Food Safety, Preparation and Storage Tips
Cooperative Extension, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, the University of Arizona

Stuffing a Turkey

The holidays usually mean roasting turkeys. A frequently asked question is whether to stuff or not to stuff whole poultry? Either method is acceptable when proper cooking and food handling procedures are followed.

Raw poultry can contain disease causing bacteria such as Campylobacter and Salmonella. When a raw turkey is stuffed, the bacteria from the turkey may be transferred to the stuffing. Because the stuffing is located inside the turkey, extra cooking time is required for the stuffing to reach the appropriate temperature which is 165° F to kill harmful bacteria. Also remember that "Pop-up" thermometers that come with some turkeys only measure the temperature of the turkey, not the stuffing.

If you don't have a meat thermometer to measure the internal temperature of the stuffing in the turkey, the stuffing should be cooked separately from the turkey.

If you plan to stuff your turkey, do it just prior to roasting, NOT the day before. Loosely pack the stuffing inside the turkey cavity (about cup of stuffing per pound of turkey). Cook frozen prestuffed turkeys from the frozen state and follow the manufacturer's package directions.

When preparing any raw food, be sure to wash any food contact surfaces such as utensils, counters and cutting boards. Wash your hands with hot, soapy water before and after preparation. In addition, a sanitizing solution of 1 teaspoon of household bleach in 1 quart of water should be used to sanitize food contact surfaces after they are cleaned.

Resources:

  • The University of Arizona Fact Sheet, "Turkey Preparation - To Stuff or Not to Stuff," 9/97. Replaces existing U of A tape #222, "Dangers in Stuffing a Turkey."
  • Turkey. 1998. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/pubs/ci_stuffing.htm
  • USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline
    1-800-535-4555
  • Butterball Turkey Talk Line (November and December only)
    1-800-323-4848

Material written by Mary Abgrall and Scottie Misner, June 1998.
Part of Food Safety Tips, College of Agriculture, The University of Arizona
Document located at http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/health/foodsafety/az1073.html
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