Stuffing or Dressing?

Food, Seasonal, Traditions
on November 6, 2005

Among Northeasterners, it’s called stuffing, even if it’s not "stuffed" inside the bird. Across the South, it’s typically baked in a casserole dish and called dressing.

Regardless of what you call it, cooks across America prepare the popular side dish in a variety of ways—with an assortment of ingredients—as part of a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Easterners like adding oysters and dried cranberries. Some Midwesterners stir in apples or wild rice. Southerners use cornbread and day-old biscuits for a binder. Northerners use a broad range of breadcrumbs made from white bread to pumpernickel bagels. West Coast recipes often include walnuts or dried fruit. Sage, celery and onions seem to be popular ingredients from coast to coast.

Dressing is not better than stuffing. Stuffing is not better than dressing. Some cooks give a nod to each by baking half of a favorite recipe inside the bird, and the other half casserole-style. Below are a few basic recipes that you might try—and modify—to please your own dinner guests this Thanksgiving.

Basic Cornbread

  • 1/2 cup sifted flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal (not cornmeal mix)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Sift together flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Add eggs and milk and beat with a wooden spoon. Beat in buttermilk and then add the melted butter. When just evenly blended, pour batter into baking pan and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until center springs back to the touch.

Cornbread Dressing

  • 4 cups coarse cornbread crumbs
  • 4 cups coarse biscuit crumbs
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sauté onion and celery in the butter until tender. In a large bowl, combine cornbread and biscuit crumbs, poultry seasoning, celery seeds, salt and pepper. When well blended, stir in stock, eggs and sautéed vegetables. Bake in a lightly greased 9-by-13-inch casserole dish for 35 or 40 minutes.

Tips From Our Test Kitchen: Because this recipe contains raw eggs, it is not recommended for use as stuffing inside a turkey or other poultry, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food safety guidelines.

Traditional Bread Stuffing with Herbs

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 8 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon or sage
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

Sauté onions and celery in butter. In a large mixing bowl, combine onions and butter with the remaining ingredients. Stuff and cook according to size of bird and food safety instructions.

Tips From Our Test Kitchen: This recipe provides enough stuffing for a 10-pound turkey. Adjust the recipe according to the size of your own bird, allowing 1 cup of stuffing per pound of bird.

Fruit and Vegetable Dressing with Nuts

  • 1 pound whole wheat bread, torn into pieces and toasted
  • 5-ounces macadamia nuts or pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 cup currants
  • Juice and zest of half an orange
  • 16 ounces vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small bunch fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Combine toasted bread with nuts, currants, orange juice, orange zest and stock. Stir until bread is just moistened. Set aside. Sauté celery, carrots and onions in two tablespoons of butter until vegetables are soft. Stir occasionally. Add garlic and continue to cook for about two minutes. Stir vegetables into bread mixture. Add salt and pepper. Spread evenly in baking dish. Bake for 40 minutes. When almost cooked, sauté sage leaves in remaining butter until just crispy. Sprinkle them evenly over the top of the casserole when serving.

USDA Cooking Guidelines

For even cooking, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends cooking stuffing that contains raw eggs, oysters or pork outside the bird in a casserole dish. However, if you choose to stuff your turkey, the department suggests filling the cavity loosely immediately prior to cooking, baking the bird at a minimum of 325 degrees and using a food thermometer to ensure that the center of the stuffing reaches 165 degrees. Visit www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Lets_Talk_Turkey or call USDA’s meat and poultry hotline at (800) 535-4555 for more food safety and cooking guidelines.