Thanksgiving meal: How to cook stuffed turkey safely

HOUSTON - Thanksgiving's coming up which means many are planning ahead on how they want to cook their turkey for the dinner table. But many may now know the United States Department of Agriculture recommends you don't stuff a whole turkey.

According to the USDA, stuffing a Tukey can heighten the risk of cross-contamination and prolong the turkey's cooking time. Instead, they suggest cooking the stuffing separately.

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If you decide to stuff the turkey, the following precautions are recommended:

Avoid stuffing the turkey the night before cooking: Bacteria can multiply in the stuffing, leading to potential foodborne illnesses when a stuffed turkey is refrigerated. Both wet and dry ingredients for the stuffing should be prepared separately and refrigerated until ready to use. The mixture of dry and wet ingredients can create an environment conducive to bacterial growth hours before cooking.

Fully cook raw meat, poultry, or seafood ingredients before adding them to the stuffing.


Combine the stuffing ingredients and insert them into the turkey immediately before cooking. Do not stuff the whole poultry with pre-cooked stuffing.

Ensure the stuffing's center, in addition to the turkey, reaches a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Here are recommended turkey roasting times based on a 325 °F oven temperature:


  • 8 to 12 pounds — 2 hours 45 minutes to 3 hours

  • 12 to 14 pounds — 3 hours to 3 hours 45 minutes

  • 14 to 18 pounds — 3 hours 45 minutes to 4 hours 15 minutes

  • 18 to 20 pounds — 4 hours 15 minutes to 4 hours 30 minutes

  • 20 to 24 pounds — 4 hours 30 minutes to 5 hours


  • 8 to 12 pounds — 3 hours to 3 hours 30 minutes

  • 12 to 14 pounds — 3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours

  • 14 to 18 pounds — 4 hours to 4 hours 15 minutes

  • 18 to 20 pounds — 4 hours 15 minutes to 4 hours 45 minutes

  • 20 to 24 pounds — 4 hours 45 minutes to 5 hours and 15 minutes

For additional Thanksgiving tips, please refer to the USDA fact sheet and read the latest USDA study on safe food handling.