Poultry Cavity Conflict: Causes and Solutions
Note: This post was syndicated on BlogHer, November 2011.
The Roast Chicken Chronicles Episode III: Poultry Cavity Conflict: Causes and Solutions
With Canadian Thanksgiving coming up this weekend and the US turkey season fast-approaching you have no doubt heard a lot about Poultry Cavity Conflict (PCC). It is the cause of anger and disappointment around many a family table. But what is at the heart of this issue and how can you eject it from your kitchen?
Read on to find out all about PCC and about how to solve this common problem.
The Cause of PCC:
Some people always stuff their birds. They love it when that soft mound inside the cavity catches juices and comes out moist and flavourful.
Other people never put anything beyond a few aromatics in the cavity. This could be due to a fear of food poisoning* or it could be because they prefer their “stuffing” to have more crunch and less mush.
These two divergent opinions are the cause of PCC and they can lead to animosity in the household if the situation is not dealt with in a fair and understanding way.
PCC Solutions: What can you do to ease the PCC in your home?
Solution #1: Make both kinds of stuffing
I know, I know. More work for you! But it’s actually not that big of a deal. In fact, it’s sometimes easier since you don’t have to fret about what to do with the extra bread mixture that won’t fit in the bird. You can intentionally make a lot of stuffing, spoon some into the cavity and put the rest in a buttered casserole (this uncovered casserole goes into the oven for the last 30-ish minutes of the poultry’s cooking time. If it’s egg-free, you’re just warming it through and perhaps crisping up the top a bit. If it contains an egg or two, then it needs to reach 160ºF. Use an instant-read thermometer to test it).
Two added bonuses of this PCC resolution strategy:
- You wind up with much more stuffing than if you only filled the bird and thus you can feed more people.
- So long as your stuffing mixture is free of any meat/poultry or of any meat/poultry broth, your casserole of stuffing will not cause undo anger from the vegetarian contingent in your midst. The meatatarians, on the other hand, will not feel neglected since the stuffed version has soaked up plenty of meaty juices.
Solution #2: Make one kind of stuffing but give clear and concise reasons for your choice
Maybe you prefer one style of stuffing over the other, maybe you find it easier to just stuff the bird rather than have a whole extra casserole to worry about, or maybe you are one of those people who would rather not slide their hands inside a carcass. For whatever reason, sometimes you will only want to make one kind of stuffing. If you give your diners clear and concise reasons for your choice, they are less likely to revolt.
If you plan to stuff and only stuff: Tell your diners that the bird is overly large and fills the entire oven. There is thus no room for an additional casserole. (If this isn’t true but you want to use it as a reason, place your small bird into the largest roasting pan you own. Nobody will notice the acres of space around the bird. They will only see you struggling to fit the pan into the oven and they will then believe anything you say. Follow-up the pan-into-oven ordeal with a dishcloth dabbed at your forehead and a big sigh to convince any remaining doubters.)
If you plan to not stuff and only not stuff: Tell your diners that the bird doesn’t seem particularly juicy and you are afraid that any stuffing placed into the cavity will steal potential juices from the gravy. Everyone agrees that the gravy is the first priority when roasting a bird therefore nobody will dream of arguing. (If, upon cooking the bird, you find yourself with an abundance of glorious golden juice, don’t tell anyone! Continue to moan and complain about the lack of juices. Then, when dinner is served, you become the belle of the ball with the most luscious gravy anyone has ever tasted. Nobody will ever doubt your word about anything kitchen-related again and you will be free to make the stuffing of your choice from then on.)
In conclusion, while PCC is a true problem in today’s world it need not cause friction in your home. Now that you know what is at the root of PCC you can meet the issue with calm understanding instead of with the usual fear, distrust and anger. Making use of the above resolution strategies will further keep the peace around your family table. If your family’s PCC problem is particularly intense such that even these strategies do not work, there is one final solution: Roast Pork. Nobody will expect stuffing and it IS the new white meat after all.
Do you stuff or not stuff and why? Is there a debate about it in your house? How do you handle it? Check out the recipes below for both stuffed and unstuffed stuffing recipes.
*A Note About Stuffing Safety
If you do put stuffing inside your poultry’s cavity, you must make sure that your bird AND the stuffing are properly cooked and handled correctly. Cook the chicken or turkey until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 175ºF, into the breast reads 165ºF, and into the very middle of the stuffing itself reads: 160ºF. Allow the poultry to rest for no more than 15 minutes before removing all of the stuffing completely from the cavity (or cavities if you have stuffed the neck as well as the bigger interior body area). Serve the stuffing and poultry on separate plates. As to the leftovers, store the poultry and the stuffing in separate covered containers in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Stuffing Recipes from Blogs: Inside and Outside of the Bird:
- Not in in bird nor in a casserole. This stuffing from Stephanie O’Dea is cooked up in the CrockPot. Do I feel a whole new source of conflict coming on?
- And here’s a stuffing from Noob Cook that’s done stove-top. I’ve never done such a thing. Have you? Was it delicious or strange?
- Another debatable issue: Should stuffing contain oysters? In my world the answer is,” What??? Oysters is stuffing? Why would anyone do that?!?!” But it turns out there are parts of the US where this is a tradition. Check out this recipe for Oyster Dressing by Tickled Red.
- Ahhh…someone who understands the problem. This stuffing from Easy Diabetic Recipes will solve your PCC problem since part of the bread mixture is placed in the cavity and part is cooked in a separate casserole.
- And here’s one of my own, cooked in a casserole. But the sausage makes up for the lack of turkey meatiness and the pear adds lovely juicy moisture: Sausage and Pear Stuffing.
Do the famous cooks of the world stuff or not stuff?
- Nigella Lawson fearlessly stuffs chicken cavities with rice and dried cherries in one of my favourite cookbooks, Feast: Food to Celebrate Life. The recipe is shared on Leite’s Culinaria here.
- Alton Brown shares great tips for the perfect in-the-bird stuffing. You’ve gotta check this out. The technique of stuffing-in-cotton-bag-inserted-in-turkey is something I have *never* seen or heard of before.
- Tyler Florence doesn’t appear to have a preference with his either-or approach to Caramelized Onion and Cornbread Stuffing.