Is it safe to buy a pre-stuffed turkey?

Chad Kramer
Chad Kramer on behalf of dotFIT
Some pre-stuffed turkeys are safe to buy, while others are not. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):

Frozen, pre-stuffed, uncooked or cooked poultry (whole): If the packaging displays the USDA or State mark of inspection, it has been processed under controlled conditions and, therefore, is safe to buy. Store it in the freezer, and follow the package directions for safe handling and cooking.

DO NOT THAW a commercially pre-stuffed frozen turkey before cooking. If this product has been placed in the refrigerator, and it has completely thawed, discard both the turkey and the stuffing. The raw stuffing introduces additional bacteria. The cool temperature of the refrigerator (usually no higher than 40 degrees F) discourages but does not stop the growth of harmful organisms in the turkey as it thaws. If there are ice crystals in the turkey and the stuffing is still frozen, it is safe to cook. The stuffing and the turkey should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F as measured with a food thermometer.

Pre-stuffed, uncooked meat and poultry (pieces): These products are less dense than whole, stuffed poultry, so consumers can feel confident buying them. Consumers should only buy products with "best if used by" dating and directions on preparation to ensure food safety and quality. The Meat and Poultry Hotline does not recommend microwaving stuffed meat and poultry products. Some microwave ovens do not cook food evenly and "cold spots" remain, especially with the density provided by the stuffing.

Pre-stuffed, cooked turkey (whole): If you are going to buy a pre-stuffed, cooked turkey, it should be purchased hot. To keep hot foods safe, keep them at 140 degrees F or above. Bacteria grow rapidly between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F. Discard the turkey and stuffing if left at room temperature longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in air temperatures above 90degrees F. If you plan to eat at a later time, food should be divided into smaller portions or pieces, placed in shallow containers, and refrigerated. Reheat turkey and stuffing to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F as measured with a food thermometer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.