Stuffing Your Turkey: Just Don’t Do It

Stuffing Your Turkey: Just Don’t Do It


When it comes to turkey, stuffing is evil. That’s because stuffing goes into the middle of the bird and is extremely porous. That means as the turkey around it cooks, juices that may contain salmonella bacteria soak into the stuffing, which then must be cooked to a minimum of 165 degrees F in order to be safe.

Getting the stuffing to this temperature usually means overcooking the turkey. They way I see it, cooking stuffing inside a turkey turns the turkey into a rather costly seal-a-meal bag.

If you’re a stuffing fan, I suggest cooking it separately (in which case it’s “dressing,” not stuffing) and inserting it into the bird while it rests (to collect the turkey juices). Odds are no one will notice the difference.

If you absolutely have to stuff the bird, follow my recipe here.

87 Comments

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  1. 1
    Mary

    I cook the turkey from frozen. Yay.
    Everything else is cooked fresh.
    It doesn’t spread turkey food bourne illnesses to the family. I can clean the kitchen before starting round two with the rest of the dinner.

  2. 2
    Dave

    I’m going to do it the opposite way. I’m going to cook the stuffing inside the turkey, but then take it out when I take the turkey out of the oven, put it in a pan, and heat it to at least 165 degrees in the oven, which shouldn’t take long. That way, the stuffing gets the best taste, but is cooked to the USDA recommendectemp to kill bacteria. I’m not seeing a downside to this.

  3. 3
    Heidi Hawkes

    Is there a difference in your opinion about stuffing if you stuff the neck cavity instead of the main cavity to make your stuffing? I grew up with stuffing and love the moist mixture that comes from the process. My parents always stuffed both the main and the neck cavities. My husband grew up with dressing and doesn’t enjoy the other. I became concerned about making stuffing when I saw your first thanksgiving special but I continued to long for that in the bird flavor. Would making it in the neck cavity and only putting your aromatics in the main cavity make a fmdifference in your safety vs dry meat equation???

  4. 5
    Renee

    I don’t know what the big deal is. Just cook the stuffing in the bird and after it cooks and the bird is resting, just remove the stuffing to a baking dish and put it in the oven at at least 350 – 425 degrees until the thermometer reads 165 degrees. I’ve been doing this for decades and it’s even better than stuffing right out of the bird because the oven crisps up the top so that there are crispy and moist areas. Who wants to cook the stuffing by itself and then put it into a cooked turkey? That’s ridiculous and unnecessary.

  5. 6
    barbara J Hedstrom

    Robert: You might be my neighbor. He has the same attitude you do. I pray to God you find some comfort in the thoughts and prayers we on line are offering up to you.

  6. 7
    Julie Straughan

    Robert,you may believe that about yourself but it is not the truth. I’m now a Christian but I used to feel that way too. My husband and I will be praying for you

  7. 8
    Laura

    Robert, I’m so sorry you are feeling that way. I hope that you are taking care of yourself and know that you are not alone. I don’t know where you live, but some cities have places that offer free dinners to bring people together today. Wishing you peace and happiness.

  8. 10
    jack

    When stuffing a turkey, and it MUST be stuffed, do the following.

    Prepare your stuffing recipe and fill the neck cavity first. This will stretch out and crisp the skin in front of the breast and the skin will flavor the stuffing even as the stuffing flavors the skin. Additionally, the stuffing on the bottom will flavor all the cooking juices–this comes in handy for the gravy.

    Take the rest of the stuffing and fill the bird. It should overflow into the space between the drumsticks and can be formed into a nice, sealed stuffing ‘cap’ for the body cavity.

    Cook your turkey.

    When it’s finished remove the stuffing from the bird and place in the still hot oven, in an oven safe dish while you make the gravy. Leave the stuffing in the neck cavity alone.

    By the time the gravy is ready any danger from the stuffing that was in the body cavity will be gone. AND the stuffing will be piping hot.

  9. 14
    Brandi

    I’ve always disliked the mushy texture of the stuffing from the bird so I don’t eat it. My husband loves it though, and I’ve done it before, then cooked it the rest of the way in the oven after taking it out. I serve it to him and tell him to enjoy his “butt bread.”

  10. 15
    Bobby

    Look at all the “experts” that know more than a true expert. So much arrogance. Never had a problem? Good for you. But why take the chance of making your family sick, if you don’t have to? Just because you’ve always done it your way, doesn’t make it right, or safe.

  11. 17
    Shore

    We have stuffed our turkeys with bread stuffing for over 45 years & have never had a problem! It is moist & delicious! Nothing to worry about so stuff if you want to! We also wash it before cooking! No problem either. Enjoy & don’t worry!

  12. 18
    Liz

    Been stuffing turkeys for years without incident or dry turkey. I baste it, too. My mom’s been doing it that way too. Never had an issue, no one’s ever gotten sick, and it’s alwsys brown, crispy and moist. It’s not the same taste outside the bird, and you don’t get much of the drippings in it when you shove it in the last few minutes. I say “Yes!!!” to basting AND stuffing.

  13. 19
    Arne

    As I know it, in the NOW, HOW can the juices from a turkey PERMEATE the stuffing, when the cavities RIB CAGE is surrounded by a MEMBRANE, which is NOT porous!
    And, conversely, HOW can the aromatics FROM stuffing rise to permeate the MEAT of the turkey, when it is going to be BLOCKED by that SAME membrane?

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