The Food and Drug Administration's most recent food safety survey showed 68 percent of people wash their turkey before cooking it. But that can cause bacteria to spread on other surfaces up to three feet away, increasing the likelihood of food-borne illness.
Cooking turkey and other raw meats to the right temperature kills any bacteria that may be present, so washing is unnecessary.
Other tips from the USDA:
Use the refrigerator, the cold-water method or the microwave to defrost a frozen turkey
Thawing food in the refrigerator is the safest method, with it defrosting at a consistent and safe temperature. It takes 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey weight to thaw in the fridge.
To thaw in cold water, submerge it in its original wrapper and change the water every 30 minutes. Before using a microwave, check the owner's manual for direction on thawing.
Use a meat thermometer
The internal temperature of a whole turkey should be checked in three locations: the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing and the innermost part of the breast. Cook to 165 degrees Fahrenheit in all three.
Don’t store food outside, even if it’s cold
Animals can get into food and temperature variation can cause food to go into the "danger zone" above 40 degrees.
Leftovers are good in the refrigerator for up to four days
Cut turkey off the bone and refrigerate as soon as possible, within two hours of the turkey coming out of the oven. Pack and freeze any food that won't be used in the next four days. For best quality, use leftover turkey that has been frozen within four months.