|Script: Stuffing and Roasting a Turkey
Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service Food Safety at home podcast
series. These podcasts were designed with you in mind - the consumer - who purchases and
prepares meat, poultry and processed meat, egg products for your family and friends.
Each episode will bring you a different food safety topic ranging from safe storage, handling,
and preparation of meat, poultry and processed egg products to the importance of keeping foods
safe during a power outage.
So sit back, turn up the volume and listen in.
Welcome to “Food Safety at Home.” This is Kathy Bernard with the Food Safety and Inspection
Service. I’m your host for this segment. With me today is Tina Hanes, technical information
specialist from FSIS’ Food Safety Education Staff. Tina and I will discuss stuffing and
roasting a turkey by the open-pan method.
Hello Tina, welcome to the show.
Thank you Kathy. I’m pleased to be here.
The holiday season is coming and many cooks are thinking about roasting a turkey and preparing
stuffing. Let’s talk about doing this safely.
“Safely” is the important word here because cooking a home-stuffed turkey is riskier than
cooking one not stuffed. In fact, USDA recommends that you not stuff a turkey unless you have
a food thermometer to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal
temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit, possibly
resulting in foodborne illness.
It’s not enough to determine that the turkey meat itself has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit in
the innermost part of the thigh, the wing and the thickest part of the breast. It’s important
to make sure the stuffing has also reached this safe minimum internal temperature 165 degrees
Fahrenheit before removing the whole bird from the oven or the stuffing from the turkey.
Taking the unsafe stuffing out of the cavity before it has reached a safe temperature could
contaminate the safely cooked meat.
Are there safe handling recommendations for stuffing a turkey?
Yes. First are the stuffing ingredients. When using raw meat, poultry, or shellfish in the
stuffing, cook them before adding to the other ingredients to reduce the risk of foodborne
illness from bacteria that may be found in raw ingredients.
The wet ingredients for stuffing can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated, and you can
measure out the dry ingredients. However, do not mix wet and dry ingredients until just before
spooning the stuffing mixture into the turkey cavity.
So are you saying you shouldn’t make the stuffing ahead of time?
That’s right. If stuffing is prepared ahead of time, it must be cooked immediately and
refrigerated in shallow containers. Do not stuff whole poultry with cooked, leftover stuffing.
Okay. So let’s say it’s Thanksgiving morning and you’ve just stirred all the stuffing
Well, then, immediately spoon the stuffing directly into the turkey cavity. Stuff the turkey
loosely — about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound or you can cook the stuffing separately in a
casserole dish. The stuffing should be moist, not dry, because heat destroys bacteria more
rapidly in a moist environment. Also, DO NOT stuff turkeys to be grilled, smoked, fried, or
microwaved. Smoking gives the stuffing an unpleasant flavor. If deep frying or microwaving a
stuffed turkey, the bird cooks so fast that the stuffing may not reach a safe temperature.
Additionally, cooking oil can be absorbed into stuffing when submerging a stuffed turkey in
Is it safe to put a stuffed, raw turkey back into the refrigerator to cook later?
Absolutely not. You must immediately place the stuffed, raw turkey in an oven set no lower
than 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Let’s talk about the turkey. What are USDA recommendations for roasting a turkey?
Well, if you have a frozen turkey, you need to make sure the turkey is completely thawed.
Cooking times are based on fresh or thawed birds kept refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or
slightly below. A partially frozen turkey and a stuffed turkey take longer to cook.
Should you put the turkey breast-side down or up in the roasting pan?
Place the turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2 1/2
inches deep. You might want to tuck the wing tips back under the shoulders of bird for more
And add one-half cup water to the bottom of the pan. In the beginning, a tent of aluminum foil
may be placed loosely over the breast of the turkey for the first 1 to 1 1/2 hours; then
remove it so the turkey browns.
I’ll bet you’re going to tell us next to use a food thermometer.
You’re right. For safety and doneness, use a food thermometer, whether the turkey is stuffed
or not stuffed The temperature of the turkey and the center of the stuffing must reach a safe
minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the temperature in the innermost
part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
For detailed information about where to insert the food thermometer, read the publication
“Let’s Talk turkey” at
If the temperature of the turkey and the center of the stuffing have not reached a safe
minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll need to cook it longer. Do not
remove the stuffing from the turkey before it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit because the
undercooked stuffing could contaminate the cooked meat if you remove it too soon.
About how long does it take to roast a turkey?
It depends upon the size of the turkey and whether or not it is stuffed. For example, in an
oven set at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, an 8 to 12-pound turkey without stuffing will take 2 3/4
to 3 hours. If the turkey is stuffed, add 30 minutes. We have extensive cooking charts on our
Web site for other sizes of turkey.
Okay. Let’s say we have verified that our turkey has reached a safe minimum internal
temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit in all parts and in the stuffing. What is the next step?
The next step is a “don’t.” Don’t carve it immediately. Let the cooked turkey stand 20 minutes
before removing the stuffing and carving. That will allow the meat to firm up, making it
easier to carve. It also frees your oven for cooking side dishes or warming items.
Our family always disagrees about storing the leftovers. One uncle leaves his turkey out at
room temperature all afternoon. Is this safe?
Oh, no. You must refrigerate the cooked turkey and stuffing within 2 hours after cooking.
Never refrigerate a whole, cooked turkey. For safe, rapid cooling, carve or divide the turkey
meat into parts. Remove any stuffing remaining in the cavity. Place all leftovers in shallow
containers and use them or freeze them within 3 to 4 days. Reheat leftovers to a safe minimum
internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Thank you, Tina, for telling us about stuffing and roasting a turkey.
You can learn more about stuffing and roasting a turkey by visiting the FSIS Web site at
www.fsis.usda.gov. Or visit us online for assistance from our virtual representative “Ask
Karen” at askkaren.gov.
Guest: USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline will be open on Thanksgiving Day from 8:00 am to 2:00
pm Eastern Time to answer your holiday turkey questions.
Dial the toll-free USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888- MPHotline. That’s 1-888-674-6854.
That’s it for this week. We’ve been talking to Tina Hanes a technical information specialist
from FSIS’ Food Safety Education Staff. Thank you so much, Tina, for your helpful guidance on
stuffing and cooking a turkey. I’m Kathy Bernard and I’d like to thank you for joining us for
this episode of “Food Safety at Home.” And remember, “Be Food Safe.”
Last Modified: November 17, 2009