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How to Make Stuffing

Classic Herb Stuffing
Move over, turkey. Stuffing could be this year’s main event! We’ll teach you the basics of how to make stuffing and make it really well.

Introduction

The Bread to Use for Stuffing

It would be impossible to name all the different types of bread that can be used to make a good stuffing because you really can use just about anything. Traditionally stale white bread is used, but some additional options include sourdough, cornbread, wheat bread and even bagels—anything that’s been dried out and can absorb the moisture and abundant flavors in the recipe.

Some people purchase pre-dried bread in a bag, but it’s incredibly easy to create your own stuffing croutons with just a little bit of planning, and it’s totally worth it!

Stuffing begins with the bread, so it helps set the tone of the dish. If starting with fresh bread, simply dry it out on your counter overnight, or if you’re in a rush, you can dry it out for an hour or so in a low-temp oven (around 250°F), flipping the slices halfway through the cook time. Then, let it cool and proceed to tear (for a more rustic stuffing) or cut the bread to your desired size.

Now, you can certainly use no bread at all. If you’d like to do a grain stuffing, you can use rice or quinoa in place of the bread for a delicious gluten-free option. Farro and barley can also be used to make grain stuffing, but know that these two grains are not gluten free.

Stuffing Mix-Ins

The basis for stuffing, apart from the bread, is similar to a mirepoix (pronounced MEER-PWAH), a mixture of celery and onion cooked in butter and seasoned with salt and pepper. Then you’ll add hearty herbs such as sage, thyme and perhaps rosemary. A bit of broth, water, milk or buttermilk is used to keep the mixture a little wet and to help it stick together. Some people also use an egg to help bind it all together.

From there, you can add whatever you want. Some people add meat like sausage and accent it with something sweet like cranberries. Others, more often on the east coast, add seafood to their stuffing, including clams, shrimp or crabmeat. To make a vegetarian dressing you could simply add in some dried fruit, nuts, lentils or mushrooms to the mix.

How to Cook Stuffing

In order to be called “stuffing,” the dish technically needs to be stuffed and cooked inside of a bird, most traditionally a turkey. If it’s simply baked in a casserole dish, it’s referred to as dressing. Other than that, there isn’t much of a difference between stuffing and dressing. When you stuff a bird the resulting dish will be rich with the fat drippings from the bird. But add a bit of butter to the dressing before baking and you achieve a similar result.

Not sure where to start? We love this Classic Herb Stuffing. It’s the perfect base recipe—it tastes great on its own, but you can also go wild with mix-ins. Here’s how to make it!

Materials:

  • 13x9-inch (3-quart) baking dish
  • 4-quart Dutch oven
  • Mixing spoon
  • Foil

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 cups soft bread cubes (10 to 15 slices) 3/4 cup Progresso chicken broth

Bread cubes, onion, celery butter, chicken broth, seasonings

First, heat the oven to 350°F and spray a 13x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Then, in a Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Cook the onion and celery in the butter for about 5 minutes or until just tender. Stir in the thyme, poultry seasoning and salt.

Brown onion and celery in butter

Add the bread cubes to the mixture next, and toss to coat. Then, add the chicken broth and toss until well-mixed. If you like moister stuffing, you can add up to a 1/2 cup more broth.

Add bread cubes and chicken broth

Spoon the mixture into the baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, or until the stuffing is golden-brown and heated through.

Classic Herb Stuffing

You can also try making stuffing on a stovetop or in a slow cooker. The one thing you’ll miss when cooking it this way is the textural difference. A stuffing that’s been baked in a bird, then finished in a casserole dish, or baked all the way through in the oven, will have a crispy top layer and a soft interior. That combination of chewy, crunchy richness is not to be missed! To achieve this when doing stovetop or slow-cooker stuffing, you could transfer the finished dressing into a buttered casserole dish and finish it by baking in the oven. You may have to do an extra step, but it saves precious oven space initially!

Stuffing Pro Tips

Stuffing Pro Tips

1. Don’t start your stuffing on Thanksgiving day.
If you wait until the day of to make your stuffing, you’ll have to spend extra time drying out your bread. So unless you’re using a package of already dried croutons, it’s best to plan ahead. You can cut or tear and dry out the bread as well as cut the onion and celery ahead to save time.

2. Add your liquid in parts.
If you add all your liquid in at once, you may over-soak the mixture. This can result in a mushy or gummy stuffing, which you definitely don’t want. It’s much easier to add than it is to remove, so start with just a little bit of your broth, water or milk, stir the mixture, and add a little more until it reaches a good consistency. When I make stuffing, I try to ensure that there’s no extra liquid in the bottom of the bowl. It should almost all get absorbed into the bread while you stir. But don’t be shy! Too little liquid and your stuffing will end up too dried out.

