June 15, 2024

Learn How to Cook Turkey Stuffing Safely From the USDA

Learn how to cook turkey stuffing safely with tips from the USDA. Turkey stuffing is risky because it’s a large mass of food cooked inside the bird, so getting the mixture to a safe final internal temperature of 165°F, especially in the center, is tricky.

Learn How to Cook Turkey Stuffing Safely From the USDA

The USDA recommends that you do not cook your stuffing inside of the turkey, especially if your guests fall into groups that are at high risk for serious complications from food poisoning. Put the stuffing, or dressing, into a casserole dish and bake it along with the turkey. The dressing must still reach 165°F, tested with a reliable and accurate food thermometer.

If you do decide to stuff the turkey, there are some rules to follow. First, never stuff the turkey ahead of time. Bacteria can multiply and grow in the stuffing mixture, even inside the fridge. Some pathogens produce toxins that are not destroyed by heat, so no matter how hot the stuffing gets, it can still make someone sick.

You can prepare the dry and wet ingredients for the stuffing separately the night before. Refrigerate both mixtures, covered, until you are ready to mix the stuffing and stuff the turkey. In addition, make sure that you fully cook any meat, poultry, or seafood ingredients, such as sausage or oysters, you use in the stuffing before you add them to the stuffing mixture.

Then, combine the wet and dry ingredients and immediately stuff the bird and bake it. Don’t stuff whole poultry with cooked stuffing or it can be re-contaminated.

Timetables for unstuffed and stuffed turkey, roasted at 325°F, are:


8 to 12 pounds — 2¾ to 3 hours

12 to 14 pounds — 3 to 3¾ hours

14 to 18 pounds — 3¾ to 4¼ hours

18 to 20 pounds — 4¼ to 4½ hours

20 to 24 pounds — 4½ to 5 hours


8 to 12 pounds — 3 to 3½ hours

12 to 14 pounds — 3½ to 4 hours

14 to 18 pounds — 4 to 4¼ hours

18 to 20 pounds — 4¼ to 4¾ hours

20 to 24 pounds — 4¾ to 5¼ hours

When the turkey comes out of the oven, let it rest, covered, for 20 minutes, then immediately remove all of the stuffing. Do not leave the stuffing inside of the bird.

If you have more questions, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854. That line is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm Eastern time. On Thanksgiving Day, the hotline is open from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm Eastern time.

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