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Stuffed Turkey

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Turkeys are traditionally eaten as the main course of Christmas feasts in much of the world (stuffed turkey), as well as Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada, though this tradition has its origins in modern times, rather than colonial as is often supposed.

Left: A roast turkey prepared for a traditional U.S. Thanksgiving meal.

Before the 20th century, pork ribs were the most common food on the holiday, as the animals were usually slaughtered in November. Turkeys were once so abundant in the wild that they were eaten throughout the year, the food considered commonplace, whereas pork ribs were rarely available outside of the Thanksgiving-New Year season. It has also displaced, to a certain extent, the traditional Christmas roast goose or beef of the United Kingdom and Europe. While eating turkey was once mainly restricted to special occasions such as these, turkey is now eaten year-round and forms a regular part of many diets.

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Both fresh and frozen turkeys are used for cooking; as with most foods, fresh turkeys are generally preferred, although they cost more. For the frozen variety, the large size of the turkeys typically used for consumption makes defrosting them a major endeavor: a typically-sized turkey will take several days to properly defrost.

Left: Stuffing a turkey.

Turkeys are usually baked or roasted in an oven for several hours, often while the cook prepares the remainder of the meal. Sometimes, a turkey is brined before roasting to enhance flavor and moisture content. This is necessary because the dark meat requires a higher temperature to denature all of the myoglobin pigment than the white meat (very low in myoglobin), so that fully cooking the dark meat tends to dry out the breast. Brining makes it possible to fully cook the dark meat without drying the breast meat. Turkeys are sometimes decorated with turkey frills prior to serving.

In some areas, particularly the American South, they may also be deep fried in hot oil (often peanut oil) for 30 to 45 minutes by using a turkey fryer.

Especially during holiday seasons, stuffing, also known as dressing, is traditionally served with turkey. There are many varieties: oatmeal, chestnut, sage and onion (flavored bread), cornbread, and sausage are the most traditional.

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Turkey stuffing usually consists of celery, onion, salt, pepper, and bread crumbs, and some contain poultry seasoning. Stuffing may either be used to stuff the turkey (as the name implies), or may be cooked separately and served as a side dish.

Left: Stuffed turkey.


Roasted Turkey with Stuffing Recipe Ingredients

The roast turkey recipe below requires turkey stock. If you can't find pre-made stock in a store then you'll have to make it. You should know, however, turkey stock requires four hours of simmering. So make your stock the day before you make the turkey and stuffing. If you don't have the time to make turkey stock then use pre-made chicken stock which all supermarkets carry.

Ingredients for Stuffing:
  • 4 cups crumbled cornbread
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon dried/rubbed sage
  • 1 cup dried apples, diced
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 8 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 stick butter, softened and whipped
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken or turkey

Procedure for Making Stuffing:

  1. Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  2. Place the stuffing in the turkey cavity and cook it along with the turkey.
  3. Make sure the stuffing reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit before serving. If it doesn't, then scoop it out and bake it alone in the oven until it does.

Ingredients for Turkey

  • 1 (18 pound) whole turkey
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 quarts turkey stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Recipe Cooking and Preparation Method

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the rack in the lowest position of the oven.
  2. Remove the neck and giblets.
  3. Rinse the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels.
  4. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in the roasting pan. Rub the skin with softened butter, and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Fill the body cavity with stuffing.
  6. Place a meat thermometer in the thickest part of one thigh.
  7. Position an aluminum foil tent over the turkey.
  8. Place the turkey in the oven, and pour two cups of turkey broth into the bottom of the roasting pan.
  9. Baste the entire turkey every 30 minutes with the juices on the bottom of the pan.
  10. Add stock to the drippings as they become dry, about one to two cups at a time.
  11. Remove aluminum foil tent after two and a half hours.
  12. Roast until the meat reaches 185 degrees Fahrenheit and the stuffing reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This should take about 4 hours.
  13. Serve immediately.

Food Serving Suggestion


For Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada, turkey is typically served stuffed or with dressing (on the side), with cranberry sauce and gravy. Common complementary dishes include mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, squash, and sweet potatoes. Pie is the usual dessert, pumpkin being most traditional, apple or pecan also being popular.

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When eaten at Christmas in the United Kingdom, turkey is traditionally served with winter vegetables including roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts and parsnips. Cranberry sauce is the traditional condiment in the northern rural areas of the United Kingdom where wild cranberries grow.

Left: Cranberries being washed before cooking cranberry sauce.

In the south and in urban areas, where cranberries until recently were difficult to obtain, bread sauce was used in its place, but the availability of commercial cranberry sauce has seen a rise in its popularity in these areas too.

Sometimes sausage meat, cocktail sausages or liver wrapped in bacon is also served (known as bacon rolls or "pigs in blankets").



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