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Old 10-16-2011, 09:09 PM   #1
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Am I REALLY not allowed to stuff the turkey?!?!?!

Ok, here's the deal. I am 37, and I have been gifted Thanksgiving by my mother. I was pretty sure that I would have to pry the turkey from her cold, dead hands, but I digress. I am doing the main cooking this year, and serving at my house. I am a pretty decent cook, and I have a good grasp of flavors and I am a pro at asking Google to answer any questions that I may have. I am confident in my sides, but this will be my first time roasting an entire turkey. My roasted chicken is slappin, but this is literally a different bird! There are a few things that I am unsure of, and I would like to ask some of you more experienced cooks/chefs for some guidance.

My mom cooks her turkey in a bag. I know, don't stone her. It is relatively juicy, but not exceptionally flavorful, and depending on the year the label of 'juicy' could be a bit of a stretch! I am pretty sure that I have settled on a recipe, as well as a brine to ensure the flavor and moisture retention. However, I am having a serious, and I mean serious, problem with the fact that every online resource tells me that I can not stuff the bird! That is absolutely, positively, my favorite part of Thanksgiving, the yummy dressing infused with turkey juice goodness that comes from inside the bird. My siblings and I fight over it every year. If I put some bird stuffing in a leftover bowl with oven dressing, I can tell the difference by sight and will pick it out until it is gone. Everything I read/hear says that the bacterial risk is too high, and to cook the stuffing to correct temperature will dry out the bird.

So I guess my question is two-fold:

1. Is it truly, really possible to make an obnoxiously succulent, juicy bird without the dreaded "bag"?

2. Please can I stuff my bird and still have it positively moist and mom-worthy? Pretty please?

This is serious business people. If there is so much and the SLIGHTEST fault in my bird, my mother will find it and take out a front page ad in the local paper. I am actually making a test bird in the next week or two, and maybe one more if I don't get it right. By the time I make it to Thanksgiving I won't even want turkey! Yes, it is that serious. Any guidance would be appreciated!!!! Thanks all!

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Old 10-16-2011, 09:19 PM   #2
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By all means stuff the bird. After dinner, remove any stuffing (if any) from the bird and go ahead and strip the meat and save the carcass for making stock/soup.

Don't deprive yourself of in the bird stuffing. Extra stuffing on the side is delicious, but the stuffing from the bird is heaven!
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Old 10-16-2011, 09:22 PM   #3
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I don't stuff.

But the brine will buy you some insurance. I would make sure to use a thermometer to take the temperature of the stuffing inside the bird when the bird is done. You will likely have to get the bird above 180 degrees in order to get the stuffing to a safe 165. Your bird will likely be less juicy cooking above 180, but the brine will help.

I grew up eating stuffing out of a bird, but my mom's bird sounded a lot like your moms, kind of hit or miss from year to year when it comes to juiciness.

I used the Pioneer Woman's brine last year on a turkey breast and it was amazing, I have used Alton Brown's and it was great as well.

I don't see any reason why you would need to roast in a bag, I don't see the point other than speeding up the process. I just use an uncovered roaster, and cover with foil for most of the roast and let it brown for the last hour or so,
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Old 10-16-2011, 09:25 PM   #4
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I have had the best luck stuffing the 'head end' of the turkey but not the main cavity. Here's the reasoning... Stuffing the head end slows down the cooking of the breast which is prone to be dry when over cooked. Stuff the main cavity loosely with some thow-away flavor enhancers. Some onion and apple wedges, some celery pieces, a few garlic cloves, etc. If you want to present a big beautiful turkey at the table stuff the opening of the main cavity with a bunch of fresh parsley.

Good luck....
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Old 10-16-2011, 09:28 PM   #5
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Butterball hotline is your friend! No bag needed!

Stuff away. As Zhizara said, dig it out before you store the bird. We survived many years with turkey butt stuffing. Though I admit, I preferred the separately baked stuffing as there were (perceived) gross things in the other.

It obviously takes longer to cook a stuffed turkey. The directions on the package will give you a good reference.

My BIL worked for Butterball for many years. His turkey was always wonderful, though he has taken to cooking only the breasts for the last couple of years.
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Old 10-16-2011, 09:41 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bakechef View Post

I used the Pioneer Woman's brine last year on a turkey breast and it was amazing, I have used Alton Brown's and it was great as well.
Funny, Alton Brown's recipe is exactly the one that I am looking at, it has almost 4k reviews, almost all 5 stars. Skipping the crystallized ginger though, I am personally not a fan of most forms of ginger.


Thanks to all of you for the feedback! I really, and I mean really, wanna stuff the bird, but I also don't want to miss the opportunity to flavor the meat from the inside with such yumminess as garlic, apple, onions, fresh herbs and the like. Ugh, dilemmas!
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Old 10-16-2011, 09:51 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lisaluvstocook View Post
Funny, Alton Brown's recipe is exactly the one that I am looking at, it has almost 4k reviews, almost all 5 stars. Skipping the crystallized ginger though, I am personally not a fan of most forms of ginger.


Thanks to all of you for the feedback! I really, and I mean really, wanna stuff the bird, but I also don't want to miss the opportunity to flavor the meat from the inside with such yumminess as garlic, apple, onions, fresh herbs and the like. Ugh, dilemmas!
You won't really taste the ginger, I think it just kind of rounds out the flavor. In all honesty you might not miss it if you skip it.

If you have a Trader Joe's nearby they have a decent price on vegetable stock, since you will need quite a lot of it!
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Old 10-16-2011, 10:21 PM   #8
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Am I REALLY not allowed to stuff the turkey?!?!?!

Stuff your turkey if you want. People have been doing it for years. No one I know has ever gotten sick or died. "The Food Police"will not come arrest you if you do.
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Old 10-16-2011, 11:39 PM   #9
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I follow the Good Eats Thanksgiving turkey recipe. Last year's turkey was the best I've ever eaten (and I'm collecting Social Security). It was juicy and delicious.

I don't stuff the turkey, but I do make stuffing. I cook the stuffing in a roasting pan separate from the turkey. I moisten it with turkey stock I have made. If you really like the turkey juices in the stuffing, spoon them out of the turkey pan and add them to the stuffing so they can cook together. If you want a crust on the stuffing, don't cover the pan. If you want soft stuffing, cover the pan. No one will taste a difference.

That's what I prefer. However, if you can't be happy unless you can scoop stuffing out of the cooked bird, stuff the turkey. Sounds like you're going to be cooking a very big bird. That's going to make it even harder to get it right. There will be a soccer ball-sized wad of stuffing in the middle of the bird that has to cook through while the breast meat gets drier and drier.

Brining offers you your best chance by far of turkey success.
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Old 10-16-2011, 11:53 PM   #10
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Stuffing the turkey will slow down the cooking....if you like the soft, moist stuffing that usually comes from the bird, try putting it in a slow cooker on low, and tie a towel around the lid to keep the moisture from dripping into the dressing. I do this every year, and its the way to go. Also, you get a lot more stuffing!
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