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Thanksgiving

Is It Safe to Cook the Stuffing Inside the Turkey?

Yes, you can do it safely—but you might not want to.
By Published Nov. 4, 2022

A stuffed turkey often represents the quintessential Thanksgiving centerpiece. Seasoned bread and tender aromatics packed into the center of a golden-brown turkey, soaking up all that savory flavor.

It might be picture-perfect, but is that stuffing safe? 

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Is it safe to eat stuffing from inside a turkey?

Yes—as long as you take certain measures. And it still might not be worth it.

It’s hard enough to cook a whole turkey to the right temperature because the light and dark meat cook differently. Adding stuffing further complicates things.

Stuffing should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. But cooking the stuffing inside the bird to that temperature takes too long; by the time the stuffing is safe to eat, the meat is overcooked.

Turkey Stuffing Safety Tips

In addition to cooking the stuffing to the proper food-safe temperature, the USDA has some other safety guidelines. 

  1. Don’t buy a turkey pre-stuffed unless it’s been packed under USDA safety guidelines. 
  2. Stuff the turkey loosely and cook immediately after stuffing. A moist environment cooks off bacteria better than a dry one and cooking immediately reduces the time for food-borne pathogens to multiply.
  3. Only stuff a small or medium bird. If your bird has too large a cavity, your instant-read thermometer won’t reach the center of the stuffing to take an accurate temperature.

Still want your stuffing to have that savory, cooked-in-the-bird flavor without having to worry (or eat dry turkey)? We have two ways to achieve it safely.

  1. Cook your stuffing in a casserole dish with turkey wings on top. In our Bread Stuffing with Fresh Herbs recipe, you get all that turkey flavor without having to actually stuff the bird. Sear the wings first to develop extra savoriness, and place them on top of the stuffing to soak up every bit of turkey flavor as the wings cook.
  2. Start your stuffing in the turkey and finish it outside of the bird. It may seem like a bit of extra work, but it’s the safest way to get all that turkey flavor and keep anyone from getting sick. For step-by-step instructions check out this article on How to Safely Cook Stuffing Inside a Turkey.
Learn about these stuffing tips and more in this video with Ashley Moore.

photo credit: ftwitty/via Getty Images