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Nov 20, 2007 07:54 AM

Why do people insist on stuffing their turkeys?

I have never made a turkey with stuffing inside of it. I always make the stuffing the day before and then re-heat, and add some dripping to it. I just feel like it isn't as safe, and when I have had it, I don't think it tastes as good. Seems mushy to me, but that could be the cook. My daughters husband insists on stuffing the turkey, as I mentioned in another post. He says that being inside the turkey it "bastes" the stuffing with turkey juices. Huh? We are trying to merge 2 different families traditions, and man is it hard! So we are taking a turkey to fry, cajun style, with a smoky gravy, and my stuffing (that my family much prefers) and they are having the turkey stuffed and making the gravy from the drippings.

Please, if you can, explain the logic behind stuffing the bird. If it's reasonable I might even give it a try . . . but not with a fried turkey!

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  1. Your daughter's husband is right. The fat and other liquid from the bird gets soaked up by the stuffing. I've had the same "dressing" side by side: one from a stuffed bird and one cooked outside. The difference was dramatic. The one from the bird was far more flavorful than the other.

    If it's too mushy for you, you could always heat it in the oven for a while. That's probably a safer way to do it anyway.

    1. This is not about logic, it's about taste and memories of liminal moments. You cannot argue with those, period. HOwever, you are not supposed to deep fry a stuffed turkey - it must have the hot oil circulating through the core of the bird. Stuffed turkeys get roasted.

      16 Replies
      1. re: Karl S

        I agree! Besides, if you don't stuff the turkey you don't get the very very best part of the whole turkey-stuffing experience: the skin that covers the neck cavity, which has crisped and rendered the fat into the stuffing, which gets stuck to the inside. It's worth cooking a whole turkey just for that part.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          And, as the cook, I get to snag the skin from the neck cavity. Makes cooking the dinner entirely worthwhile!

            1. re: macca

              I get that piece too - cook's privilege. I stuff the neck cavity but not the main cavity. since I carve in the kitchen, there's never any argument about this precious titbit!

              1. re: sheiladeedee

                This year was really great- as we had two turkeys, so two times the fun- but I did share the delicious morsels with my mom!

                1. re: macca

                  What a GOOD child! I hide mine from my mother on the grounds that it's not healthy for her.

                  1. re: sheiladeedee

                    LOL- Will remember that for next year!! And next year, we may have to go with three turkeys~ there was not one piece of white meat left. I am find with the dark meat, I actually prefer it, but it is nice to have some white meat left for sandwhiches.

          1. re: Karl S

            I KNOW better than to stuff a deep fried bird! That would just be stupid!

            1. re: danhole

              Yeah, but when it comes to deep-frying turkeys, a lot of people are stupid, so it's better not to assume they aren't.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                True, but I had in the original post that I wasn't going to do that. Even so it's good to point out for someone who is reading between the lines and might think that is okay to do! I'll bet the fire dept. gets pretty busy with the ding dongs that don't know what they are doing!

                1. re: danhole

                  I think the fire houses get pretty busy, full stop. MY GOD the amount of smoke coming out of my turkey today - AND I cooked the thing on the grill, not in the house!

              2. re: danhole

                "So we are taking a turkey to fry, cajun style, with a smoky gravy, and my stuffing (that my family much prefers) and they are having the turkey stuffed and making the gravy from the drippings."

                Your use of the definite article in the second instance of "turkey" made me assume that they were stuffing the turkey you were bringing to fry even though I thought the "drippings" from a fried bird might be nasty... So, there will be two turkeys it seems.

                Anyway, were we to distinguish between "stuffing" and "dressing", southern style, I love any well made version of either camp. Stuffing tends to be more moist and infused with meat flavor (contact with bones gives a different flavor and texture than regular broth would in a dressing). I don't use a stuffing normally in large birds because it encourages overcooking of the bird. But not because I think it's unsafe or undelicious.

                1. re: Karl S

                  Yeah - my understanding is that "stuffing" is cooked inside the bird, and "dressing" is cooked in a separate pan. I do dressing. It's delish, and a plus is that it's veggie-friendly if you have guests who don't eat meat.

                  I grew up on stuffing, though, and I have no strong feelings about it. IMO it's inconvenient, leads to mishandling of the turkey, and, in the wrong hands, even dangerous. All the raw poultry T'giving disasters I've suffered through involved stuffing.

            2. I stuff my turkey, and also have to cook some of it separately.I cook two 17 poiund birds- but my family is fanatical about their stuffing, and I use 10 loaves of bread for the stuffing. I will say that there is lots of jockeying at the table to get their hands on the stuffing from the bird.
              I grew up with stuffing in the bird, and I do think it is tastier. Have heard all the food safety issues with stuffing a bird, but have never experienced a problem.

              1 Reply
              1. re: macca

                I'm a street cooking Thanksgiving guy and nobody, and I mean nobody tells me how to cook the turkey and dressing. The dressing from the turkey DEFINITELY tastes better and no matter what, it is NEVER dry. As the cook, I know non-turkey dressing and I never eat it.

              2. Well, now I will have to try that - next year! I guess he either overstuffs, or just doesn't have a good stuffing recipe. Those of us that are accustomed to the oven baked didn't like his at all. Hopefully it will be better this year.

                Now I wonder if I should still bring my stuffing. Maybe not! If his isn't so good, I'll just make my own the next day to have with leftovers!

