There's Only One Time You Should Ever Wash A Raw Turkey. Here's Why

Do you rinse off raw poultry before cooking it? If you do, you're not alone. When many of us learned to cook, we were instructed to take this step before cooking chicken or turkey in order to get rid of some of the slimy juices that can accumulate inside grocery store packaging. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA), a whopping 68% of people wash their birds before cooking them — but that same organization actually advises against the common practice. 

While it might seem like a good idea to drain off those juices, rinsing raw poultry under a running tap actually has the potential to splash illness-causing bacteria such as Salmonella all around your sink and kitchen space (via USDA). There is really no reason to wash off a chicken or turkey, according to the USDA. Instead, you can just pat the bird dry and then make sure to cook it to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, which kills all bacteria.

So now you know to never wash raw poultry — well, almost never. According to Allrecipes, there's one single occasion in which rinsing off a raw turkey is recommended. 

If you've brined your turkey, go ahead and rinse it off

Although it's strongly recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to never wash a raw turkey before cooking it, there's one exception to that rule. According to Allrecipes, if you've brined your turkey in advance of roasting it, you'll want to rinse off that brine before placing your bird in the oven. Brining a turkey is an excellent pre-cooking step that tenderizes the meat and imbues it with flavor and juiciness (via The Kitchn). But in order to get rid of any extra saltiness, Allrecipes recommends rinsing off the brine, then patting the bird dry, before proceeding with cooking.

So how do you wash a turkey without splashing bacteria-laced juice all over your kitchen? Allrecipes recommends starting with a clean, empty sink, laying paper towels around your sink and counters to easily absorb any splashback, and keeping the bird's roasting pan nearby so you can easily transfer the turkey without any dripping. After you've rinsed off the turkey and placed it in its pan, gather up the paper towels, dispose of them, and wash down your sink and countertop with hot, soapy water. 

There you have it: a safe way to rinse your poultry — on the one occasion when you really should.