The holiday season is right around the corner, and if there's one thing you can depend on eating, it's dressing, or, err, stuffing. Dressing and stuffing have been engaged in a drawn out battle over which is a better word since the dawn of time. And while I'm sure you have your own preference for which to use on Thanksgiving, for some people, there's not even a difference between the two. After all, aren't they pretty much the same thing? The short answer is no. The long answer is below.
We chatted with Jason Goldstein of the cooking blog Chop Happy to find out what the real difference between stuffing and dressing is. We also asked a few chefs which they prefer and how they serve dressing and/or stuffing on Thanksgiving.
What is stuffing?
Stuffing, according to Merriam-Webster, is "a seasoned mixture (as of bread crumbs, vegetables, and butter) that is typically placed inside the cavity of a turkey, pepper, etc. and cooked." In other words, a mixture that is "stuffed" inside your poultry. Makes sense right?
What is dressing?
Dressing, on the other hand, is a little less obvious. Merriam-Webster defines it as "a seasoned mixture usually used as a stuffing (as for poultry)." So that makes them the same thing, right? No, not exactly.
The differences between stuffing and dressing
So what is the difference? "Technically, dressing and stuffing can have the same ingredients, but what makes them different is how they are cooked," Goldstein said. "Stuffing is cooked in the cavity of the turkey, so the juices soak into the ingredients, making it more flavorful. Dressing gets cooked on its own and needs extra liquid to make it flavorful."
So stuffing is cooked inside the bird. Dressing is cooked outside the bird, usually in a casserole dish. Additionally, dressing, especially in the American South, is often made with cornbread instead of pieces of a baguette or plain ol' white bread.
The similarities between stuffing and dressing
For the most part, the words dressing and stuffing are often used interchangeably, mainly because they include a majority of the same ingredients: an assortment of vegetables, herbs, some sort of starch, and spices.
Although dressing and stuffing are pretty much the same thing, if you wanted to win the Thanksgiving debate about which is better, you now have a little bit of ammo. Goldstein is team stuffing. Thomas Davis, executive chef at The Betty in Atlanta, however, is team dressing. “I have found that it is not possible to perfectly cook your turkey and the stuffing, so I have always preferred dressing," Davis said. "I like to drizzle the drippings from the cooked turkey over the dressing to enhance the flavor.”
And Michael Scelfo, chef at Boston-based restaurants Alden & Harlow, Waypoint, and The Longfellow Bar, likes dressing as a way to add surprising flavors. “I think that it’s great having a dressing on the side that can be more adventurous than a traditional stuffing flavor," he said. "I’ve made lots of dressings using everything from smoked oysters and cornbread to stewed broccoli and aged cheddar.”
Whether you choose to make your mixture inside the poultry or separate, just be sure that you cook it thoroughly so everyone can enjoy the meal.
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