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Dutchess_III's avatar

Where do you stand on the issue of cooking stuffing in the turkey?

Asked by Dutchess_III (39847points) November 25th, 2010

All the hollering about how it causes salmonella poisoning and etc. seems rather illogical to me. How could it be any more “dangerous” than slow cooking a big bone-in ham? I make the best stuffing in the world but half of what makes it so awesome is the juices from the turkey trickling thorough it. I also put stuffing under the skin of the turkey. It is sooooo good!

Well, back to the question. Do you really think it’s a “dangerous” practice? I don’t…unless I’m missing something.

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33 Answers

tedibear's avatar

I think it tastes better that way, but if the stuffing isn’t cooked completely through to 165F, it can cause food poisoning. (It can as opposed to it will.) I miss my mom’s stuffing. She always cooked some in the bird and some out. But that was because we loved stuffing and ate the extra.

Coloma's avatar

Usually my family has done both for years, stuffed the bird and had an extra pan that was crunchy on top from being baked.

Never had an issue, like both equally.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@tedibear But not cooking anything thoroughly can cause issues. The solution is a no brainer. I don’t understand why some people think that stuffing is different from anything else, or how it could be more dangerous than anything else.

tedibear's avatar

Yes, not cooking anything thoroughly can cause issues. It’s just harder to get the stuffing to 165 inside the bird without drying the bird out. There are ways around the dryness, but not everyone knows how to do that.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Dutchess_III The reason stuffing inside the turkey (or any other bird) is seen as dangerous is just because the drippings from the raw bird get into the stuffing and absorbed. As long as it’s cooked thoroughly, it’s not an issue, but the concern is getting all of the stuffing cooked thoroughly without overcooking the bird.

Personally, I don’t worry about it, but I do understand that some do (especially people with weakened immune systems since they are the ones most likely to get sick from it being undercooked).

Dutchess_III's avatar

@tedibear Well, how do you get around it?

jaytkay's avatar

I am agnostic. Delicious stuffing exists, where it comes from I need not know.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

If you use a good meat thermometer and test the temperature of the stuffing, you should have no trouble.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I know this is really bizarre – but my family has never made stuffing for Thanksgiving. I don’t think any of us eat it.

However, if I did make stuffing, I would be inclined to believe it is less safe to cook it in the bird nowadays, compared to times past. In light of the countless recalls in the last several years, I simply do not trust food safety in this country. I blame a lot of it on factory farming, but the truth is pretty basic: If you don’t know exactly where your bird is coming from, you have no idea how safe it actually is.

crisw's avatar

From Penn State:

Stuffing the turkey and other Thanksgiving food-safety mistakes
Wednesday, November 25, 2009

University Park, Pa.—What would a Thanksgiving turkey be without its stuffing, and what better place for that stuffing than inside the turkey?

Despite the tradition involved, a food-safety specialist in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences says some practices are worth reconsidering, especially since Mom may not have fully appreciated the risk of foodborne illness.
“Cooking a stuffed turkey is riskier than cooking an unstuffed one, because it takes longer for the stuffing to reach the proper internal temperature of 165 degrees F when it is placed into the cavity of the bird,” said Martin Bucknavage, food safety specialist in the department of food science. “While people concern themselves about cooking the bird to 165 degrees F, they must ensure that stuffing also achieves that temperature.”

Bucknavage noted that often the turkey ends up overcooked in getting the stuffing to the proper temperature, or the stuffing ends up undercooked because the turkey is removed from the oven when the bird is at the right temperature, but the stuffing is not.

“It is the undercooked stuffing that poses the real risk,” he said. “Bacterial pathogens such as Salmonella may be present in the cavity of the bird and can contaminate the stuffing. If the stuffing is not cooked thoroughly, Salmonella can survive and may infect those who consume it.”

