Thanksgiving turkey – to stuff or not to stuff?

Recommendations for your safe and tasty holiday stuffing.

Stuffing in dish topped with cranberries.

November is here, and with it, the holiday season begins. As you begin to plan and shop for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, including the turkey dinner with all the trimmings, a critical step for preparing your great holiday meal is to safely prepare your stuffing. When it comes to both the turkey and stuffing there are food safety practices that must be considered in order to ensure a great tasting and safe holiday meal. Cooking a home-stuffed turkey is riskier than cooking the stuffing separate from the turkey. Even if the turkey has reached the safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, the stuffing may not have reached a temperature high enough to destroy potential bacteria.

Michigan State University Extension recommends the following food safety tips for your Thanksgiving stuffing:

  • Purchase a food thermometer if you don’t have one, or if you do have one, find it and calibrate the thermometer in your kitchen
  • When planning for your stuffing, it is recommended to bake your stuffing outside of the turkey in a separate baking dish, until the stuffing reaches a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • If you choose to stuff your turkey, follow these tips:
    • Precook any raw items like meat, fish or poultry that is an ingredient in the stuffing.
    • Do not mix wet and dry stuffing ingredients until you are ready to stuff the turkey.
    • Stuff the turkey loosely with the moist stuffing.
    • Use a food thermometer to ensure that the center of the stuffing reaches the temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacteria that could cause foodborne illness can survive if the temperature does not reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • If the turkey has not reached a minimum internal cooking temperature of 165 degrees, continue roasting the turkey until it reaches the minimum temperature.
    • Let the turkey and stuffing rest for 20 minutes before carving and removing the stuffing.
    • Refrigerate any leftover stuffing within two hours of removing it from the oven.
    • Reheat stuffing to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit before eating the leftovers.

Enjoy your safe and tasty stuffing for this year’s turkey day.

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