How to Stuff a Turkey
Every Thanksgiving host-slash-turkey-cooker faces the ultimate question: To stuff or not to stuff (the turkey, that is). If you've cooked a stuffed bird before, you already know the ins and outs of this traditional preparation, but it's worth brushing up on the basics (and perhaps pick up another trick or two). If you're a first-timer, you'll find a step-by-step guide to stuffing the turkey like a pro.
- Filling a turkey cavity with stuffing is easy enough to do, but problems can crop up if you aren't paying attention to food safety regulations. Arm yourself with the facts and then heed the guidelines as you prep your turkey and stuffing. Thiw way you and your nearest and dearest can enjoy a delicious stuffed turkey this Thanksgiving.
Food safety guidelines
People have been stuffing turkeys for years without mishap, but all it takes is one time to spoil a holiday for all your guests. Once you've committed to cooking the stuffing inside the cavity of the turkey, you'll need to heed food safety guidelines. Of special note: Do not ever attempt to grill or deep-fry a stuffed turkey because these fast-cooking methods will never allow enough time for the stuffing to cook through before the turkey is done.
- All components of the stuffing should be cooked before combining. That means sauteing the vegetables, and cooking any meats that will be added, such as giblets, bacon, or sausage. Eggs should be pasteurized. You can prepare the stuffing ahead of time but be sure to let it cool completely and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Wait to stuff the turkey until right before it will be roasted, never ahead of time.
- Do not pack the stuffing, or it will cook unevenly; leave about a quarter of the neck and cavity free, as the stuffing will expand during roasting.
- When you are cooking the stuffing inside the turkey, the meat will be releasing the juices from the uncooked meat throughout cooking; this is why it is so imperative that the stuffing be cooked fully to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. This means you must measure the temperature of the stuffing as well as the breast and thigh meat to prevent the risk of food-borne illness.
- Plan on 3 to 4 cups of stuffing per person, including seconds and leftovers.
- The stuffing will absorb quite a lot of juices while cooking, so keep that in mind when adding liquid to the mixture.
- If you can't fit all the stuffing in the turkey, bake the rest in a baking dish; you may need to add more liquid to this batch, and also dot it with butter to keep it moist.
- For an excellent "tutorial" on making stuffing, click here.
Follow these steps to stuff a turkey before roasting. Always start with a turkey that's been allowed to sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
- Pat turkey dry and season inside and out with salt and pepper (unless brined).
- Just before the turkey is to go into the oven, spoon stuffing into the neck cavity and main cavity, without packing it in. Put any extra in a baking dish.
- Close up neck flap over openings with toothpicks or wooden skewers.
- Tuck wing tips under bird and tie turkey legs together.
- Place turkey breast side up in the roasting pan that's fitted with a wire rack.
- Roast the turkey in the preheated oven.