Thanksgiving dinner means plenty of stuffing. Stuffing yourself is somewhat guaranteed during the annual feast. But stuffing the turkey? That remains a hotly debated topic.
For expert advice, we turned to the Food Network’s resident crackerjack – Alton Brown – food guru, author, and program host who approaches the art of cooking from a scientific viewpoint.
Before we get to stuffing the bird, let’s clarify for a moment. This is not a dispute over stuffing versus dressing; that’s an entirely different conversation. Generally speaking, stuffing is baked inside the turkey and dressing is a side dish.
So, for sake of simplicity, we will refer to the savory, bread-based Thanksgiving dinner staple as stuffing. You can discuss the dressing amongst yourselves.
In a quote from his November 2014 article, “Stuffing Your Turkey: Just Don’t Do It,” Brown has this to say about the Turkey Day essential,
“When it comes to turkey, stuffing is evil. That’s because stuffing goes into the middle of the bird and is extremely porous. That means as the turkey around it cooks, juices that may contain salmonella bacteria soak into the stuffing, which then must be cooked to a minimum of 165 degrees F in order to be safe.”
Brown suggests always cooking the stuffing outside of the bird, which can effectively eliminate the potential for salmonella-tainted side dishes, as long as you are practicing other safe preparation and cooking techniques.
For die-hard stuffing fans who want that Norman Rockwell picture, complete with a over-filled turkey, Brown recommends baking the stuffing on its own and placing it into the cavity while the cooked turkey is in the resting stage.
No one needs to know you didn’t bake the stuffing inside the bird’s chamber, but you may breathe a bit easier knowing there is not likely to be a salmonella outbreak linked backed to your home kitchen.
Now you can concentrate on the important parts of the holiday dinner, like getting to all of that yummy stuffing before Uncle Bob fills his plate for the third time.