To stuff or not to stuff: That’s the Thanksgiving turkey question

As you plan for your Thanksgiving dinner, make your decision on whether to stuff or not

Stuffing the Thanksgiving turkey has been a tradition for many years. Stuffing can also be prepared and baked in a separate dish. There are pros and cons to each method worth considering as you plan for the turkey dinner.

One advantage of not stuffing the turkey and baking the stuffing separately is the turkey will take less time to get fully cooked. A 12 to 14 pound stuffed turkey will take 3.5 to 4 hours to bake while an unstuffed bird will take 3 to 3.75 hours at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Michigan State University Extension food safety educators remind consumers that the turkey should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 F.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends cooking the stuffing out side of the bird. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165 F, possibly resulting in foodborne illness.

Some people feel that stuffing has a better taste and is moister when prepared in the turkey. If the turkey is stuffed, the stuffing should also reach the minimum internal temperature of 165 F in the center of the stuffing. To check the stuffing temperature, insert a food thermometer into the thickest part of the stuffing and wait until the pointer stops moving. If the stuffing hasn’t reached 165 F return it to the oven and continue cooking.

Wait to stuff the turkey until right before baking. Do not stuff the turkey the night before. This practice can allow bacteria ample time to multiply until the center of the stuffing reaches refrigerator temperatures.

If you decide to stuff a turkey, lightly fill the cavity. Allow ½ to ¾ cup per pound of turkey. It is safer to understuff then overstuff a turkey. Stuffing expands during cooking.

If you are planning to cook your turkey on an outdoor grill or in a deep fryer, do not stuff the turkey. The turkey will be done before the stuffing, leaving the turkey overdone or the stuffing not fully cooked.

Always store cooked turkey and stuffing separately and within 2 hours of cooking.

So, in summary, unstuffed is the safest way to go, but if you do decide to stuff your turkey; keep it safe!

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