When Thanksgiving is around the corner, most folks plan for a fabulous feast featuring succulent roast turkey with all the fixin's—like Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing shown at right.
What time-honored dish are you likely to find alongside the creamy mashed potatoes, marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes and ruby-red cranberry sauce? Sensational stuffing, of course!
It's that perfectly seasoned blend of bread, rice, other grains or even potatoes that's baked and gobbled up year after year.
Most traditional stuffings, or dressings, start with sautéed vegetables like onion and celery. Then cubed or crumbled bread, such as corn bread, French, Italian or white bread, and seasonings are added to the vegetable mixture.
Depending on family traditions and regional tastes, other ingredients from fruits and nuts to meats and seafood can be used to lend additional flavor.
Tips on Texture
When it comes to the texture of stuffing, there is no right or wrong way to make it. Some people like it dry and crisp; some like it moist and dense.
Soft breads produce a dense, spongy stuffing; toasted breads produce a drier stuffing because the bread crumbs can absorb more juices without becoming soggy.
To get the consistency your family prefers, follow these simple suggestions:
- For a drier stuffing, use prepackaged dry bread crumbs or cubes and limit the amount of liquid.
- For moister stuffing, used melted butter in your recipe. The butter won't evaporate when heated or make the stuffing like liquid can.
- Another option for moister stuffing is to add stock, broth or juice until the mixture is just moist enough that it sticks together when pinched. But keep in mind that stuffing baked in poultry or in a tightly covered dish will not dry out as it bakes.
- For fluffier stuffing, add a beaten egg or pasteurize egg product. It will allow the stuffing to bake to a lighter, more airy consistency.
- For food safety reasons, use an egg substitute in dressing that is stuffed into poultry. Ensure stuffing is done by using a meat thermometer. The temperature at the center of the stuffing inside the bird should reach 165°.
- For stuffing baked in a separate dish, either egg or egg substitute can be used. Refrigerate leftover stuffing promptly.
If you like stuffing, you don't have to limit it to holiday dinners. It bakes up just as nice on its own as an accompaniment to chicken or other meats. Simply place stuffing in a greased shallow baking dish, cover with foil and bake at 325° to 350°F for 1 hour or until heated through. For a crisper crust, uncover stuffing during the final 15-20 minutes of baking and dot with butter.
Strategies to Stuff By
When preparing your poultry with stuffing, keep these rules in mind:
- Thaw poultry to between 35° and 40°F before stuffing.
- To prevent harmful bacteria from growing, wait to stuff the bird until just before it goes in the oven. Never add stuffing to a turkey after it's begun roasting.
- For food safety reasons, only cooked ingredients, such as sauteed veggies or an egg substitute, should be included in a dressing when it's stuffed in poultry.
- Stuff both the neck and body cavities of the bird, then close and secure with skewers.
- Do not tightly pack stuffing into the bird. As a general rule, use 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of poultry. Extra stuffing can be cooked in a separate baking dish.
- Stuffing is done with a meat thermometer inserted near the center of the stuffing in the turkey cavity reads 165°F.
- When estimating how much to make, plan on 3/4 cup stuffing per person.
Find stuffing and dressing recipes of all kinds on Taste of Home's Recipe Finder.