                1 Reply
                1. re: danhole

                  We always had two types of stuffing. The mushy stuff from the inside of the bird and a pan of crunchy stuffing that Mom would drizzle turkey drippings over in a hot oven. I love both.

                2. I used to be a die hard stuff the bird guy because I thought it tasted better and it was traditional in my family.

                  Then I met my MIL, who refused to stuff the bird and the difference was dramatic.
                  Stuffing in the bird can be done safely, but it increases the overall cooking time resulting in a dry bird. All of those years, I didn't realize I was eating dry turkey because it tasted fine to me.

                  I also discovered that "side" dressing can taste just as good if not better than stuffing. Of course, this is subjective, but what's the difference if you add the same flavors separately or if you get them directly from the roasting bird? If it's done properly, none.

                  Some dear friends of mine insist that birds must be stuffed and that stuffing is more important that the turkey. We have the same friendly argument each year. We still haven't found an opportunity to share eachother's results.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: GDSinPA

                    Good point about the turkey being dry, which it was. Stuffing is such a touchy subject with folks, isn't it? My best friend has raved for years about hers, and last year actually brought me a bowl the day after Tday. I didn't like it at all! Of course I didn't tell her that, but I also didn't ask for the recipe. I like my stuffing with a lot of herbs and fresh parsley, but a lot of people just want the bread, celery and onion. To each his own.

                    My big problem in this is that you don't get a lot of drippings from a fried turkey, and I'm sure he isn't going to want to share his drippings. So, what to do?

                    1. re: danhole

                      You could buy a few turkey wings, and cook in a slow cooker with some root vegatables. Will make a nice stock, and you can use some of the stock as you make the stuffing. I do this to make extra gravy, too.

                      1. re: macca

                        That's exactly what I do, but just low and slow on the stovetop. In fact, since I don't stuff, roasting the bird really doesn't take that long, so I end up making stock early in the morning, mixing the dressing by 10 or so so the flavors can hang out for a few hours before baking. Then the bird doesn't go in until noon. We eat before 4.

                        As other people are saying on this thread - there is a definite difference between stuffing and dressing. But if you think casserole dressing can't have the same amount of flavor, then you've just never had a good example. People are also arguing that their birds are moist. I always thought my stuffed turkeys were moist as well, until I started brining and not stuffing. Then I learned just how moist it can be.

                        But, if someone is satisfied with their bird, it's all a matter of taste/opinion. Maybe there is some method that will keep the bird just as moist while full of bread - but it just doesn't seem possible.

                    2. re: GDSinPA

                      Dh is a stuffer. I am not. Last year he was on the DL with the flu and so I got to make the turkey and dressing for the first time in our years together. Everyone raved. My turkey was better. My dressing was better. But Dh insists he is the King of Thanksgiving and so this year he is back with his overcooked, stuffed turkey with it's mushy stuffing on the inside and his too dry, croutony side dish of the stuffing that wouldn't fit in the bird.

                      1. re: GDSinPA

                        "Stuffing is Evil" (Alton Brown reference)

                        It's alright for a small bird like a quail or spatchcock, but for a turkey you need to overcook the meat to get the stuffing to reach a safe temperature.

                        1. re: drgreg

                          I know that this is probably true in theory, but I've made every Thanksgiving and Xmas dinner for my family for the last 15 years, and no one's ever gotten sick from stuffing from inside a turkey cooked to the optimal temperature. I'm not saying that it isn't possible; it just seems, from my experience, that it's unlikely to happen, so I'm not that concerned about it.

                          And furthermore, to my family, Thanksgiving is all about my stuffing. Every time I make more than I've ever made before and still we're fighting over the last few servings of it.

                          1. re: vorpal

                            I've never heard of anyone getting sick from it.


                            1. re: vorpal

                              If you microwave the stuffing until it reaches about 140 degrees and stuff it into a room temperature bird, it will be safe and also will help the bird cook a little faster. That said, I don't often do it because it is faster to roast the bird with just a little bit of aromatics in the cavity. Do stuff the neck, though.

                              1. re: vorpal

                                My family has been using the same dressing recipe for literally over 80+ years. It was my great grandmother's recipe, it was used by my grandparents, and my parents, and we have ALWAYS stuffed the bird. We've never had a dry bird, we've never had stuffing undercooked, and not one single soul has every become ill from it.

                                Without question, the dressing inside the bird has a much better flavor than the leftovers put into a pan. Your SIL is absolutely correct that the bird bastes the dressing. It is the cooking with those turkey juices that make it so much more flavorful.

                                1. re: kkak97

                                  I couldn't agree more -- we've always stuffed the turkey, no one has ever gotten ill, we all prefer the stuffing cooked in the bird to the leftover cooked in a casserole, even when basted with turkey stock and drippings, and once again the stuffed turkey came out perfect.

                                  Every year millions of people stuff their turkeys, and only a handful of people get sick. Furthermore, you can't know that the stuffing is the reason they got sick and not some other cross-contamination that took place some time during the food prep: if there's bacteria on your bird it's almost impossible to prepare it without spreading it around. If you're really worried about food poisoning, buy a good quality turkey that's been raised and handled with care and doesn't harbor any bad bacteria in the first place!

                              2. re: drgreg

                                The Christopher Kimball/Cook's Illustrated/Best Recipe solution to this problem is to pre-nuke the stuffing to about 125-130 degrees before placing in the bird and roasting, thus preventing the need to overcook the bird for safety reasons.