Thanksgiving Food Safety – Stuffing in the Bird?

5960546_mOf all the disagreements that can crop up surrounding holiday arrangements, one of the most pervasive arguments in some families is whether to cook stuffing in the bird or make dressing separately. Whether you are on the side of tradition or in desperate fear of salmonella poisoning, there are a few things you should know about the food safety issues involved in cooking stuffing in the turkey, and how a compromise might be reached.

The Safest Choice

There is a real danger of food poisoning when the stuffing is cooked in the bird. This is because the turkey may finish cooking before the stuffing gets up to a high enough temperature to kill the bacteria that causes food poisoning. The absolute safest choice is to skip the stuffing and serve dressing that has been cooked in a separate pan.

Cooking a Stuffed Turkey

You can cook your stuffed turkey until the stuffing has reached 165 degrees, and that is safe, but this typically dries out the meat. By the time the stuffing reaches a safe temperature, the turkey is overcooked.

If you must cook the stuffing in the bird, do not prepare the stuffing or stuff the bird ahead of time. Wait until you are ready to put the turkey in the oven, and put warm stuffing in the turkey. Also, stuff loosely. Then, when turkey is done, make sure the stuffing has reached 165 degrees. If it has not, you can remove the stuffing and finish heating it to temperature in the microwave.

Using a meat thermometer is a must for this operation. A pop-up will not give you the information you need.

A Compromise

If presentation is the real issue, you can always cook your turkey and stuffing separately, then stuff the turkey before serving. If moisture and flavor are at the heart of the matter, you can add some extra turkey stock to the dressing, preferably homemade stock.

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