Why You Should Never Cook Stuffing Inside Your Turkey

Stuffing is a staple at the Thanksgiving table. According to Newsweek, "stuffing" was the most searched side dish on Google during the week leading up to the holiday in 2021. Whether you prefer a traditional, homemade, a jazzed-up version like Tuscan bread stuffing, or just the boxed variety, the Thanksgiving dinner just wouldn't be the same without it.

Traditionally, the side dish was cooked inside the turkey. Bon Appètit explains that this is how the side dish got its name. Up until the 16th century, it was called "farce" — the French word for stuffing — which comes from the Latin word for "to stuff." In the 19th century, the word "dressing" started to be used interchangeably for stuffing. Now it's often cooked separately from the turkey like in a casserole dish for the homemade version or on the stovetop for the boxed. But does it make matter which way you make it?

To stuff or not to stuff?

A stuffed bird does make for a show-stopping­ centerpiece for your holiday table, but it is risker than cooking the stuffing separately, according to the USDA. To cook both the turkey and the stuffing properly, the experts say, both must reach a temperature of 165 degrees F. Bacteria can linger in stuffing that isn't fully cooked to the correct temperature.

This is why Eating Well does not recommend making the stuffing inside the turkey. Either your turkey is way overcooked or you're eating stuffing that's doused in raw turkey juices. Neither of those sound appetizing. In order for the inside of the turkey to reach the proper temperature, parts like the breast will be sucked of all their juices. Cooking the stuffing before putting it in the turkey doesn't solve the problem, either. It can still soak up raw juices. So next Thanksgiving, maybe just stick to serving the stuffing on the side.