What is a turkey’s favorite Thanksgiving dish? Nothing, he’s already stuffed!

While stuffing makes for a cheesy Thanksgiving joke, there are a few safety precautions you shouldn’t take so lightly if you choose to make this side dish part of your holiday feast.

According to USDA’s Turkey Basics, the best way to ensure stuffing is safe to eat is to cook it separately from the turkey. This method is great for those who like to think outside of the oven on Thanksgiving, as it is not recommended to stuff turkeys that will be grilled, smoked or fried. One of our personal favorites, Ina Garten, agrees that cooking your stuffing outside of the bird is not only the safest way, but also helps create the crunchy, toasty dish that accompanies juicy turkey perfectly.

If stuffing the turkey is your preference, following a few simple guidelines will help keep your guests safe. Since bread expands as it’s cooked, stuff the turkey cavity loosely (about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound).  Be sure to use a food thermometer to verify the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.  Even if the turkey itself is at a safe internal temperature, the stuffing may not have reached a temperature high enough to kill bacteria. Take caution not to remove the bird until the stuffing is completely cooked or else run the risk of contaminating the cooked meat.

No matter how you cook your stuffing this Thanksgiving, making food safety a priority in the kitchen will keep your guests happy, healthy and reaching for seconds!