Stuffing vs. Dressing, Plus 4 Recipes

by in Holidays, Recipes, November 18th, 2011

Oyster DressingIn many homes, the words “stuffing” and “dressing” are used interchangeably to reference that steamy mixture of bread, veggies and herbs that takes second seat next to the turkey at your Thanksgiving table. Though for some, the loyalty to either stuffing or dressing over the other runs deep. But is there really a difference between stuffing and dressing? Which elements of the dishes dictate their classification as one and not the other? How should you cook the stuffing or dressing to ensure that it’s served piping hot and moist and has a subtle, crisp top? We have the answers, plus four foolproof recipes that will steal the side dish show at your Thanksgiving dinner.

Simply Stuffed: As its name suggests, stuffing is traditionally stuffed into the cavity of the turkey and roasted inside of it. Though this cooking method allows the bread to absorb all of those tasty turkey juices, it also poses a slight sanitation risk because of the raw bird. If you’re set on serving a traditional stuffing inside the turkey, the bread and the turkey thighs must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees F.

All Dressed Up: Classic dressings are most often roasted separately from and served alongside the turkey, not inside of it, though their ingredients can be identical to stuffings’. Because there’s no concern of cross-contamination when preparing unstuffed dressing, there’s no minimum cooking temperature that must be reached. If you want your dressing to boast a bit of crunch, roast it uncovered for the last 10-15 minutes of cooking to crisp the top layer of bread.

Location, Location, Location: Many Southerners are die-hard dressing fans, while Northerners tend to prefer simple stuffings, but each family has its own Turkey Day traditions. At my Thanksgiving table in Michigan, all of the (many, many) selections served are called stuffing though none are actually stuffed inside the bird.

Check out one of our classic and creative stuffing and dressing recipes below, then join the conversation: Tell us whether your family sides with stuffing or dressing and how you prepare this Thanksgiving favorite.

Alton’s Oyster Dressing from Food Network Magazine is an easy-to-prepare side dish featuring homemade cornbread, fragrant herbs and oysters.’s Pecan-Sage Dressing recipe features finely ground stale bread, in addition to chopped vegetables, herbs and a sprinkle of sage. Baked for just 40 minutes, this roasted dressing is a quick, family-friendly favorite.

For an easy stuffing pick that requires just 20 minutes of prep time, try this Sausage and Apple Stuffing recipe from Food 2. In-season apples, pork sausage, crunchy walnuts and fresh vegetables are quickly sautéed, combined with a cornbread stuffing mix and stuffed into the turkey before roasting.

Made with buttery panettone, dried fruit and fresh sage, Michael Chiarello’s sweet and savory Panettone Stuffing (pictured above) sings with warm, fragrant flavors. Look for panettone, an indulgent Italian bread that is studded with golden raisins and traditionally served during the holidays, at your local specialty supermarket.

Visit Food Network for more Thanksgiving tips and recipes.







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Comments (23)

  1. Rae says:

    I think theu two entirely different things! At my families table its split half our relatives are native southerners, the other is northern. We do both! However…everyone says dressing is crunchy. I don’t think ours is. It’s ooey goey with bits of meat and dressing-or-what-everyone-else-calls-gravy. Our stuffing is crunchy, cooked in the bird then scooped out and baked for that crunch effect! I love both- I mean, its bread who doesn’t! Nothing like a good stuffessing filled dinner table!

  2. Karen Shiver says:

    Seems like an easy answer. If it it is inside the bird then it is "stuffing". If you have not stuffed anything then you have dressed it up, hence, Dressing. All my life in South Georgia, it has been dressing and that is what I prefer, altho, I have tried both. Dressing is much more soul satisfying. It has a crunchy top, if you prefer, and an almost creamy middle. The funny thing tho, like many people say, is that the ingredients are the same. Why dont we just agree to disagree. If you are from the deep south then just call it dressing, if you are above the Mason/Dixon Line then call it stuffing, but in the end, just say it is good food with your family!

  3. Cheri says:

    another way to help make stuffing safer is to make small bags with cheesecloth. sew by hand or with machine. Stuff the bags with the stuffing, tie them off, and then stuff those into the bird's cavities. When the turkey comes out of the oven, pull out the cheesecloth bags and dump contents into serving dish. This leaves no stuffing behind in the bird to make a problem with bacteria.

  4. Noel Vil says:

    The write-up is thought provoking. job well done i should say.

  5. beachinfrizzy says:

    If someone asked me to make 'dressing' I'd show up with a homemade poppy-seed, mustard, fresh herb, oil and vinegar condiment intended to "dress" crudite or a green salad. I get the 'stuffing = inside, dressing = outside' reasoning when you're talking about a bird, large butterflied-and-rolled cut of meat or cup-shaped vegetable like a pepper or mushroom cap, but sometimes the seasoned bread-and-vegetable mixture is served on top of a pork chop, filet of fish, or other seafood, etc, not literally 'inside' it. So then is it a 'dressed' lobster tail rather than a 'stuffed' one?

  6. Its like you learn my thoughts! You seem to understand a lot about this, such as you wrote the ebook in it or something. I believe that you just could do with a few percent to drive the message house a little bit, but instead of that, this is excellent blog. A fantastic read. I will definitely be back.

  7. Grant Mcneff says:

    Our Federal Govt. is operating so far outside of its design parameters that this type of discussion becomes futile. In my opinion the place to start is eliminating income tax which would force massive reductions in power and programs, bringing the govt. more in line with the founders structure. Only then can a discussion vis-a-vis federal and state govts. become worthwhile.

  8. Thankyou for helping out, fantastic info .

  9. Marian, Redmond, WA says:

    Our family does both – some of us from the North, others from the South and we agree; stuffing on the inside, dressing on the outside (and dressing of a different sort for our salads) When we "stuff" fish or meat, we use stuffing on top outside) but still call it stuffing.

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