You MUST resist. Yes, poultry doesn’t exactly seem super clean, but no matter how gross or how slimy that bird feels, whatever you do, do not wash your turkey.

More than 46 million turkeys will be eaten this Thanksgiving Day, and with that comes one of the biggest days of the year for food borne illnesses. With so many different foods being stored, rinsed, prepared, and cooked all in the same space, it’s easy to imaging how cross contamination can happen. But the easiest way to spread illness-causing bacteria? Washing the turkey.

But why?

According to the USDA, rinsing your turkey, whether fresh or frozen, will not get rid of that unwanted bacteria on your bird — in fact, that’s pretty much impossible to do without the high heat of the oven (more on that later). Actually it’s washing your turkey that increases the chance of spreading that bacteria. This is because the water that splashed off your bird will — no matter how careful you are — inevitably splash onto other surfaces like your countertops, dish towels, and other nearby items.

Basically, the risk of cross-contamination from washing your turkey is actually greater than if you just left it alone to begin with.

Also read why you shouldn’t put your stuffing inside of the turkey.

Cooking a turkey

The best, and really only, way you can kill bacteria on your bird is by cooking it. Cooking a turkey to the USDA recommended temperature of 165ºF will rid it of any and all food borne illness causing bacteria. Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh, a wing, and the thickest part of the breast. (Read more about what makes dark meat, dark here.)

Also, always wash your hands before and after you handle the turkey. The USDA recommends washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap under warm water. And if any surface comes in contact with the raw poultry, like countertops or cutting boards, wash that area with hot, soapy water, too.

Just, whatever you do, do not wash that bird.

Also see, Easy bone broth soup.

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.