Traditional habits not safest way to prepare turkey

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015
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Consumer Reports has some tips to make cooking this Thanksgiving simpler and safer.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Many people will be spending a lot of time in the kitchen on Thanksgiving.

And if you're tackling the turkey this year, officials say some of the old ways to prep aren't always the best.

Consumer Reports has some tips to make the job simpler and safer.

A perfect roasted turkey is a beautiful centerpiece on the holiday.

But be careful how you prepare it.

After thawing and removing the gizzards, don't wash your turkey.

Doing so can easily spread bacteria across the counter tops, onto your hands and into the sink - where you'll be washing vegetables.

Any germs on the bird will be killed when you roast it.

As for stuffing, break tradition and don't put it inside the turkey.

The chances for contamination with bacteria aren't worth the extra moisture.

"You could also overcook your turkey, since you have to heat the stuffing to 165 to be safe," says Patricia Calvo, of Consumer Reports.

You can save time by making good store-bought stuffing, separately.

The expert tasters at Consumer Reports recommend Pepperidge Farm Herb seasoned stuffing - just add celery, onion and some turkey drippings.

They say your guests won't know the difference.

To give your turkey that golden brown skin, give it a light coating of vegetable oil or cooking spray.

But once it's in the oven, don't baste the bird.

"Basting flavors the skin, but it doesn't penetrate the meat. And every time you open the door, you lose head, which means your turkey has to stay in the oven longer and can dry out," Calvo says.

To be safe, turkey has to cook to 165 degrees inside.

Don't rely on pop-up thermometers!

Consumer Reports found that most of the ones they tested were not accurate, either popping too early or too late.

Instead, use an instant-read digital thermometer.

Consumer Reports recommends the Polder Stable Read for $20.

Take the temperature from the thickest part of the thigh or the breast of the turkey.

About 80 percent of turkeys are frozen.

If yours is not thawing as fast as you'd like, here's what's recommended:

Immerse the turkey in cold water - in the wrapper. Then change the water, allowing 30 minutes per pound to thaw.