NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Stuffing the Turkey Safely

Stuffing the Turkey Safely


            Cooking a great feast to share with family and friends is one of the many joys of the holidays -- and one of the many stresses. There are so many different things to remember- including to make extras of a favorite side dish – stuffing.   Ensure your holiday stuffing is both food safe and tasty with a few quick tips.
            For optimal safety and uniform doneness, cook stuffing separately. Cooking a home-stuffed turkey is riskier than cooking one not stuffed. Even if the turkey itself has reached the safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured in the innermost part of the thigh, the wing and the thickest part of the breast, the stuffing may not have reached a temperature high enough to destroy bacteria that may be present.  Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165 °F, possibly resulting in foodborne illness.

            1. Prepare Stuffing Safely  f you plan to prepare stuffing using raw meat, poultry, or shellfish, you should cook these ingredients before stuffing the turkey to reduce the risk of foodborne illness from bacteria that may be found in raw ingredients. The wet ingredients for stuffing can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. However, do not mix wet and dry ingredients until just before spooning the stuffing mixture into the turkey cavity. If stuffing is prepared ahead of time, it must be cooked immediately and refrigerated in shallow containers. Do not stuff whole poultry with cooked stuffing.
            2. Stuff Loosely- Do not cool the stuffing. Spoon it directly into the turkey cavity right after preparation. Stuff the turkey loosely — about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound. The stuffing should be moist, not dry, because heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment.
Do not stuff turkeys to be grilled, smoked, fried, or microwaved.
            3. Cook Now!  Immediately place the stuffed, raw turkey in an oven set no lower than 325 °F.
            4. Use a Food Thermometer - For safety and doneness, check the internal temperature of the turkey and stuffing with a food thermometer. If the temperature of the turkey and the center of the stuffing have not reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F, further cooking will be required. Do not remove the stuffing from the turkey before it reaches 165 °F because the undercooked stuffing could contaminate the cooked meat. Continue to cook the turkey until the stuffing is safely cooked.
            5. Let It Rest- Let the cooked turkey stand 20 minutes before removing the stuffing and carving.
            6. Refrigerate Promptly- Refrigerate the cooked turkey and stuffing within 2 hours after cooking. Place leftovers in shallow containers and use within 3 to 4 days.

            For traditional flavor, but with less fat and calories, try the updated version below.


Healthy and Happy Stuffing


24 servings



1 package (12 ounces) reduced-fat bulk pork sausage

3 celery ribs, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

2 T. reduced-fat mayonnaise

2 T. prepared mustard

4 tsp rubbed sage

1 T. poultry seasoning

2 loaves, day old white bread, cubed

3        loaf, day old whole-wheat bread, cubed

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cans (14 ½ ounces each) reduced sodium chicken broth



            Preheat oven to 350°. In a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook sausage, celery and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink, breaking up sausage into crumbles; drain. Remove from heat; stir in mayonnaise, mustard, sage and poultry seasoning.         Place bread cubes in a large bowl; add sausage mixture and toss. In a small bowl, whisk eggs and broth; pour over bread cubes and stir gently to combine. Transfer to two 3-qt. baking dishes coated with cooking spray.

            Bake, covered, 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 12-18 minutes longer or until lightly browned and a thermometer reads 165°.

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