One of the more “interesting” activities of preparing the traditional Thanksgiving feast is making sure the turkey is thoroughly washed and properly prepared for roasting. Turkey, like any poultry, is prone to salmonella. Salmonella is an airborne pathogen that can find its way to your turkey via improper handling at the packing house or by improper handling at your house.
Most of us buy frozen turkeys, and the best way to defrost is to put them in the refrigerator several days before the Thanksgiving meal, but sometimes unexpected things happen. If you have to do a quick defrost the best way to proceed is by filling the sink with scalding hot water and soaking the bird. You’ll probably have to repeat these steps several times over the course of a few hours, but it sure beats trying to defrost the bird in the microwave. Whichever defrosting technique you use, be sure to keep the bird covered, and the original wrapper works best. Again, salmonella can be airborne, so an uncovered turkey, or any meat for that matter, left uncovered on a countertop to defrost, is an open invitation to trouble.
Once the turkey has been completely defrosted it needs a bath. With any poultry I go on the assumption that salmonella is there, so I put it in the kitchen sink, (which by the way, needs to be cleaned and sanitized first), and I run the water over all over it. Salmonella can hide in the nooks and crannies, so be sure to wash under the wings and thighs, in the joints, and make sure to flush out the body cavity while you’re at it. Yes, this process can get a little messy, particularly if you’re washing a big turkey, so if your faucet has a spray attachment use it as it will help make the job a little easier.
Once the turkey has been completely washed it’s ready for the roaster or the fryer, or even the smoker. Be sure to wipe up any water that may have splashed on the counter tops and around the sink with a disinfectant wipe. This helps prevent cross-contamination so you don’t end up with a rather nasty, uninvited guest.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.