Homemade stuffing on Thanksgiving is almost as essential as a perfectly roasted Turkey.
Which is actually the basis of our delimma. If you’re here, you may have heard that there’s some controversy over whether or not it’s safe to make stuffing in the true sense of stuffing a raw turkey and allowing it cook inside.
It’s both a food safety delimma and a cooking delimma. Here’s what you need to know.
1.) Raw foods need to be cooked to a certain temperature to ensure any potential bacteria can’t make you sick. In this instance we’re talking about bacteria inside the cavity of the turkey spreading to your stuffing.
2.) To ensure your stuffing is cooked throughly, it’s advised that the temperature reach 165 degrees farenheit, the same temperature you take the turkey out of the oven at.
3.) This is where things get a little tricky. You see, in order to cook the stuffing inside the turkey to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, you run the risk of overcooking the outer parts of the turkey that have already reached temperature.
So What Are Your Options?
Cook It In A Separate Dish
You could just cook the stuffing in a separate dish. That solves one delimma, eliminating the chances of both overcooking your turkey and undercooking the stuffing. But it may cause another.
One, your turkey won’t get the added flavor and aromas from the herb-laden stuffing baking from the inside. And two, if you go this route you run the risk of a throrough scolding from grandma. As much as we love a “when I was your age…” story, it’s much more rewarding to hear words of praise.
Our tip if you go this route: Pour the juices from your turkey or a homemade turkey stock over your stuffing to add the mesmerizing flavor and moisture of traditionally stuffed stuffing. Also, don’t forget to rub some of the herbs from your stuffing recipe inside the turkey. No one will know the difference.
If you’re set on honoring the rightful name of this savory staple… take precautions. To minimize the opportunity for bacteria to spread, don’t stuff the turkey until right before it goes in the oven.
Cook in Stages
This option is sort of the best of both worlds, giving you all the goodness of stuffed turkey while eliminating the risk of overcooking the turkey. Here’s what you do: when your turkey reaches temperature (165 degrees), remove it from the oven and spoon the stuffing into a pot or baking dish. Add some of the turkey stock to ensure it stays moist and continue to cook the stuffing until it reaches 165 degrees. This should be the perfect amount of time to allow your turkey to rest and begin carving.
One Last Tip
We’d be remissed if we didn’t share this last bit of info with you. Whenever possible, choose pasture-raised meats over meats that come from industrialized systems. They’re far more prone to bacteria like salmonella due to the very confined and unsanitary living spaces they’re raised in.
“Pasture raised” turkey means the turkey was raised in natural conditions without the use of growth promotants, fillers, antibiotics, or confined living spaces.