To Stuff or Not to Stuff It…

This week Thanksgiving will grace us with its presence. We all know that the day can demand a lot of preparation. From sharpening your knives to building up strength in your gravy-ladling hand, there are many things to consider. In terms of food safety, this is true as well. Foodborne illness is not the first gift you want to give this holiday season.

Due to its starring role on many American tables this Thanksgiving, successful turkey preparation and cooking techniques are topics that garner a good deal of attention this time of year. For instance, you can check out the USDA’s helpful page of safe thawing.

A topic that comes up in the USDA’s “Let’s Talk Turkey-A Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting a Turkey,” might come as a bit of a surprise to some: stuffing preparation. The USDA has several key recommendations. To begin, if you are planning on buying a fresh turkey this year, the USDA recommends that you do not buy pre-stuffed fresh turkeys, as any mishandling might allow the turkey to infuse the stuffing with bacteria, and “any harmful bacteria that may be in the stuffing can multiply very quickly.” If you are going to buy a frozen pre-stuffed turkey, be sure that you look for the “USDA or State mark of inspection” to ensure that the turkey has been “processed under controlled conditions.”

Overall, the USDA actually does not recommend stuffing a turkey. The safest way to enjoy stuffing this holiday season, is accomplished by cooking the stuffing as a separate dish, apart from the turkey. If you do decide to stuff your turkey, they recommend keeping “wet and dry ingredients separate” until you are ready to stuff the bird, and once the stuffing is in the bird, it should be cooked immediately.

Taking a few minutes to check out these resources might assist in giving your family and friends a gift on everyone’s list: good health. Happy Thanksgiving!

A Picture of Mathew J. Bartkowiak, Ph.D.

About Mathew J. Bartkowiak, Ph.D.

Laboratory Products Department Manager, Nelson-Jameson, Inc.
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