Recipes & Cooking

Mom’s 24-Hour Turkey and Bread Stuffing

I can see the people scratching their heads already. 24-hour turkey?

It was something I read about a few years ago. We figured then, what the hell, we’ll try it. The worst thing that could happen is we have cheeseburgers for Thanksgiving. It came out really good! By baking the turkey at a low temperature – close to the optimum temperature advised for the meat – it allows the meat to cook without drying out like when it’s cooked it at 325°. The key is heating it enough to kill bacteria but not overcooking it at a temperature that will dry out the meat.

I bet a lot of you are looking at that picture and thinking “stuffing in the bird?” Well, way back when I was young and my mother first started reading articles advising people not to cook the stuffing inside the turkey due to bacteria. My mother decided then that all the years she was doing it, she didn’t get sick so she wasn’t changing. I followed along with that thought as well. Again, it comes down to making sure it’s cooked through enough to kill any bacteria. I want my stuffing in the bird so it can absorb some of the juices and get a great taste.

Doing it this way has also allowed me to do the bulk of my work the day before Thanksgiving, leaving me time on Thanksgiving morning to relax and watch the parade with my kids, and now my grandchildren. The only work I really have to do is put in a few side dishes once we take the turkey out to rest.

Mom’s Easy Bread Stuffing

I have to admit that stuffing is probably my favorite dish of Thanksgiving. I usually make a double-batch of it and most of it fits in the turkey. I just love heating up the leftover stuffing with gravy and eating it. This is how my mother made stuffing and I continued on with this recipe. It’s easy to make and takes on the flavor of the turkey. I have no hard-and-fast measurements – everything is done to taste and appearance.

For a single batch, use two medium onions and about 4 stalks of celery. Chop or dice how you like it. I usually use a chopper or food processor for the onion and just slice up the celery into small, diced pieces.

In a large pan, melt about half a stick of butter. Add the onion and celery and cook until it’s just starting to get soft. You don’t want it to brown, but to the point where you can see it’s soft or there is some liquid cooking out of the vegetables.

Stuffing bread! This time of year you can usually find it in your supermarket. In the past, I’ve also gone to the bread outlet (when we had one in town) and bought hamburger and hot dog buns. You want a bread or roll that’s denser than typical supermarket bread, like Wonder bread. Hamburger and hot dog buns work well in that regard, or if you can get stuffing bread, that’s perfect! I tear it into pieces and put it in the pan with the onions and celery.

Poultry seasoning is the next step. Poultry seasoning contains thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, black pepper, and nutmeg. I sprinkle this liberally over the bread mixture and stir it, then sprinkle more. You want to see a light coating on all of the pieces of bread after you are done. What’s nice is as the juices drip through this, once the bread has absorbed all it can the rest will flow out into the pan for gravy and bring the flavor of the seasoning with it.

Lastly, I take two eggs and blend them up then pour them over the bread mixture. This is just to help the bread stick together a little. I cook and stir the mixture until the eggs are absorbed and cooked.

You can add different things to this stuffing. One year, my mother heard from Regis Philbin that he liked raisins in his stuffing! I was doubtful but tried it. My mother and I both liked it a lot. After my parents passed, I was the only one who liked it with raisins, so I’ve since stopped adding them. One year I tried sausage mixed in. My family liked it but I wasn’t crazy about it and since I’m cooking I do it my way, basically. Someone I gave the recipe to added chestnuts and said it came out good as well.

24-Hour Turkey

I’ve had the turkey thawing in the refrigerator since Sunday. When I unwrapped it, there was still some frozen liquid, but most had melted. The beauty with cooking the turkey this way is it will thaw the rest of the way while it’s cooking without overcooking the parts that are already thawed. I rinse off the turkey and take out the giblets and neck, then put it in the roasting pan. This year I went for the easy cleanup and got a disposable pan I put on a large cookie sheet for support. There was one year I used a pan like this and didn’t put a cookie sheet underneath it. When I used the handles to take the roasting pan out of the oven, the pan folded up and the potential gravy went all over the oven and floor.

Look at all of the space this bird has for stuffing! Not only the chest cavity between the legs, but there is lots of room in the neck cavity as well.

When I stuff the neck cavity, I pull the skin over the stuffing, then secure them to the bird with a few toothpicks before turning it over to stuff the chest cavity. I sprinkled a little onion salt on the skin for flavor and it was ready for the oven.

Out of the double-batch of stuffing I had, this was all that was left. I could just put it in the oven tomorrow for a while and blend it with the stuffing that comes out of the bird. More likely, I”ll eat it before the night is over.

The turkey then goes in a pre-heated 425° oven for 15 minutes. This will kill off any surface bacteria that might be present. After 15 minutes, I lower the temperature to 190°. The recommended internal temperature for turkey is 180° in the thigh, 165° in the breast. I put it at 190° because the heat will gently penetrate the bird and bring it to a slightly higher temperature without drying it out, especially if there are still some frozen parts.

I’ll add pictures to this tomorrow when it’s done, so be sure to come back for the update!

23 hours later:

The temperature inside at the breast was right around 165-170. It’s resting while the rest of the dishes cook, then gravy and dismemberment.


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