Turkey Basics: Stuffing the Bird Safely


Cooking stuffing in a separate baking dish is safer and ensures the stuffing will cook fully and evenly. If cooking the stuffing in the turkey, here are some guidelines to follow.

Ingredients and Preparation

Any meat, poultry, or seafood (sausage, chicken, oysters, etc.) should be fully cooked before adding to the stuffing mixture. Wet ingredients for the stuffing can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated, but do not mix the wet mixture with the dry ingredients until just before stuffing the poultry.

Do not stuff a turkey that will be fried, smoked, grilled, or cooked in the microwave oven.

Cook Immediately

Stuff the bird with the stuffing as soon as it is prepared; don’t cool it first. Stuff loosely, allowing about 3/4 cup per pound of poultry. A 12-pound turkey would accommodate about 9 cups of stuffing.

Cook the stuffed, raw bird immediately in an oven that is no lower than 325° F (165° C/Gas 3).

Use a Food Thermometer

Always check the center of the stuffing with a food thermometer designed to be used with meat or poultry. The center of the stuffing must reach at least 165° F (74° C). Even if the turkey has reached the minimum safe temperature of 165° F (74° C), the stuffing might need more time. If the stuffing does not reach that minimum temperature, bacteria could survive.

Do not remove the stuffing from the turkey before it reaches the safe temperature, because the turkey could be contaminated. Cook the stuffed turkey until the temperature has been reached.

Resting Time

Let the cooked turkey stand for 20 minutes before removing the stuffing and carving the bird.



Refrigerate Leftovers

Refrigerate the leftover cooked turkey and the stuffing within 2 hours after cooking.

Leftovers should be stored in covered shallow containers in the refrigerator. Use leftovers within 3 to 4 days.

Reheat leftovers to at least 165° F (74° C).


USDA Seasonal Food Safety Publications

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