The holiday season often brings forth the same conundrum for at least some cooks:
To stuff, or not to stuff?
Few debates spark as much controversy-whether or not to prepare stuffing inside the bird ranks up there with the 2000 Presidential Election and whatever happened to Jimmy Hoffa.
Well, maybe not.
Regardless, the general consensus in recent years is to relegate stuffing to your favorite casserole dish, staying far, far away from the main event’s cavity. Thinking back to national incidents involving tainted spinach and eggs, keeping a potentially carb-packed breeding ground for food-borne illnesses sounds like a pretty darn good idea.
But wait, stuffed turkey die-hards! Safely cooking stuffing inside a turkey (or whatever poultry you’re in the mood for) is possible! Of course, basic rules for cooking poultry still apply, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released some advice for those to prefer to think inside the bird.
Using a thawed turkey and being ready to prepare your stuffing just prior to putting your bird in the oven is an important first step. Next, combine wet and dry ingredients; stuffing should be moist, not dry. (Heat destroys bacteria faster in moist conditions.) Once you have the stuffing ready… stuff it! Put the prepared stuffing into the cavity of your raw, prepared bird. (Have your oven preheated and ready to go. It should be preheated to at least 325°F.) It’s important to follow your recipe instructions, but doing some extra checking on your big (or little) guy’s temperature doesn’t hurt. Check not only the innermost part of the thigh, but the wing, thickest part of the breast, and –yep, you guessed it!–the stuffing. All should register at least 165°F on your trusty meat thermometer. Finally, let your bird sit for 20 minutes before removing the stuffing and carving.
A couple notes: Do NOT stuff the turkey with frozen or pre-cooked stuffing! Another tip is that the cute little pop-up timers provided with many turkeys aren’t always reliable. I learned the hard way that those gadgets sometimes lead to dry, tasteless turkey. It’s best to use your own thermometer.
Some are probably wondering, why 165°F? It’s the magic number for killing the bacteria that might be hanging out in your turkey or stuffing. Different meats have different safe zones, but for poultry, 165° (or higher) is usually the way to go.
Yes, cooking your holiday poultry stuffed with, well, stuffing is possible, but keeping the savory, carb-loaded yumminess outside the bird is still the best choice. Remembering food safety guidelines, no matter what method you choose, will be what really matters.
USDA, Newsroom Latest Releases, USDA Provides Food Safety Advice for Busy Thanksgiving Hosts