Planning on stuffing your Thanksgiving turkey? You may want to reconsider.

When preparing a Thanksgiving turkey, many still insist on cooking it with the stuffing inside.  This was super popular years ago – my Dad stuffed the bird every year when I was growing up.  Now people are more aware of food borne illnesses though, and the tradition is changing.

Here are the top 6 reasons NOT to stuff your turkey:

  1. The middle of a raw turkey is porous, so as the turkey cooks, juices that may contain salmonella bacteria soak in to the stuffing — Ew.
  2. Stuffed birds require longer cooking time to get to 165 F, so it usually ends up overcooked and dry.
  3. If you make the stuffing separately, you can do it in advance, which helps with timing dinner for your guests.
  4. Stuffing cooked in the turkey comes out soggy.
  5. Did I mention the salmonella thing?
  6. If you stuff the turkey then you can’t season the inside. Try putting halved lemons, onions, and bay leaves inside for a delicious, citrus flavor.

The USDA recommends another option if you have your heart set on a stuffed bird.  You can buy a pre-stuffed bird and cook it from a frozen state. Just plan on a lot of extra cooking time.

Another turkey tip: Make sure you eat cooked turkey within two hours and refrigerate any leftovers. The best way to store it is in a shallow container, so don’t just shove the whole bird in the refrigerator!  Also, the USDA recommends using up the leftovers within three to four days.