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Should You Stuff Your Turkey For Thanksgiving?

As Thanksgiving nears, attention turns to the kitchen. And as families across the country prepare their family meals for Thursday, a debate: whether to stuff the bird.

Field & Feast is a weekly feature airing Saturdays on KUT and KUTX. On the Field & Feast website, Cecilia Nasti wades into the stuffing debate and offers the following advice on how to avert dressing disasters and other Thanksgiving goofs.

What’s turkey without stuffing? That wonderful bready filling, saturated with the savory juices of your holiday bird is heaven – that is, until it makes someone sick. 

The challenges of cooking a stuffed bird is getting the stuffing to reach the food safe temperature of the cooked turkey: 165° F.

It generally takes longer to reach that temperature, and by the time it does, you have overcooked the meat. As the stuffing ingredients were imbued with the raw turkey juices when you first introduced it into the cavity, if you do not allow it to reach a safe temperature, you could be subjecting your family and guests to some gastrointestinal distress or worse.

One suggestion is to cook the stuffing in advance, bringing it to at least 145° F before spooning it into the raw bird, giving it a big head start.

We recommend simply cooking it outside of the turkey, at which time it is renamed dressing. It is still delicious, and it is safe.

Of course, if you want to stuff your bird, by all means do. Just remember to: 

  • Use cooked ingredients in your stuffing
  • Stuff your turkey just before cooking, not the night before
  • Stuff both the neck and body cavities of a completely thawed turkey

Field & Feast airs Saturday morning on KUT and KUTX. See more, including cooking times for a stuffed bird, on the Field and Feast website.

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