If you want a properly cooked, stuffed bird with less chance of foodborne illness, Bucknavage said, just cook your stuffing separately. To preserve a family tradition, stuff your fully cooked bird with the cooked stuffing before serving. If you simply must stuff your bird before cooking, take extra care to ensure the internal temperature of both the bird and the stuffing exceeds 165 degrees F before serving.

tedibear's avatar

@Dutchess_IIIThis is Alton Brown’s way of doing it. I watched him do this on the Food Network, and I think that he said to stuff the turkey loosely; not to pack the stuffing in. As well, as I read the recipe, it seems like the stuffing goes in partially cooked, which should help it get to the right temperature before the turkey dries out. And while he doesn’t say it in that particular link, I believe he is a fan of brining turkeys, which leads to a moister bird all around.

I’m still with you though. It tastes better after being in the bird.

On edit: I found this video of Alton doing turkey & stuffing.

JLeslie's avatar

If you check the temp of the stuffing you are ok. Most people check the temp of the thickest part of the breast meat, that is not checking the temp of the stuffing. Even if you don’t check the temp of the breast meat you can tell it is done when you cut into it; pink not done. The stuffing has zero visual clue that it has made it to the required temperature.

I prefer stuffing outside of the bird, because I like it on the dryer side, and you can use juices from the bird to moisten it anyway.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@crisw I’ve seen all that. I think it’s just silly. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the stuffing!

Again, in your opinion, isn’t cooking a whole ham at least as “dangerous?”

DominicX's avatar

My family has always cooked both, stuffing the turkey and cooking a casserole of “dry stuffing”. I’ve never been a fan of the “wet stuffing” and I don’t remember ever eating it. But my parents are both good cooks and are not stupid; I’d imagine they’re thorough about temperatures, but to be honest, I’ve never asked them. Today’s the day to find out. :)

crisw's avatar


It isn’t silly, it’s the facts.

If you want safe food, cook it to the proper temperature.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Dutchess_III As long as you are making sure to cook the stuffing (or whole ham) to the proper temperature, neither would really be dangerous. It’s the people that don’t check their temperatures that are a concern.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@crisw I say it’s silly because they make something that is such a no-brainer sound all pompous and wise and ponderous. It’s like pontificating on the importance of washing your dishes in between meals. Duh!

K. I guess that’s their problem then, isn’t it!

crisw's avatar


I think it’s because so many people get food poisoning every year from it. It may not be such a no-brainer as you think.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I know a lot of people that cook without checking the temperature of what they are cooking. I also know people that assume that since the turkey is done, the stuffing is as well and they only check the turkey (or rely solely on those pop up things on the turkey). It’s a matter of educating people to the importance of checking the temperature.

rooeytoo's avatar

My mom always cooked stuffing in the turkey but she would cool the stuffing mix before she put it in the cold bird (which she always washed out) and then the turkey would go into the oven at a low temp before she went to bed, in a covered roasting pan. An hour or so before dinner the next day she would take the cover off and turn up the heat to brown it. The meat was always moist, stuffing cooked through and skin crispy brown. Wow, I still miss her holiday dinners!

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III pork can still be a little pink and be at a safe temperature, so if the pork is visually cooked through it is extremely unlikely that the pork still has parasites that might harm you. The parasite feared in pork, Trichenella, occurs much less often now, but if it is present, it will be dead at the right temp. Bacteria, which can be a risk with any meat, sometimes because the particular animal is exposed while alive and carries the bacteria, sometimes due to how the meat is handled during slaughter or packing. A ham, pork tenderloin, even beef steak, has the bacteria on the exterior of the meat, and they are killed off when seered or cooked even when the interior is rare. This is why a rare steak is safe, but a rare hamburger is not.

Pretty much you can tell visually if the bird is cooked through also by slicing open the breast, but if you do that to check for doneness you risk drying out the breast, that is why people have the thermometers. There is no way to visually tell if the stuffing is done.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I understand that @crisw and @Seaofclouds…but why focus on just the one thing, like it’s worse than under-cooking other things? Are those people, who don’t know by now that the food has to be a certain temperature to be considered safe, only going to pay attention if they pontificate on stuffing? I think the reason they focus on that is probably because there are more instances of food poisoning during Thanksgiving and Christmas than any other time of the year. But that has nothing to do with one particular food. It has to do with the fact that we fix SO MUCH food all at once, and people don’t pay attention to things like keeping a meat cutting board separate from a veggie cutting board (or at least cleaning it thoroughly before you switch from meat to veggies) and leaving food out too long before you refrigerate it, and leftovers, and on and on, than because of any one particular food. If they haven’t got it by now, I guess they never will.

