Friday, November 18, 2005

Dress Your Turkey Safely

Safe Handling and Preparation Tips for Turkey Dressing (Stuffing)

When you think ‘holiday menu’ does your mind automatically start pulling up turkey dressing recipes? Turkey dressing (called stuffing or forcemeat in some parts of the country) is one of the best parts of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Generally, it consists of breadcrumbs, spices and other ingredients that are stuffed or forced into the empty body cavity of a turkey before it’s cooked. The juices and drippings from the bird flavor the dressing and vice versa.

There’s a down side to the practice of cooking your dressing inside your Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey though. All the extra handling of ingredients and the turkey increase the chances of introducing bacteria into the turkey or dressing. Letting the stuffing sit in the bird while it’s at room temperature also increases the chances of introducing food poisoning to your holiday table. By following safe handling guidelines, though, you can safely cook your turkey with the stuffing inside.

The USDA offers these important turkey safety tips to help you prepare your turkey safely.

Remove giblets and neck from turkey before thawing.

Thaw turkey in the refrigerator, or in cold water. To thaw in cold water, make sure that your turkey is wrapped and watertight, and then submerge in cold water. Change water every 30 minutes.

Do NOT thaw pre-stuffed ready to cook turkeys. Cook frozen.

You can prepare stuffing ahead of time, but do not mix wet and dry ingredients until just before stuffing turkey.

Do not stuff a turkey with hot stuffing. Always allow dressing to cool at least to room temperature before stuffing turkey.

Do not stuff your turkey until you are ready to cook it. Letting the stuffing sit in the uncooked bird for any length of time is an invitation to food poisoning.

Cook the turkey at no less than 325 degrees until the temperature of the stuffing is 140 degrees. To measure temperature accurately, insert meat thermometer directly into stuffing.

Remove the stuffing from the turkey to a separate serving bowl when the turkey is cooked.

Store turkey and dressing leftovers separately.


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