September 24, 2018

Turkey Stuffing Food Safety

The USDA offers food safety information for your Thanksgiving turkey stuffing. Their fact sheet is full of questions and answers all about how to safely prepare, cook, serve, and handle stuffing.

Thanksgiving Turkey RoastedThe mixture of bread crumbs or cubes, seasoning, eggs, broth, and fruits or vegetables is called stuffing when baked inside the turkey, dressing when cooked in a crockpot or baking dish. It’s also called filling. Stuffing is an excellent medium for pathogenic bacterial growth.

Never prepare stuffing ahead of time; you can mix the wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately, but don’t combine them until you’re ready to cook. The stuffing should be moist because heat kills bacteria more easily in a moist environment. Never stuff the bird until just before it goes into the oven. And cook stuffing at a temperature no less than 325 degrees F. Cook it to 165 degrees F as measured by a food thermometer. A chart showing the amount of stuffing for the side of turkey is on the site.

Cooking the stuffing in a slow cooker is just fine, as long as the appliance is filled no more than 2/3 full with loose, not packed, stuffing. Cook on high for 1 hour, then reduce to low and cook until a thermometer measures 165 degrees F in the center of the stuffing. Don’t reheat foods in a slow cooker, because it will take too long to pass through the danger zone of 40 degrees to 140 degrees F.

Some special considerations: if you buy a frozen pre-stuffed turkey, cook it frozen; do not thaw it before cooking. If you buy a pre-stuffed, cooked turkey, always buy it hot, take it home immediately and eat it immediately. If you are going to eat the turkey at a later time, take out the stuffing, break down the turkey, and refrigerate everything. Always follow label and handling directions and follow “best if used by” dates.

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