By Hanna Raskin

The perfectly roasted and stuffed turkey is the centerpiece of many a holiday table. Here's your step-by-step guide to stuffing a turkey.

Stuffed and ready to cook. Photo by Meredith

When Should You Stuff a Turkey?

Before we start stuffing, let's talk food safety for a hot second. Food safety is a significant concern when dealing with stuffing. The USDA doesn't recommend against stuffing a turkey (although it frowns on pre-stuffed turkeys prepared by stores and restaurants), but warns that home cooks should use a thermometer to make sure the stuffing has reached 165 degrees before serving. If the stuffing is any cooler, it's a potential source of foodborne illness.

It's also critical to cook raw meat and seafood, such as bacon or oysters, before adding them to any stuffing you put inside your uncooked bird.

Some cooks believe that traditional holiday stuffing actually detracts from a turkey's flavor: Because it takes longer for the stuffing to cook than the meat surrounding it, you can end up with a dried-out turkey.

One easy alternative is to cook the dressing separately and then spoon it into the cooked turkey when it's resting. Speaking of dressing, find out the difference between stuffings and dressings, and discover more top-rated recipes.

How to Stuff a Turkey

Step 1: Remove the giblets

Inside most uncooked turkeys, you'll find a little package that contains the turkey's giblets -- its gizzard, heart, and liver. Think of it as a bonus flavor sack: The offal is a delicious addition to dressing and gravy. While it's best to remove the package before cooking your turkey, it's not a big deal from a health perspective if you forget. After taking out the giblets and trimming any loose bits, rinse out the turkey, and pat dry with a paper towel.

For added deliciousness, rub herb butter under the turkey's skin before stuffing -- it helps boost flavor and moisture.

Step 2: Stuff the turkey's neck cavity

Spoon your stuffing into the neck cavity. Pack it very loosely, then pull the skin over the stuffing and pin to the turkey's back using a metal skewer.

Photo by Meredith

Step 3: Stuff the turkey's body cavity

Spoon your stuffing into the body cavity, loosely.

Photo by Meredith

Then truss your turkey's legs. Check out How to Truss a Turkey the Easy Way.

Photo by Meredith resized

Check out our collection of Thanksgiving Stuffing and Dressing Recipes.