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How to Cook Turkey Stuffing Safely

Posted by Jesus Garcia, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service in Health and Safety
Nov 15, 2023
Turkey stuffing

Here’s an important Thanksgiving food safety tip that will surprise many: USDA doesn’t recommend stuffing a whole turkey. The practice increases the risk of cross-contamination and takes the turkey longer to cook. Cook stuffing separately instead.

But if you decide to stuff your turkey, we recommend the following:

  • Don’t stuff a turkey the night before cooking it. Bacteria can multiply in the stuffing and cause foodborne illness when a stuffed bird is refrigerated.
    • The wet and dry ingredients for the stuffing should be prepared separately and refrigerated until ready to use. Mixing dry and wet ingredients produces an environment that bacteria may thrive in hours before cooking.
    • Fully cook raw meat, poultry, or seafood ingredients before adding to stuffing.
    • Combine the ingredients and place them in your bird immediately before cooking. Don’t stuff whole poultry with cooked stuffing.
    • In addition to the turkey, the stuffing’s center needs to reach 165 F.

Here are timetables for turkey roasting based on a 325 F oven temperature:


8 to 12 pounds — 2¾ to 3 hours

12 to 14 pounds — 3 to 3¾ hours

14 to 18 pounds — 3¾ to 4¼ hours

18 to 20 pounds — 4¼ to 4½ hours

20 to 24 pounds — 4½ to 5 hours


8 to 12 pounds — 3 to 3½ hours

12 to 14 pounds — 3½ to 4 hours

14 to 18 pounds — 4 to 4¼ hours

18 to 20 pounds — 4¼ to 4¾ hours

20 to 24 pounds — 4¾ to 5¼ hours

For more Thanksgiving tips, check out our fact sheet. Read our latest USDA study on safe food handling.

For more information, contact the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) to talk to a food safety specialist or chat live at from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. On Thanksgiving Day, the Hotline will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time.

Category/Topic: Health and Safety