Here's your road map to great stuffing.
..)TIP: I use the turkey pan and toss the cubes every once in while.
...)highly recommended to bake it aLL separately... (...
You'll also need a liquid such as chicken, turkey or vegetable stock or broth, which can be bought at the grocery.
Where do I begin? First, saute the vegetables (celery, onion, carrots) in butter. Then add dried sage or chopped fresh sage and other seasonings of choice. (For details, see the recipe for Classic Bread Stuffing with Onions, Celery and Herbs, at right.) When the vegetables are tender, add the liquid (stock or broth) and simmer about another 10 minutes.
This also is where you would use egg whites or whole eggs to bind the mixture, if you prefer.
How much liquid do I need? That depends on how moist you want the stuffing. If using about 10 cups of bread cubes, you'll need at least 1 to 1 1/2 cups stock or broth. For a drier stuffing, use less liquid. Add more for a moister stuffing. Stir in the liquid just until the bread mixture is moistened; don't overwork it.
What else can I put in stuffing? Just before baking, you can add fully cooked pork sausage, drained and crumbled, or diced cooked turkey. You also can add dried fruits such as apples, apricots, cherries, cranberries, pears, raisins or currants. You can be as creative as you like. For additional fruit flavor, substitute orange juice for half of the broth.
By lightly filling it, you're more likely to have the turkey and stuffing reach safe temperatures without overcooking the bird, says Bessie Berry, manager of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Meat and Poultry Hotline.
Are there any dangers to stuffing the turkey? Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not been thoroughly heated to 165 degrees. Even if the turkey has reached its safe temperatures (180 degrees in the thigh and and 170 in the breast), the stuffing may not be warmed enough to destroy bacteria. Always check it with a meat thermometer.
How should I check the stuffing temperature? Once the turkey has reached its safe temperature, stick the oven-safe meat thermometer through the main cavity opening into the thickest part of the stuffing. Close the oven door and wait a few minutes before checking the reading. The stuffing is done at 165 degrees. If it's not done, continue cooking the turkey until the temperature is reached.
Free Press Test Kitchen Director