Confession, I have never prepared a full Thanksgiving meal for my family. We have been eating Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws home for as long as I can remember. I am usually in charge of one side dish and a dessert. I have however prepared a Thanksgiving meal for a large crowd. One of my many side jobs was a cooking meals at a daycare center. We would have a center wide Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. The industrial kitchen there had a convection oven and cooking everything was a breeze.
I did however have to use trial and error to learn how to stuff a correctly. Learning how to stuff a turkey or chicken isn’t too difficult. You just need to follow the necessary steps to make sure your bird is clean. Then, you want to decide what you plan to do with the neck and giblet package that are sometimes found inside the bird. They are great for making a gravy or dressing! Lastly, you’ll want to season and stuff a turkey or chicken to have it ready for the oven.
This step-by-step tutorial is the same for a chicken or a turkey. You can stuff a turkey or chicken any time of the year and enjoy a Thanksgiving style meal. Full disclosure the photos in this post are of a chicken, because no time to thaw a turkey during this busy blogging time of year.
How to Stuff a Turkey or Chicken
1. Reach inside the bird to remove the giblet package and the neck. Sometimes these items are put inside the bird at the processing plant, sometimes they aren’t. If they are, set aside. They can be used in making your dressing or gravy if you wish.
2. Rinse the bird with cool water, both inside and out. (You may FIRST do an extra sanitizing step and splash the inside and outside of the bird with lemon or lime juice, (or vinegar), and then rinse well with plain water – this is optional.)
3. Place the bird on a clean plastic cutting board and pat dry with some kitchen towel. Discard towel immediately after use. Check the bird over for any pin feathers or other bits that you might find on the skin and remove them.
4. Season the inside of the bird with your desired spices. Garlic powder, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning or thyme are an array of different spices you can use to flavor the inside.
5. Have your prepared stuffing handy, with a spoon large enough to fit inside the cavity of the bird easily.
** Note, it’s a good idea at this point to have the bird in the baking dish you plan on cooking it in. It’s much easier to move the bird from the counter to the pan while it’s not full of stuffing.
6. Begin by putting spoonfulls of dressing into the cavity of the bird. Loosely pack the dressing. Use the back of the spoon to gently push the stuffing to the back of the cavity, but do not pack it in tight. Keep filling the cavity until it mounds out the opening of the bird.
7. Using your toothpicks (or other sharp skewers), you can pull the excess skin that might be around the cavity together to enclose the stuffing. This is optional, but its a great way to keep the stuffing from falling out while cooking.
8. Turn the dish around so that the neck of the bird is now facing you. Though it is much smaller, the neck cavity is another option to use some of your stuffing if the neck bones have been removed. Again, do not pack it in, just loosely spoon in the stuffing until there’s no more space.
9. If there’s any more stuffing that didn’t go in the bird, you can either bake it in a separate dish, or spoon it around the sides of the bird in the baking pan. This stuffing will be flavored by the drippings and may produce a moister stuffing, but will also leave you with no pan drippings for gravy. So if you plan on making a gravy, then bake the dressing in a separate dish.
10. Season the top of the bird with your desired seasonings and put it in the oven to bake.
Serve with the dressing. Enjoy!