@JLeslie. Ok. So if it’s something someone is worried about, spend a couple of bucks and get a meat thermometer. And if they can’t figure THAT out…oh well!

Bumper Sticker: “Quit Picking On The Stuffing!”

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III I ammnot trying to lecture you, I am just giving you information why a ham is different than stuffing.

I actually agree with you that thanksgiving food poisoning gets more attention. I think it is because a whole family or group gets sick at once. Al of them puking all night, if they are staying over from out of town being in that house is a nightmare. A guy I dated in high school, his family had parties all of the time, usually around 30 or 40 people would show up. Literally almost every weekend there was a party: someone’s birthday or saints day, or holiday. Anyway, one of the sister-in-laws only would eat if my boyfriend’s mom cooked the food. One party, I was not there, everyone got food poisoning except her. They all wound up in the hospital, it was a nightmare. I don’t know what they prepared, I would guess it was not from stuffing, they never cooked stuffing at all the whole time I dated him.

DominicX's avatar

I just asked my mom about this, and she said definitely they monitor the temperature every year. Our stove has a place where you can actually hook up an electronic temperature probe and get an accurate reading on the stove console. 165 was the temperature she got it up to, but my mom said that back in the day, they used to tell you to get it to 180 until it was later changed to 165.

faye's avatar

@Dutchess_III will you share your recipe, please? It’s tradition for us to have 2–3 stuffings at Xmas so I’m always on the look out. Not only do I stuff the bird, I do it the day before. You just have to keep everything cold. I like my chicken and turkey very cooked, gravy makes it not dry antway.

augustlan's avatar

I’m super fussy about food and bacteria. No stuffed turkeys for us. It works out well, because I prefer the crispier stuffing, anyway.

JLeslie's avatar

They say that 1 in 4 people get some sort of food born illness every year. That number sounds outrageously high to me. What do you all think? They don’t mean you have tobe hospitalized sick, just stomach upset from food would count. I do have to say that the way the people who bag my groceries screw up putting raw meat with veggies or cooked meat in the same bag, maybe it is true. I have not thrown up in over 20 years. I can think of maybe 3 stomach upsets in the last 20 that might have been from food born illness, but minor, very minor symptoms.

I did once get what I assume was very bad food poisoning when I was teen. I was the only one who ate the chicken cooked in a cream sauce and was violently ill, and no one else “caught” it, so We assumed most likely it was the food. I had never been sick like that, much worse than a typical 24 hour flu.

Coloma's avatar

Well…as they say, the ‘proof’ is in the stuffing.

It’s the morning after, ate plenty of bird roasted stuffing and here I am, feelin’ fine! Except for the champagne fog. lol

Dutchess_III's avatar

@JLeslie Sorry. Thanks for the info.

I got food poisoning when I was in college. I ate a burrito out of a vending machine. At the time I thought I just had a bad flu. I was throwing up all night. Years later when I was waitressing and attended food prep classes I realized what it was.

Stuffing: Croutons of your choice. I usually make my own by cubing up a good bread, shaking it in a baggie that has a touch of olive oil and whatever seasoning in it. Then bake it on low until they turn brown.
I saute onions, celery and port mushrooms. I let those simmer for an hour or so, then I add raisins and nuts, and let the mess cook for most of the day. When I’m ready to stuff the turkey I mix the raisins etc. with the croutons. Easy on the oil and butter, though. This year it was a little too heavy, but still good!

So, we’re all alive still, but honestly, I about scared my self to death eating the turkey and stuffing!! Really!

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Oh my. I was not trying to give you anxiety about eating the stuffing,

Dutchess_III's avatar

I did it to myself, @JLeslie! Just by posting this question. It made me think about it!

Pachy's avatar

I flat-out don’t give it a second thought. I grew up with my family and friends cooking their stuffing in the turkey and I’m still around to remember how yummy it always was.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I THOUGHT this question had been asked before! And, um, by me no less! LOL!

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