Secrets to Standout Stuffing

What time-honored dish are you likely to find alongside the creamy mashed potatoes, marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, ruby-red cranberry sauce and other holiday side dishes? Sensational stuffing, of course! Here's how to create the perfect Thanksgiving stuffing with easy tips and recipes.

Most traditional stuffings, or dressings, start with sauteed vegetables like onion and celery. Then cubed or crumbled 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. This perfectly-seasoned blend of bread, rice, other grains or even potatoes is baked and gobbled up year after year.

Tips on Texture

When it comes to the texture of stuffing, 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 wet 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 pasteurized egg product. It will allow the stuffing to bake to a lighter, more airy consistency.

Thanksgiving How-To Videos: Stuffing, Turkey & More

Strategies to Stuff By

When preparing your poultry with stuffing, keep these rules in mind:

  • Thaw poultry to between 35° and 40° 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. Stuff the bird with cold stuffing.
  • 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 when a meat thermometer inserted near the center of the stuffing in the turkey cavity reads 165°.
  • When estimating how much to make, plan on 3/4 cup stuffing per person.
  • Find even more step-by-step stuffing instructions here.