One of the special parts of the Christmas feast is…you guessed it …stuffing. For me, the turkey is a side dish. Many Christmas cooks and their families have a special stuffing recipe passed down through the generations. The principle ingredient in most stuffing recipes bread, others include alternative ingredients such as sweet potatoes, oysters, giblets, rice and grains. Whatever the recipe, nothing complements a big perfectly roasted bird better than hot stuffing.
I will not tread upon anybody’s sacred turf and suggest stuffing recipes (though I certainly have my favorites…think cornbread). But I will offer a few stuffing tips that may come in handy when you prepare your best stuffing recipe.
• Stuffing Tip #1: Cook Stuffing Separately…Outside the Bird. The USDA recommends that stuffing be cooked in a casserole, and not inside the bird. Place a layer of stuffing in a buttered baking dish, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove, uncover, and bake until the stuffing is golden brown. Be absolutely certain to bake the stuffing to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.
• Stuffing Tip #2: Moisten Stuffing With Homemade Turkey Stock. Homemade turkey stock simply makes the best stuffing. The amount of turkey stock required is dependent upon the dryness of your crumbs/cubes and the moisture content of the other stuffing ingredients, such as celery, onion, raisons, etc.
• Stuffing Tip #3: For an even wetter stuffing, moisten with beaten eggs, yolks included. Beaten eggs will make your stuffing fluffier, yet firmer than if is moistened with stock alone. If you prepare your stuffing in advance, wait until the stuffing has been reheated and is ready to be fully baked before adding the eggs.
• Stuffing Tip #4:Save Time on Christmas Morning…Do Prep Work in Advance: Chop vegetables, toast nuts, and prepare/cut breadcrumbs or cubes the night before Christmas day. You will be glad you did.
• Stuffing Tip #5:If You Choose to Stuff Your Bird, Cook Stuffing Ahead of Time. If your plan includes stuffing the turkey or meat, cook and cool the stuffing mixture before placing it into the cavity. Do not stuff the bird the night before roasting. Place the stuffing inside the turkey just before placing it in a preheated oven. Following this procedure will prevent the growth of bacteria. Fill the cavity loosely with stuffing to ensure even cooking.
• Stuffing Tip #6:Never Mix Raw Ingredients Into Stuffing. To prevent bacteria growth, raw meat and raw vegetables should be thoroughly cooked before being added to the stuffing mixture.