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By Victoria Alwin
MSRD 

Stuff your dressing

Nutrition

 


Some folks say that stuffing and dressing are the same. Actually they’re not. Like real estate, it’s all about location. Stuffing is baked within the turkey. Dressing has the same basic ingredients, but is baked in a separate container. The question isn’t which tastes better, but which is safer to eat. One of the biggest problems this time of year isn’t whether your turkey is over cooked or under cooked, but whether it and your stuffing will make you full or sick.

ALL poultry have Salmonella bacteria which can make even the best feast a memorable event in a REALLY BAD way. I do mean ALL poultry, regardless of whether they are store bought or home grown, organic, free range or “standard.” Mother Nature placed the Salmonella bacteria into the innards of all these birds before anyone knew. The problem with stuffing the bird is that the temperatures of both need to be “right” to avoid keeping the bacteria alive and you miserable.

Thaw the turkey COMPLETELY in the refrigerator prior to the big day. Figure on it taking several days. You can thaw the turkey in cold water, but expect it to bake hours depending on its size. My microwave has never been big enough to thaw anything bigger than a chicken, let alone a turkey. Most people pull the bird out of the refrigerator, dress it with oil and herbs, and stuff it with dressing that they just made. Problems develop because the stuffing is warm and the bird is still cold on the inside. The interior cavity does not get up to the 165⁰ F that is necessary to kill the bacteria that will blissfully grow inside this now tropical (warm, dark and moist) environment. The safest way is to either make dressing separately from the bird or chill, not freeze, both the stuffing and bird AND use a meat thermometer to ensure that the temperature after baking is at least 165⁰ F. What are you going to take the temperature of? The turkey in the thigh and in the breast (the thickest parts) as well as the stuffing. All three have to reach the magic temp and stay there for a few minutes.

Don’t want to take the time to “temp” the bird and stuffing? Waiting in the ER or worshipping the porcelain goddess will take much longer. Got one of those birds with a pop-out thermometer that “pops out” when the turkey is done? You still need to get a real thermometer and take all of its temperatures (thigh, breast, stuffing). Regardless of whether you stuff the bird or put the dressing on the side, you ALWAYS need to take the temperatures of poultry.

One last reminder: although no one likes to be rushed during holidays or any other day, food can only stay out of the refrigerator for TWO hours. If it was hot when you put it on the table, it won’t stay hot (135⁰ F or more) for long.

Have a safe, delicious holiday season.

 
 

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