FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A perfect roast turkey is a beautiful centerpiece at Thanksgiving. But be careful how you prepare it. After thawing and removing the gizzards, do not wash your turkey. You're likely to spread bacteria across the countertops, your hands, and the sink, where you'll be washing vegetables. Any germs on the bird will be killed when you roast it.
As for stuffing? Break with tradition and don't put it inside the turkey. The chances of contamination aren't worth the extra moisture. Patricia Calvo with Consumer Reports adds, "You could also overcook your turkey, since you have to heat the stuffing to 165 to be safe."
Save time by making good store-bought stuffing separately. Consumer Reports expert tasters recommend Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing. Add celery, onion, and some turkey drippings. Your guests likely won't know the difference.
A sweep of vegetable oil or cooking spray will ensure a browned skin. But once the turkey's in the oven, don't baste the bird. Calvo explains, "Basting flavors the skin but it doesn't penetrate the meat. And every time you open the door you lose heat, which means your turkey has to stay in the oven longer and can dry out."
To be safe, turkey has to cook through to 165 degrees. 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 consider 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% of turkeys eaten at Thanksgiving are frozen. Consumer Reports says don't put them on the counter to thaw. They should be defrosted in the refrigerator, allowing a day of thawing for every 4 or 5 pounds. A safely cooked turkey is something everyone can be thankful for.
Turkey Do's and Don'ts
If you're tackling the turkey this year, Consumer Reports has some tips to make the job simpler and safer.