, but don't forget food safety

November 21, 2007|By LYNN LITTLE

The Thanksgiving menu, turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, along with many side dishes, is very much the same from year to year. Two food-safety recommendations for cooking the meal have changed.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service has eliminated the recommendation for washing raw meat and poultry, including raw turkey, before placing it in the oven. It also adjusted the cooked temperature to 165 degrees for all poultry products.

The practice of rinsing the raw turkey in cool running water is no longer recommended. Eliminating this step reduces the risk of cross-contamination from rinse water being splashed around the sink and on the adjoining counter. Heat during the roasting process will kill any bacteria, if present.

The cooked temperature recommendation of 165 degrees standardizes the recommendations for cooking poultry. Previously, the USDA recommended different temperatures for poultry parts such as breasts, thighs and wings.


The only sure way to tell if meat and poultry are cooked to recommended temperatures is by using a food thermometer. Information about choosing and using a food thermometer is available on the Food Safety Inspection Service Web site: & food safety.

Food thermometers are available at hardware, kitchenware, discount and department stores and at many grocery stores.

For answers to frequently asked holiday cooking questions, call the Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-674-6854, or e-mail your question to

For information about cooking a Thanksgiving turkey, visit

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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