Cooking stuffing this holiday? Here's a simple way to help ward off foodborne illness

November 23, 2016 by Matt Shipman, North Carolina State University

Credit: North Carolina State University/Selbe Lynn. Shared under a Creative Commons license.
This is a guest post from Ben Chapman, a food safety researcher and holiday meal enthusiast. He has some food safety tips to help you avoid making loved ones sick this holiday season—because nothing ruins a get-together like projectile vomiting.

As a Canadian in the U.S. I've fully embraced the holiday season that runs from Thanksgiving through December. I enjoy spending a day planning and shopping for an event-style meal, and then another day actually preparing and cooking it. I throw on some tunes (this year it will probably be Drake, for my Canadian roots, and the Avett Brothers as a nod to North Carolina) and with the help of the rest of the family I'll roast a turkey, make mashed potatoes, green beans, squash, beets and a couple of other harvest vegetables.

And we'll make a lot of stuffing.

Depending on your preference and food persuasion there are lots of different stuffing or dressing options.

A common question that pops up is whether it's better to cook stuffing in the bird to preserve moisture (and get flavored by the turkey juices) or to prepare it as a separate dish. The concern is that if someone puts the stuffing in the turkey cavity it may become contaminated by the turkey juices and Salmonella and Campylobacter will migrate through the stuffing. Easier to recommend not messing with the cross-contamination instead of managing the risk. But what does the science say?

I'm a nerd and take a science-based approached to my meals. Armed with a digital, tip-sensitive thermometer I'm happy to jam stuffing up inside of my poultry and use the probe to check the temperature. And I use 165 degrees Fahrenheit as a target for my bread-based stuffing.

There's some history to that number; in 1958 Raymond Rogers and Millard Gunderson of the Campbell Soup Company published some work evaluating the safety of roasting frozen stuffed (a new product at the time). Using a known amount of Salmonella pullorum, nine turkeys and some then-fancy ceramic thermocouples, they found that they could get an 8-log (or 99.999999%) reduction when the deepest part of the stuffing hit 160 degrees Fahrenheit. They recommended 165 degrees to be conservative (and because some thermometers aren't always very accurate).

From the manuscript (comments that still apply today): "The initial temperature and the size of the turkey influence considerably the time required to reach a lethal temperature in the stuffing. The lower the initial temperature of the turkey, the longer the roasting period required. Present recommended roasting procedures designating hours cooking time or which stipulate a thigh or breast temperature to be attained alone does not appear to be adequate bacteriologically."

Inside the bird, outside the bird; meat or no meat: Use a thermometer.

Explore further: How to prepare that holiday turkey safely

Related Stories

How to prepare that holiday turkey safely

November 22, 2016
(HealthDay)—The traditional turkey centerpiece on Thanksgiving tables may come out looking scrumptious, but cooks in the kitchen need to be concerned about preparing the bird safely to prevent the spread of foodborne illness.

Tips for safe holiday meal preparation

November 21, 2016
With the holidays approaching, you want the turkey and stuffing – or whatever you're preparing – to be safe to eat, and consume again as leftovers. To help you, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural ...

Don't overlook safe turkey-handling practices for a happy holiday

November 22, 2013
Thanksgiving is a time for sharing: good food, family time, friendship and memories. But one thing you don't want to share, warns a food-safety expert in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, is pathogenic bacteria.

Expert serves up turkey tips for a healthy holiday

November 27, 2013
(HealthDay)—A big part of having a happy and healthy Thanksgiving is making sure you correctly thaw, clean, cook and store the turkey, an expert says.

Recommended for you

Babies and toddlers at greater risk from second-hand smoke than previously thought, study finds

December 16, 2018
Infants and toddlers in low-income communities may be even more at risk from second- and third-hand smoke exposure than has been believed, according to new federally supported research.

A co-worker's rudeness can affect your sleep—and your partner's, study finds

December 14, 2018
Rudeness. Sarcastic comments. Demeaning language. Interrupting or talking over someone in a meeting. Workplace incivilities such as these are becoming increasingly common, and a new study from Portland State University and ...

A holiday gift to primary care doctors: Proof of their time crunch

December 14, 2018
The average primary care doctor needs to work six more hours a day than they already do, in order to make sure their patients get all the preventive and early-detection care they want and deserve, a new study finds.

Teens get more sleep with later school start time, researchers find

December 12, 2018
When Seattle Public Schools announced that it would reorganize school start times across the district for the fall of 2016, the massive undertaking took more than a year to deploy. Elementary schools started earlier, while ...

Large restaurant portions a global problem, study finds

December 12, 2018
A new multi-country study finds that large, high-calorie portion sizes in fast food and full service restaurants is not a problem unique to the United States. An international team of researchers found that 94 percent of ...

Receiving genetic information can change risk

December 11, 2018
Millions of people in the United States alone have submitted their DNA for analysis and received information that not only predicts their risk for disease but, it turns out, in some cases might also have influenced that risk, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.