To Stuff or Not to Stuff... the Turkey - ONIE Project

To Stuff or Not to Stuff... the Turkey

Posted by ONIE Project on 11/27/2013

There is a tradition of cooking stuffing inside a turkey; some say it gives the stuffing a taste of the turkey, from the turkey juice. Yet, food-safety experts recommend cooking it separately. This is very important with stuffing because stuffing is moist, it can be the perfect place for bacteria to live — the 165°F temperature is needed to kill the bacteria in the raw stuffing. Cooking the stuffing to the recommended 165°F can dry out the white meat on a bird while it reaches that temperature. For optimal safety and uniform doneness, cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole dish.

Thanksgiving turkey cooking times

Timetables for Turkey Roasting (325 °F oven temperature) Make sure stuffing reaches 165°F. This might over cook the breast and thighs might get up to 180°F. If you do pack your turkey with stuffing do not over pack, it needs to be loose:  2quarts of stuffing for a 16 lb turkey. Stuffing in the turkey absorbs a lot of the turkey flavor, but with the tip below you can get that flavor in a safer way. TIP: To give the dressing/stuffing that turkey flavor without cooking it inside the turkey, cut off some of your turkey’s fat or cut up the turkey’s neck and place it on top of dressing casserole while it cooks to give it that turkey flavor but have the cooking time correct. Make sure your stuffing reaches 165°F

Cooking Time — Unstuffed

Size of Turkey

Hours to Prepare

8 to 12 pounds 2 3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds

3 to 3 3/4 hours

14 to 18 pounds 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4 1/2 to 5 hours

Cooking Time — Stuffed

Size of Turkey

Hours to Prepare

8 to 12 pounds 3 to 3 1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours

USDA and CDC both recommend cooking stuffing separately from the turkey.

  1. Prepping food: 2 or more cutting boards is important to lo
  2. Cooking Temperatures Poultry- All parts of the turkey need to reach 165°F


  1. Table Time Danger zone: 41°F - 135°F Perishable foods should only stay on the table less than 2 hours (or 1 hour if the room temperature is over 90°F
  2. Refrigeration – First check to make sure your fridge is at the right temperature; 40 ˚F - 32 ˚F By dividing leftovers into several clean, shallow containers, you’ll allow them to chill faster. Do not stack too high; to properly cool they need to have cold air circulating around it.
  3. Keep time: The best rule of thumb is 3-4 days throw it out. Sorry, you probably shouldn’t be eating your leftovers on Monday.

Let’s all have a good day after Thanksgiving by following these simple food safety tips!



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