How To Stuff a Turkey Safely
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Food Safety and Inspection Service
Washington, DC 20250
Consumer Education and Information
To stuff or not to stuff -- that is the question on the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's Meat and Poultry Hotline. It is an important question to ask as the
Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday draws near, because cooking a home-stuffed turkey can
be somewhat riskier than cooking one not stuffed. If the stuffing is not cooked and
handled properly, food borne illness could occur.
However, with careful preparation and the use of a
meat or cooking thermometer to ensure that safe temperatures are reached, consumers can
safely enjoy the traditional holiday stuffing inside OR outside the bird," says Bessie Berry, Hotline Manager.
NOTE: The USDA has come up with a
one-temperature-suits-all for poultry safety: 165 degrees F. For safety and doneness, the
of the turkey should be checked with a
meat or cooking thermometer.
also mentions that although a "pop-up" thermometer that comes with
many turkeys is one way to judge the bird's doneness, it can't tell
you the temperature of the stuffing. An instant
meat or cooking thermometer should also be used with stuffed birds.
After the estimated cooking time has
elapsed, a meat thermometer should be inserted in several places, including the innermost
part of the thigh and the center of the stuffing, to check the temperatures," Berry explains.
Once the turkey meat and the stuffing have
reached the proper temperatures, the turkey should be removed from the oven
and allowed to "stand" for 15 to 20 minutes before removing the stuffing and carving.
If you are not prepared to use a meat
thermometer to measure the internal temperature of the stuffing in the bird, then the
stuffing should be cooked outside the turkey," advises Berry.
favorite Turkey Stuffing/Dressing Recipe:
This is my family's favorite Turkey Dressing/Stuffing recipe that I make every year.
Whether you call it "stuffing" or "dressing,"
what's not to love about turkey stuffing? It's often one of the best parts of a turkey dinner. It is so easy to
prepare. Also be creative and add your family's favorite ingredients.
Also check out
Sweet Onion Cornbread Stuffing:
This wonderful cornbread stuffing will delight your family and friends. It is
easy-to-make and so delicious! Use it as a great stuffing alongside of your poultry dishes.
Here are some other important food safety
guidelines to follow:
Handle raw turkeys safely. Take the turkey home directly from the grocery
store. Errands should be run first, before going to the store. At home, place the turkey immediately in the refrigerator or freezer.
A fresh turkey should be cooked within two days.
Defrosting Turkey. Defrost frozen turkeys in the refrigerator, allowing 24 hours for each five pounds.
For faster thawing, place the frozen turkey in cold water, allowing about
30 minutes per pound. The water should be changed every half-hour. A turkey may be
defrosted in the microwave if it is large enough, but follow the manufacturer's
instructions. Cook immediately after defrosting.
Prepare stuffing safely. Mix the stuffing just before it goes into the
turkey. If more convenient, the wet and dry ingredients can be prepared ahead of time and
chilled. Mix the ingredients just before placing the stuffing inside the turkey or in a
Stuff the bird properly. The turkey should be stuffed loosely about 3/4
cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. This will help allow the stuffing to reach the proper
165 degrees F. internal temperature whether the stuffing is in the bird or in a casserole. Use a
meat thermometer to be sure. The stuffing should be moist, not dry, since heat destroys
bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment.
Cook at the proper temperature. The stuffed turkey should be placed
immediately in a preheated oven set no lower than 325 degrees F. Cooking overnight in a
"slow" oven is not recommended since food borne bacteria can form under these
Storing leftovers. Leftovers should be stored within two hours of
cooking. Cut the turkey off the bones. Refrigerate the stuffing and the turkey separately
in shallow containers. Use leftover turkey within four days; stuffing and gravy, in one or two days.
Guidelines For Roasting a Whole Turkey - Learn how to safely and easily prepare and roast your turkey.