For a lot of people, stuffing is the best part of the Thanksgiving feast – oh, and also the mashed potatoes and gravy and the green bean casserole and the buttered rutabagas, and …

Time was when cooks packed as much stuffing into the bird as possible, but that was before food scientists told us that bread and egg and broth and turkey juices can create a perfect storm for bacteria growth. Heat is key; harmful bacteria cannot live above 165 degrees. Here are a few simple rules to keep your stuffing safe:

Never stuff a turkey the night before roasting.

 It’s OK to make the stuffing one day ahead. But if the recipe includes meat or seafood (sausage, oysters and the like), refrigerate those components separately, and add them just before using stuffing.

 Likewise, do not add egg (if using) or broth until just before you stuff the bird.

 Refrigerate stuffing in a shallow pan so it cools quickly.

 Fill the turkey cavity lightly with stuffing.

 Bake extra stuffing in a casserole dish.

 Use an instant read thermometer to take the temperature of stuffing in the cavity.

 If the turkey is fully roasted but the stuffing has not reached the safe zone of 165 degrees, scoop the stuffing from the cavity and microwave it until thoroughly heated.

 Then relax, knowing you’ve done your job, and savor the delicious results!

NEW ENGLAND SAGE BREAD STUFFING WITH KALE

Kale adds a pleasantly bitter edge to this otherwise classic bread stuffing.

10 cups lightly packed bread cubes (from 1 pound loaf of bread) or 9 cups cubed unseasoned stuffing mix

1/2 cup butter

2 large onions, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

5 cups slivered kale leaves

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning blend, such as Bell’s

½ cup chopped parsley

4 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup chicken or turkey broth, plus additional for baking stuffing

1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spread the bread cubes out onto a baking sheet and toast in the preheated oven, stirring once or twice, until firm to the touch, about 10 minutes. (If you are using packaged dried bread cubes, omit this step.)

In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the onion and celery and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the kale and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle on the poultry seasoning, add parsley and fresh sage, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes with the onion mixture, tossing gently to mix. (Can be made a day ahead. Transfer to large shallow pan and cover and refrigerate.)

Before using, stir in the broth and beaten egg. Fill the turkey cavity lightly with stuffing; do not pack. Place remaining stuffing in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees, adding a bit of broth for moisture, until heated through.

FRUIT-AND-NUT STUFFING

This is an unusual sweet-savory stuffing with an opulent Victorian feel that I learned to make when working with Martha Stewart. Her family always used it to stuff the neck cavity and then baked the remainder of the recipe. Since it contains no bread or meat, the only safety precaution needed is to add egg just before using.

1 (4-ounce) package dried fruit “tidbits” or 1 cup coarsely chopped dried fruits such as apricots, apples, prunes

¼ cup golden raisins

3 tablespoons bourbon

½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

½ cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1 small celery rib, chopped

1 large semi-sweet apple such as Empire, unpeeled, cored and chopped (2 cups)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon powdered ginger

1/8 teaspoon allspice

½ cup whole fresh cranberries

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 egg, lightly beaten

In a small bowl, toss the dried fruits and raisins with the bourbon. Cover and set aside to soak for at least 1 hour.

In a large skillet, toast the walnuts and pecans over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and one shade darker, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Melt the butter in the same pan. Add the onion, celery and apple and cook, stirring frequently, until well softened, about 8 minutes.

Stir in the thyme, cinnamon, ginger and allspice. Remove from the heat and stir in the cranberries, macerated fruits, toasted nuts and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Before using, stir in the beaten egg. Use to stuff neck cavity. Use metal skewers to secure skin flap to underside of bird. Bake any remaining stuffing in a covered casserole dish at 350 degrees F until heated through.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Chowderland: Hearty Soups & Stews with Sides and Salads to Match.” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

facebook.com/brookedojny