It's the centerpiece of many a holiday table: The perfectly roasted and stuffed turkey. Here's your step-by-step guide to stuffing a turkey.
How to Stuff a Turkey
Step 1: Remove the giblets
Inside most uncooked turkeys, you'll find a little package that contains the turkey's giblets -- its gizzard, heart, and liver. Think of it as a bonus flavor sack: The offal is a delicious addition to dressing and gravy. While it's best to remove the package before cooking your turkey, it's not a big deal from a health perspective if you forget. After taking out the giblets and trimming any loose bits, rinse out the turkey, and pat dry with a paper towel.
Step 2: Stuff the turkey's neck cavity
Spoon your stuffing into the neck cavity. Pack it very loosely, then pull the skin over the stuffing and pin to the turkey's back using a metal skewer.
Step 3: Stuff the turkey's body cavity
Spoon your stuffing into the body cavity, loosely.
Then truss your turkey's legs:
For added delicousness, rub herb butter under the turkey's skin before stuffing -- it helps boost flavor and moisture.
When Should You Stuff?
Food safety is a significant concern when dealing with stuffing. The USDA doesn't recommend against stuffing a turkey (although it frowns on pre-stuffed turkeys prepared by stores and restaurants), but warns that home cooks should use a thermometer to make sure the stuffing has reached 165 degrees before serving. If the stuffing is any cooler, it's a potential source of foodborne illness.
It's also critical to cook raw meat and seafood, such as bacon or oysters, before adding them to any stuffing you put inside your uncooked bird.
Many cooks believe that traditional holiday stuffing detracts from a turkey's flavor: Because it takes longer for the stuffing to cook than the meat surrounding it, you can end up with a dried-out turkey.
One easy alternative is to cook the dressing separately and then spoon it into the cooked turkey when it's resting.