We know how important it is to handle and cook poultry properly and safely. But on a hectic holiday, it’s tempting to take shortcuts to get everything ready on time. Shortcuts are fine, so long as you don’t skimp on safe practices with the turkey and stuffing.
Here are some tips on how to stuff a turkey safely:
• Thaw frozen, unstuffed turkey on a tray in the refrigerator (about 24 hours for every five pounds), or in the microwave oven (six to ten minutes per pound at 30 percent power). Never thaw poultry at room temperature.
• Do not thaw a frozen prestuffed turkey. Cook it in the conventional oven from the frozen state.
• Cook turkey and stuffing separately reduce the risk of salmonella growth. Stuffing deep inside the turkey must reach 185°F. to kill bacteria. While the rest of the bird reaches that temperature during roasting, the filled cavity may not. Stuffing cooks faster – and more safely – in a casserole dish.
• Never stuff poultry and refrigerate it or freeze it for later roasting. Bacteria grows faster with such practices. When “the way we’ve always done it” overrules logic, here are some steps to improve food safety when stuffing a turkey: Just before time to put the bird in the oven, prepare the stuffing, then wash and dry the poultry outside and in. Fill the cavity loosely with stuffing (3/4 cup per pound) to allow room for it to expand. Roast stuffed turkey immediately. Finally, remove stuffing to a serving dish, carve off all the meat and discard the carcass. After the meal, store leftover meat and stuffing in separate containers and refrigerate immediately.
With just a little care and knowledge of how to stuff a turkey safely, “Turkey Day” can also be a “safe food day”.