This year in the kitchen we decided not to stuff our delicious maple and herb roast turkey. Instead, we agreed to make our sausage stuffing with water chestnuts on the side. This got us thinking about the various components involved in the stuffing process, and the advantages to preparing it outside of the bird.
Here are five reasons to prepare stuffing a la carte:
Safety: When cooking poultry, it is crucial to follow proper temperature guides for doneness. Other meats can be enjoyed at different levels of doneness, but poultry is done when it’s done. Turkey is fully cooked when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 175F. At that point the turkey should be removed from the oven, tented with foil and left to rest for 25 minutes. When cooking a stuffed turkey, it is very important that a thermometer also be inserted into the thickest part of the stuffing. The thermometer should read a minimum of 165F. As a turkey cooks, juices that may contain salmonella will have been absorbed into the stuffing, therefore it is necessary to reach this temperature to kill any potentially harmful bacteria.
Turkey quality: We put a lot of effort into selecting our holiday turkey. When turkey is cooked properly, it is juicy, tender and divine. Often stuffed birds require far longer in the oven to provide adequate time for the stuffing to cook — and in turn end up dry and overcooked.
Texture: Stuffing cooked in the bird can be lovely, however, it is often slightly soggy. This is understandable given that bread is porous and continues to absorb the moisture of the bird as it cooks. One of the benefits of preparing your stuffing outside of the bird is that you can visually see the fruits of your labour. If you have browned your stuffing it will still be caramelized and crispy, vegetables can remain fork-tender without being overcooked, fresh herbs will still be bright and full of flavour. If you miss the flavour of the turkey juices in your stuffing, then simply stir some of the cooked drippings into your stuffing just prior to serving.
Time: Stuffing can be prepared a day in advance and stored in your refrigerator. To reheat, be sure to arrange your racks appropriately prior to baking your turkey ensuring you save room for your dish of stuffing. To reheat the stuffing bake it on the lower rack, underneath the turkey.
Appearance: While stuffing that is cooked in the bird can taste delicious, it often lacks a little something in the looks department. After all it’s been sweating inside a turkey for hours! A separate stuffing that accompanies the bird allows your dish to shine and can be a great visual addition to your holiday table.