To stuff or not to stuff? Cornbread or country bread? These are the questions that keep a Thanksgiving stuffing lover up at night. But these questions finally deserve answers, which is what we've provided below. Read on—and then try and get some sleep for once, okay?
What's the Difference Between Stuffing and Dressing?
If you want to get technical about it, stuffing is inside the bird and dressing is not. However, the terms are basically interchangeable and the use of one or the other is relative to the user's regional vernacular.
Should I Bake the Stuffing Inside the Bird or Out?
Out. Baking the stuffing inside the bird comes with safety risks. Bake your stuffing/dressing alongside the turkey in a cute casserole dish instead.
What Can I Stuff Inside the Turkey Besides Stuffing?
If you've decided not to stuff your turkey with a bread-based stuffing this year, congratulations on a sound decision. Technically, you needn't replace the stuffing with anything, but you could add a quartered onion, a few smashed cloves of garlic, a bundle of herbs, some lemon or orange slices, dried chiles—basically any kind of aromatic component that will complement the other herbs and spices you've chosen for the rest of your meal. Discard these elements after the turkey has finished roasting.
How Much Stuffing Do I Need to Make Per Person?
Based on Anna Stockwell's method for making stuffing any way you want it, an eight-by-eight-inch casserole dish will feed four to six people and a nine-by-thirteen-inch casserole dish will feed eight to 10 people. Cooking for more? You're gonna need a bigger boat.
What Kind of Bread Should I Use to Make Stuffing?
Literally any kind of bread you want. Depending on the region, the traditional bread of choice changes. You may find cubed rye in Maine, a torn Italian loaf in Boston, a sourdough loaf in San Fransisco, or, if you're at the home of my relatives in Northern Alabama, a combo of crumbled cornbread and torn day-old biscuits. And that's another thing: combos of two or more breads are great too.
One bread to avoid: sliced sandwich bread. It will just get soggy.
What's the Easiest/Quickest Stuffing Recipe?
A few years ago, my colleague Anna Stockwell created a Thanksgiving menu where every dish had just three ingredients, excluding pantry staples like olive oil, salt, and pepper. For the stuffing she relied on cranberry-nut bread, which can sometimes be found in the bakery section of grocery stores around the holidays. If your store doesn't carry it, sub in raisin-nut bread or cinnamon-raisin bread, which can usually be found year round. If even that is too much, grab a country loaf and toss in a handful of dried cranberries and a handful of chopped walnuts (Anna stuck to the three-ingredient motif, but nobody says you have to).
What Is the Very Best Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe?
After tasting six of the highest-rated stuffing recipes on Epicurious, food director emeritus Rhoda Boone came up with an ultimate version packed with country-style white bread, cornbread, sausage, and all the herbs.Rhoda Boone
That's Epi's official opinion. But, if you're wondering what the personal preference of this food writer is, behold the dressing I make every year.Joe Sevier
How Can I Make My Dressing Taste Like It Was Stuffed Inside the Bird?
Two words: turkey fat. When you are prepping the turkey, experts often recommend pulling any large deposits of fat out of the cavity and discarding them. But former Epi editor Adina Steiman chops up those bits of fat and distributes them across her stuffing before putting it in the oven. The fat melts into the crevices, making the top extra crispy and the stuffing extra-flavorful.
How Can I Make Boxed Stuffing Taste Homemade?
To amp up a store-bought box of stuffing, bulk it out with freshly cooked ingredients like crumbled sausage or seasonal vegetables. Add in toasted chopped nuts. Shower it with fresh herbs like parsley, thyme, and sage. And whatever you do, skip the box's suggestion for oil or margarine and opt for the always delicious butter (or olive oil if you want to go even more savory).
How Long Does It Take to Bake Stuffing?
Stuffing is usually baked in two stages: the first is to cook it though, the second is to crisp the top. Per Anna Stockwell: "The first part of cooking should be somewhere between 300°F and 375°F, while the final crisping stage should be somewhere between 400°F and 475°F." And each of those sessions will take about 30 to 40 minutes, though the exact timing will of course depend on the temperature and size of your dish. The stuffing is done with a thermometer inserted into the center reads 160°F and the top is crispy and golden.
Can I Make Vegan/Egg-Free/Gluten-Free Stuffing?
It's easy enough to swap out chicken or turkey stock for vegetable stock. It's also easy to leave the sausage out of any recipe—but you'll probably want to add a few tablespoons of olive oil or butter to compensate for the lost sausage fat. As for the eggs, they kind of hold the whole thing together, so it's not as easy to leave them out. And the bread—well, we'll get to that.
There are a few vegetarian and vegan workarounds: Stockwell's 3-Ingredient Stuffing skips the eggs—just expect a somewhat looser stuffing than you may be used to. (Note: that recipe does include sausage. Replace it with sautéed mushrooms for a meat-free stuffing.)
Epi contributor Andy Baraghani's recipe for Wild Rice Stuffing is totally free of meat and eggs—but it's also free of bread, which is great if you have any gluten-free dining companions among you.
One other rice option relies on sticky rice for a stuffing that sticks together in a more traditional way—again, leave out the sausage and chicken broth for a vegan version and swap soy sauce for tamari or liquid aminos for a gluten-free version.
For a bread-based gluten-free stuffing, gluten-free bread can be subbed in to any stuffing recipe that doesn't specifically call for a crusty loaf. But note that, in general, gluten-free breads are more delicate than wheat breads. Stockwell recommends being extra-gentle when stirring gluten-free bread into eggs, etc.
But your best gluten-free bet might be to make or buy a gluten-free cornbread and making a stuffing out of that loaf—no wheat bread needed.Claire Saffitz
How Can I Fix Dry Stuffing?
If you find that your baked stuffing is dry, take a cue from cake bakers and brush some liquid over the top. Except instead of a sweet syrup, think warm chicken, turkey, or vegetable stock. Give the whole dish a once-over with a moistened pastry brush, add a few pats of butter, and stick it back in the oven just to melt the butter and re-crisp the top. Or...just don't worry about it and tell everyone to go heavy on the gravy.
Can I Make Stuffing In Advance?
Most stuffing recipes suggest that you can assemble the stuffing up to a day in advance, but should wait until day-of to bake it. Stockwell suggests doing the first bake (see "How Long Does It Take to Bake Stuffing?" above) the day before (or the morning of), then cooling, refrigerating (or just setting aside if made the morning of), and bringing back to room temp while the turkey cooks. The second "crisping" stage of cooking can be done while the turkey rests.
What Can I Do With Leftover Stuffing?
How Can I Switch Up My Stuffing This Year?
Start by perusing these options:
Originally Appeared on Epicurious