The Stuff of Stuffing

Whether it's stuffed in the turkey or baked in a casserole, bready, flavorful stuffing is one of the best parts of the meal!

By FamilyTime

 We pile our plates at Thanksgiving with turkey, stuffing, squash, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and ladlefuls of gravy. For most of us, the first place our forks land is the stuffing!

Stuffing or Dressing?
There is no difference between the two. Some say stuffing is the mixture that gets cooked inside the turkey and dressing is the mixture that is cooked in the casserole dish.

In the South, stuffing is nearly always called dressing. In the North, vice versa. In the West, anything goes!

To Stuff of Not
In many families, rebellion breaks out if the stuffing is not inside the turkey. Some home cooks compromise by putting some stuffing in the bird and cooking the rest in a casserole.

If time is a factor, an unstuffed bird cooks faster. Go to How to Roast a Turkey.

Do not pack the stuffing too tightly in the turkey's cavity. There is no reason to truss the turkey or sew the opening closed. The turkey's neck cavity is another good place for stuffing.

Choose a Stuffing Style
Stuffing mixes are great. Many companies market them, seasoned or not, made from plain white bread, cornbread, whole wheat bread, sourdough bread and so on. The bread is crisp and dry and won't turn too soggy during cooking.

Many folks prefer ordinary bread – storebought or homemade – as the base for the stuffing. With the exception of spongy white sandwich bread, anything goes, even hard rolls and slightly stale bagels.

Leave fresh bread slices at room temperature to dry overnight before using them for stuffing. This is "day old bread."

Cornbread does not need to be dried. Crumble homemade cornbread right before cooking it. Go to Classic Cornbread.

In some regions of the South, white or brown rice is used for dressings. A rice stuffing may appeal to curious cooks from other parts of the country. Wild rice is another delicious base for stuffing.

Use the bread, rice, or stuffing mix and add your own seasoning and other ingredients (vegetables, sausage, oysters, apples). Homemade turkey broth is preferred but canned chicken broth is a good choice for liquid.

When to Stuff and How Much
Cook the stuffing just before putting it into the bird. Stuff the turkey just before roasting it. The stuffing must be cooked first and should be warm.

If you prefer, spoon stuffing into a shallow, buttered casserole. Bake this alongside the turkey during the last hour or so of roasting

A 14- to 16-pound turkey requires about 10 cups of stuffing. Make more if you have a larger turkey or want to serve extra in a casserole. One 15-ounce bag of stuffing mix yields about 10 cups.

Stuffing Safety
The stuffing must reach the necessary 160°F. to be safe. When the turkey is done, insert a thermometer in the center of the stuffing to determine its temperature. If it is not hot enough, remove it from the turkey's cavity and continue cooking in a casserole in a 350°F oven.

Do not leave stuffing in the turkey after the meal. Remove it and refrigerate it separately from the leftover turkey.