A turkey dinner is never complete without stuffing and that's a fact.
But if you're like me and absolutely must cook the stuffing inside the bird (it adds more flavor), then you really have to hear what the experts have to say about this practice.
Not only is filling the cavity of the turkey one of the causes for dry meat, but according to the food safety professionals, it could make you seriously ill.
It is of utmost importance that you make sure both the meat and the stuffing are cooked "to a safe minimum internal temperature" using a food thermometer.
The USDA suggests that turkey should be cooked until the breast meat it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees. Dark meat should register at 170-175 degrees. More often than not, both the dark and white meat will reach these temperatures at the same time.
Anything below these temperatures puts anyone who consumes the meat and stuffing at risk of being exposed to dangerous bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.
The best way to check for doneness is by inserting a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, avoiding any bone, cartilage or fat. These guidelines will not only ensure that the meat is safe to eat, they also allow for the best texture and taste.
However, if you add stuffing into the mix, things can become a bit complicated.
Stuffing, which is often made with bread, is described by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) as "an excellent medium for bacterial growth," and could lead to foodborne illnesses.
When you cook the bird and the filling together, the bread absorbs all the juices from the turkey, so if you're not careful enough to cook it to a safe temperature, you're putting anyone who eats it in danger.
By trying to get the stuffing, which cooks slower, to reach 165, you also risk the chance of overcooking the meat on the outside because it gets the most amount of heat.
So while grandma's delicious roasted turkey recipe might call for the stuffing to be cooked with the bird from the start, you might want to change up the process a bit for this year's Christmas dinner.
Instead of cooking the stuffing inside the turkey, use homemade turkey stock in place of the broth that the dressing recipe calls for. Once the meat is done cooking, you can stuff the cavity while it rests. This method ensures that everything is at the right temperature, and the stuffing will still have the chance to soak up the juices.