3. Don’t over-season the stuffing.
I’m a big proponent of seasoning at each stage of cooking. Salt and pepper are your friends for building layers of flavor! But be sure not to use too much of any herb since the hearty herbs called for in stuffing can be very strong. Thyme, rosemary and sage are all lovely, but just don’t overdo it or your tasty textures and flavors will be overpowered.

4. When in doubt, go with fresh ingredients.
Packaged croutons might save you a little time, but they won’t be as delicious as if you made your own. I recommend going the extra mile and prepping your bread the day before.

Food Safety
An excellent way to save time when you’re juggling multiple Thanksgiving dishes is to prepare a few parts of the stuffing ahead of time. You can chop the vegetables and cut and dry out the bread ahead of time. If you’re using meat in your stuffing, it will need to be cooked thoroughly before being added to the rest of the ingredients, so hold off on that until you’re ready to put the dish together. That way, you can cook your celery and onions in the fat rendered from the meat, adding an extra layer of deliciousness.

When cooking your stuffing inside a bird, it needs to be brought up to 165°F (same temperature as for the turkey) in order to be considered safe to eat. This can be tricky business because often the stuffing may not be up to temperature when the turkey is done. If this is the case, it’s best to remove the stuffing into a casserole dish to finish cooking until it has reached 165°F so as not to overcook the bird.

Easy Sausage Stuffing

FAQs

Was stuffing served at the first Thanksgiving celebration?
It’s unclear what exactly was served at the first Thanksgiving celebration, but Smithsonian Magazine says, “It is possible that the birds were stuffed, though probably not with bread … The Pilgrims instead stuffed birds with chunks of onion and herbs.” So, while it was probably not much like the stuffing we enjoy today, the Pilgrims knew to season the bird from the inside out! The article goes on to say that the Thanksgiving feast we’re accustomed to didn’t take root until the 19th century.

Do I have to use dry bread for stuffing?
While it is not absolutely necessary, drying out the bread ensures that your stuffing won’t be soggy. However, if you just want to use fresh bread out of the bag, it will still work.

How much stuffing should I make?
If you’re stuffing a bird, use 1/2-3/4 cup stuffing per pound of bird. So for a 12-pound bird, you’d need 9 cups of stuffing. When planning how big of a turkey you should buy, it’s common to plan for 1 pound of turkey per person. When stuffing a bird, be sure to pack the stuffing loosely as it will expand as it cooks and it won’t cook evenly if it’s packed too tightly. Any left over can be baked in a casserole dish alongside the bird and tastes just as delicious as if it’s cooked inside the bird.

How do you stuff a turkey?
When the stuffing (see two of our favorite recipes above!) and turkey are both prepped and ready for the oven, fill the neck and body cavity of the bird with your stuffing. In order to keep the stuffing from falling out, you can either truss the bird, or pull the neck skin over the stuffing and secure it to the back of the bird with a skewer. Alton Brown knows how to truss a turkey and he can show you how.

Do I have to cook stuffing inside a bird?
Looking to just bake your stuffing (technically dressing, in this case) in a casserole dish? There’s no reason why you have to cook it inside a bird, that’s just tradition. It tastes just as delicious when poured straight into a casserole dish, dotted with some extra butter (optional) and baked that way. Plus, it’s a little less messy when you aren’t up to your elbows in a bird cavity.

How should I store leftover stuffing?
All leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours of the end of the cooking time, so on holidays, like Thanksgiving, when guests tend stay around the table for a while, it’s important to make sure this gets taken care of. Leftover stuffing can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. If you freeze your leftovers, they’ll have the best flavor if eaten within a couple months.

How should I reheat leftover stuffing?
Leftover stuffing is absolutely delicious. You can reheat leftover stuffing in the oven or microwave or even pan-fry it to give it new life. It all depends on what texture you’re going for. If you don’t mind a softer stuffing, the microwave will be the fastest way to get it to your mouth. If you want a chewier texture, put the leftover stuffing into an oven-safe dish, cover it with foil and bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes. Whatever way you reheat your stuffing, make sure it reaches a safe food temperature of 165°F.

Looking for more creative ways to use your leftover stuffing? Maybe our Leftover Turkey Crescent Bake, Turkey Dinner Pizza or Stuffing Minis are your style!

So you’ve mastered stuffing, now how about we tackle that turkey?



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